4 legal myths of divorce in Singapore
Divorce can be a good option to allow couples to enjoy comfortable lives on their own when they no longer find it tolerable to live with one another. We understand that this is not an easy battle. However, there are plenty of myths out there that tend to induce fear in the couple who then refrain from filing for a divorce. This adds more strain to an already worn-down relationship. Here, we discuss four common legal myths of divorce in Singapore.
Myth #1: Agreement on divorce – I can file for a divorce immediately when I find a fault in my spouse.
Before filing for a divorce in Singapore, you must have been married for and living in Singapore as a habitual resident for at least three years. However, a mere fault cannot be the reason to commence a divorce. You must show that the fault has resulted in an act that allows you to legally file for a divorce, such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour and desertion. These are three of the four grounds on which you can commence a divorce in Singapore. The last refers to the separation of the couple, which include two factors – the parties have lived apart for three years and both consent to the divorce; and parties have lived apart for four years and no consent is required. Out of these four grounds, separation is typically not underpinned by any fault on the part of either party.
Read more: 6 QUESTIONS BEFORE FILING FOR DIVORCE
Myth #2: You will get a better settlement if your spouse had an affair.
Adultery is only a ground to file for a divorce. It does not influence the division of matrimonial assets as well as child custody. The Family Justice Court in Singapore does not look at who is in the wrong when deciding on the final settlement of the divorce. It looks at what is “just and equitable” between both parties and for the children involved if any. As such, the material conclusion of a divorce settlement is underpinned by the spouses’ contributions to the marriage, and what they can provide within their capacity after the divorce. Therefore, the plaintiff is not guaranteed a higher percentage of matrimonial assets and child maintenance in a divorce settlement on the grounds of adultery.
Myth #3: If your ex-spouse does not pay maintenance, you can stop him from seeing your children.
No, this is not possible. Child maintenance and child access are two separate legal matters. If your ex-spouse is not paying maintenance, it should not prevent you from fulfilling your duties as the custodial parent. This means that should you have care and control of your child, you cannot stop him/her from meeting the other parent.
Access and maintenance are important aspects of the court’s decision in ensuring that the child receives support from both parents until he/she reaches 21 years of age. Just as you cannot stop access due to no-payment of maintenance, your spouse is still expected to pay for maintenance if he/she is denied child access.
Myth #4: Divorce always involves nasty courtroom battles.
Not all divorce cases lead to litigation. Most divorce cases in Singapore are primarily uncontested. This means that reasons for divorce and ancillary matters pertaining to child custody and division of property are agreed upon between the spouses before the divorce proceedings take place. As such, when a divorce is uncontested, attendance of the parties during the hearing of the divorce writ and ancillary matters is dispensed unless the court requires them to be present. However, if the parents are representing themselves in court, they will need to attend the proceedings.
Should the divorce be contested, and disagreements arise pertaining to ancillary matters, divorcing couples can also use other means to resolve the conflicts. These include court-based or private family mediation and counselling sessions that help to negotiate the best interests for the children following the divorce. Couples can also opt for a collaborative divorce to decide on the outcome of the divorce in a more amicable manner. It also helps to avoid the emotional strain that often arises during traditional divorce litigation in the court.
Read more: Why Consider Divorce Mediation and Other Alternatives to Court?
Read more: Splitting of HDB Flat