Reasons when the court does not grant a divorce
The main piece of legislation governing family law in Singapore is the Women’s Charter (Cap 353) (also referred to as “the Charter”).
When the legal requirements of a divorce are not met, the Court has the power to deny a divorce in accordance with the Charter.
Not meeting the jurisdictional requirements in section 93 of the Charter
For the Singapore Courts to have jurisdiction to hear parties’ divorce proceedings, parties must meet the criteria specified in Section 93 of the Charter:
- At least one party is a Singapore Citizen; or
- At least one party is habitually resident in Singapore for a continuous period of at least three years.
Often, many young couples do not meet the first criterion when they intend to divorce.
This is common amongst expat couples who are married for at least three years but have not lived in Singapore for a continuous period of at least three years from the time of marriage.
In the alternative, the couple may wish to seek a divorce in a foreign jurisdiction with laws that may be more favourable to their existing situation. This is generally applicable to marriages with foreign spouses.
Not meeting Section 94(1) of the Charter
Section 94(1) of the Charter requires parties to be married for at least 3 years to be able to commence divorce proceedings in Singapore.
This is because the law gives recognition to the sanctity of marriages and the family unit. As such, the dissolution of the marriage should not be granted by the Court in haste.
In the event parties are married for less than 3 years, a party may apply to divorce on the basis of exceptional hardship suffered by him/her or exceptional depravation on the part of his/her spouse pursuant to Section 94(2) of the Charter.
In practice, “exceptional hardship” and “exceptional depravation” are difficult to establish and therefore rarely use. What constitutes as “exceptional hardship” and “exceptional depravation” is very fact-centric and common marital disputes are insufficient.
Often, many young couples do not meet this criterion when they wish to divorce.
In the alternative, the couple can choose to annul the marriage, where the court can either declare the marriage void or voidable.
Not meeting section 95 of the Women’s Charter
To divorce in Singapore, the Court must also be satisfied that the marriage has broken down irretrievably in accordance with Section 95 of the Charter.
This can be done by proving any one of the five facts:
- Unreasonable behaviour;
- 3 years’ separation with consent; or
- 4 years’ separation without consent.
A divorce will not be granted if the Court is not satisfied that the particulars provided by parties are sufficient to prove the fact they are relying on for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
In the alternative, the couple can choose to informally or legally separated. Read more here.
If you are unsure whether you are eligible to file for a divorce or require more clarification on the aforementioned alternatives, get in touch with our lawyers for advice.