Divorce – Settling Potentially Contested Issues

settling contested issues
What do you anticipate to be the contested issues in my divorce?
What is your approach to resolve the contested issues in my case?
How will the negotiation process begin?
What is the process of reviewing settlement offers before you make them on my behalf?

What do you anticipate to be the contested issues in my divorce?

The divorce process is usually split into 2 stages – Stage 1: the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage (the “Divorce”), and Stage 2: the Ancillary Matters (“AMs”).

Usually, in most cases, parties would agree on Divorce, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. As such, the main issue of contention would be that of the AMs.

Parties would usually disagree on issues of:

The Division of Matrimonial Assets

  • This usually relates to property issues.
  • Most commonly, there are disagreements as to the proportion of division whether 50% each or otherwise, depending on the specific facts of the case.
  • Recently, there have also been issues surrounding third-party interests. This is in cases where matrimonial assets are in the names of one of the spouses and a third party (eg property in the names of one spouse and his/her parents).

Read more: Factors Influencing Division of Matrimonial Assets

Children’s Issues

  • Disagreements over custody are less common since joint custody is usually the default except in exceptional circumstances. However, there are some parents who strongly disagree over what is in the best interests of the children in relation to their healthcare, education, and religion. As such, they may seek a conditional joint custody order instead.
  • We commonly see disputes over the care and control and access issues. This relates to who the children stay with on a day-to-day basis (care and control parent) and how much access the other parent has (access parent).
  • Depending on how acrimonious parties’ relationship is, the disputes arise over issues like the frequency of access, where access should take place, duration of the access, overseas access, whether access should be supervised, etc.

Read more: Understanding Child Custody: Sole Custody & Joint Custody

Maintenance Issues

  • Money is almost always one of the greatest sources of contention. Parties may not see eye to eye on what are the Wife’s and Child/ren’s monthly expenses each month.
  • Often, one party tends to inflate the expenses in order to claim a higher monthly maintenance, while the other party may under-declare or exclude certain “optional” expenses to justify reducing the amount of maintenance payable.

Read more: How to Determine Child & Spousal Maintenance

What is your approach to resolve the contested issues in my case?

In light of the areas of contention above, it is important to know what the baseline is – what is the best case and worse case scenarios.

This involves analysing the case precedents (ie what the Singapore Family Justice Court had ordered in previous cases with a similar factual matrix).

It is important to manage one’s expectations and to have a realistic perspective of what both parties can ultimately obtain through the divorce proceedings.

At the end of the day, it boils down to reasonableness in the context of the facts of the case.

The Court will consider each case on its own facts while comparing it with past cases. Some factors/issues which the Court considers (among many others) include:

For the Division of Matrimonial Assets

  • Length of the marriage
  • Whether it is a single or dual income marriage
  • Parties’ direct financial contributions
  • Parties’ indirect (financial and non-financial) contributions
  • Are there any third-party interests?
  • Size of the pool of matrimonial assets to be divided
  • The roles each party played during the marriage
  • Whether child/ren were raised in the marriage
  • Overall just and equitable division

For the Custody, Care and Control and Access of the child/ren

  • The paramount concern is that of the “welfare principal” – making decisions which are in the best interests of the child/ren.
  • Who was the primary/ main caregiver?
  • What are the current living arrangements?
  • The child/ren’s ages
  • The child/ren’s wishes (if they are of sufficient maturity)

For Maintenance

  • What are the Wife’s and Child/ren’s expenses during the marriage? ( ie, financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities that each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future)
  • Standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
  • The income, earning capacity, property, and other financial resources each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future?
  • Age of the parties’ and the duration of the marriage
  • Contributions made by each party to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family
  • In the case of a child, the manner in which the child was, and in which the parties expected the child to be, educated or trained
  • The Court will endeavour to place the parties in the financial position which they would have been if the marriage had not broken down and each had properly discharged his or her financial obligations and responsibilities towards the other.

How will the negotiation process begin?

Usually, the party who intends to initiate divorce proceedings may send a letter to the other party setting out his or her intention to file for divorce and the proposal for settlement.

For example, if you are the one initiating divorce proceedings, we will have a meeting with you, whether in person or virtually (eg, over zoom), to discuss the above issues and your position.

We will take note of your position and draft it into either a letter or draft divorce papers for your approval.

You will then look through the documents and inform us if there are any changes or updates which you wish to make.

Once you have finalised your instructions and proposed position, we will then send over a letter to your spouse setting out the above.

Your spouse can then decide whether he or she agrees to the terms of your proposal or if not, what his or her counteroffer is.

Thereafter, there may usually be some back and forth in terms of the negotiation process until parties can reach an agreement on all issues (if possible).

If only some issues are agreed on, one possibility is for parties to record a consent order on those agreed terms and then to litigate on the outstanding issues.

If no agreement is reached, then parties may decide to proceed to file divorce proceedings and litigate the matter in Court or attend mediation.

What is the process of reviewing settlement offers before you make them on my behalf?

In making any settlement offers, we will consider the above factors (as set out in Part B above) against the specific facts of your case.

It is also important to prioritize the terms which are most important to you, ie your must-haves, and to understand which are your non-essentials. We will analyse which terms of the offer are reasonable and which may not be reasonable.

We will then work together with you to finalise and advise you on your instructions and the offer to make. If you have more than one proposal, we may also set out your alternative proposal, if this would help to facilitate the process of parties reaching an agreement.

We will state the terms which you are seeking and, if relevant, set out briefly the reasons. If necessary, we may also set out your alternative position.

Once your offer is finalised, we will send it to the other party/their divorce lawyer for consideration.

As mentioned above, the back and forth may continue until parties can reach a negotiated settlement, or if not, parties may wish to proceed to file divorce papers or attend mediation.

Disclaimer

This article has been prepared for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should obtain specific legal advice from a lawyer before taking any legal action. While we endeavour to ensure the accuracy of the information on this website, you rely on it at your own risk, and we do not accept any liability for error or omission.

“At Gloria James-Civetta & Co, our goal is to help you find a resolution that works for both you and your family. When you contact our expert team, we will provide you with a consultation, tailored to your specific circumstances and goals in mind.”

Call us on +65 6337 0469