Exception To The “Three-Year-Marriage Bar Rule”
Under section 94 of the Singapore Women’s Charter, one is not allowed to file a writ for divorce during the first three years of marriage.
The intention of this section is to promote sanctity of marriage and to ensure that parties do not rush in and out of marriage capriciously (Ng Kee Shee).
Exception: To get out of the marriage despite the Three-Year-Bar
The only exception to this rule is where you are able to show the court that you have suffered exceptional hardship and that there is exceptional depravity on the part of your spouse.
To rely on this exception, you would have to make an application to the court in accordance with the Rules of Court. Where the court is satisfied with your application, it would grant leave for you to file the writ and you may be able to get out of your marriage. It is a further requirement that either spouse must have (1) treated Singapore as their permanent place of residence at the start of the divorce proceedings OR (2) resided in Singapore for at least three years immediately before the start of divorce proceedings.
What Constitutes Exceptional Hardship and Exceptional Depravity?
Exceptional hardship is found when the problems in the marriage is quite out of the ordinary and they are more than what an ordinary person should reasonably be asked to bear (Ng Kee Shee).
For example, where the wife did not allow any intimacy between herself and her husband and then returned to China, vowing to never return back to Singapore, the court found that exceptional hardship was present (Ng Kee Shee).
Also, where the wife, on many occasions, was intentionally intimate with another man in her matrimonial home in front of her husband, the court held that the husband suffered from exceptional hardship and there was exceptional depravity on the part of the wife (Foo Teck Kuan v Chan Yoke Han). In this case, the husband was so devastated that he could not work, had to be clinically assessed and had to consume anti-depressants.
However, the exception is not easily made out. In the recent 2014 case of Tan Yan Ling Kyna v Chan Wei Zhong Terence,Choo Han Teck J held that even if the wife’s alleged account of her husband’s abusive behavior were to be accepted, he is nonetheless of the view that they do not constitute sufficient cause to bring the wife’s case within the ground of “exceptional hardship”.
This is because there are alternative remedies and relief in cases of abuse such as applications for a personal protection order, or for the aggrieved party to leave the other party (i.e. to live separately). Choo Han Teck J further added that the three-year moratorium is intended to hold out the hope of reconciliation and that even in extreme cases of abuse, the abuser may see the error of his or her ways and seek reconciliation.
Other considerations before the court allows your application
Under section 94 of the Singapore Women’s Charter, in determining any such application, the court would also have regard to the interest of any child to your marriage and consider whether there is reasonable probability of reconciliation between you and your spouse before the expiration of 3 years. The court may also refer the differences between you and your spouse to a Conciliation Officer so that reconciliation between you and your spouse might be effected.