International Divorce

Family Law issues covering expatriate clients, have a tendency to cross more than one country. In the case of an International divorce for example, some questions which come to mind will be:

  • where should I file for divorce?
  • do I meet the jurisdiction criteria in Singapore?
  • which jurisdiction is advantageous to me?

In some cases, deciding where to divorce can have a significant influence on the divorce process and its outcome. Sometimes, divorce cases will incorporate aspects that may be subject to different international jurisdictional legislations, prompting you to ask;

  • what happens to our matrimonial property overseas?
  • can my child be relocated without my consent?
  • can a Singapore Court Order apply in another overseas court?
  • what happens to my immigration status?

As a result of these considerations, comparing jurisdictions in regards to your divorce, custody and support issues and even which court to apply under, can have a big impact on the eventual outcome of the case.

At GJC Law, we offer advice on:

  • the choice of forum for divorce
  • the financial considerations of divorce in other jurisdictions
  • pre and post-nuptial agreements (international)
  • international enforcement of Singapore orders
  • international relocation issues & potential exposure in the event of divorce proceedings
  • international child abduction

Our International Divorce Lawyer, Ms Gloria James will take you through the entire divorce process in Singapore as well as help to guide you to the best decision that is of advantage to your circumstances.

At GJC Law, we have the experience, know-how, and are equipped with the necessary resources and manpower to handle the complexities of an international divorce with strong, effective representation.

Below, is a list of commonly asked questions:

Can an Expat Divorce in Singapore?

Yes, you can, provided you satisfy the following requirements:

  • Married for more than three years
  • Habitually resident in Singapore for more than 3 years or Domicile of Choice
  • Has a Ground for Divorce (fault or no-fault basis)

How long is the Uncontested divorce process in Singapore?

About 4 months (1 month to Interim Judgment and 3 months to Final Judgment.) The latter is a mandatory period to wait.

However, this can be abridged to 1 week if there are compelling reasons for the immediate closure and the need to obtain a Final Judgment soonest possible.

To proceed with this, an application has to be made at the time of the divorce hearing, and the party asking for it has to be present for the divorce hearing.

Is it cheaper to divorce in Singapore?

Yes. If both parties agree on a divorce and ancillary issues are agreed upon, then the Fixed Divorce Fee kicks in.

Further, as Singapore is a fused legal profession, your appointed lawyer is both an advocate and solicitor.

What if parties only agree on the Divorce but not the ancillary issues?

Parties can explore mediation and attempt a global settlement. If that fails, parties will need to proceed with a contested Ancillary Hearing, and a judge will make the Final Order.

What if halfway through the Divorce proceedings in the Singapore Courts, my spouse packs up and leaves the country with the children?

You can still proceed with your divorce case provided you satisfy the following requirements:

  • If divorce papers have not been served on the spouse, an application has to be made to serve the divorce papers through personal service or substituted service.
  • If divorce papers have been served and Interim Judgment is to be granted/or granted, then an application can be made to proceed with only the Divorce and obtain Final Judgment on the Divorce.
  • Ancillary issues can be dealt with in the country where the spouse and children reside since they have returned to that country.
  • Alternatively, you can proceed in Singapore in an absent defendant scenario. The courts would require you to file an affidavit of assets and means. Once that is filed, directions will be given to file written submissions before the Ancillary Matters hearing date.
  • Your spouse would be notified to participate (via zoom conference). If your spouse continues to be absent, despite the Court inviting for participation, the courts have the power to make the final orders in the spouses absence.

When can I remarry?

Only upon obtaining the Final Judgment from the Court.

What happens to my spouse’s status or my status?

You are both deemed divorced; it will not be valid if your spouse holds a Dependent Pass. They need to return to their country or apply for an employment pass to remain in Singapore.

Alternatively, if there is a child to the marriage, the child’s dependant pass can be converted to a student pass which will allow the other parent to remain in Singapore under the long-term visit pass.

Battle of the Courts’ jurisdictions: Why is Singapore better?

You pay for one set of legal costs as it is a fused legal system and not two sets (Barrister & Solicitor), as in the United Kingdom (UK), or elsewhere.

Further, when it comes to the division of assets, the courts decide on what is ‘just and equitable’ and does not start from an equal division approach. It is easier for a woman to claim for maintenance rather than a man.

What if I have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement? Is it recognised here in Singapore?

Yes. Based on the case of TQ v TR (2009) SGCA 6, a Singapore Court of Appeal decision.

What if I do not satisfy the 3 years residency? Can I divorce?

You can’t unless you intend to be domiciled in Singapore, i.e. to make Singapore your home and to live here, period. And you have to satisfy the test as stated in the case of (2005) SGDC80 – DIDIER VON DANIKEN v SANAA VON DANIKERN BORN ELKOLALY, reference to Wong Phui Lun Joseph v Yeoh Loon Goik (1978) 1 MLJ 236.

For the domicile of choice – 2 elements are to be shown

  • Fact of residence
  • Fact of intention of permanent or indefinite residence

The onus is on you to prove that you have acquired Singapore’s domicile. Evidence to be shown that there is no contingency plan to return to home country, that you cut links with the home country, took a job in Singapore, shifted assets to Singapore, cash in the bank here and not overseas, taken Singapore Permanent Residency or applying for Singapore Citizenship and you treat Singapore as a home.

What if I have been here for more than 3 years but married for less than 3 years? Can I get a divorce?

Yes, get your lawyers to apply to Court to seek the Court’s permission to file for Divorce. Alternatively, you can consider filing for Judicial Separation.

What reasons must I show to the Court if I seek permission?

  • That you have suffered exceptional hardship during your marriage; or
  • Your spouse has behaved with exceptional depravity, i.e. behaved unusually badly.

What is the law concerning separation and maintenance?

A separation is an agreement executed between parties. Even if there is no separation agreement, that does not mean that the Court cannot assist in determining the issues between parties.

As for maintenance, the Wife and/or Child are entitled to file for maintenance even if the parties are not divorced. This is statutorily provided for in Singapore, called the Women’s Charter 1961. Despite the statute’s name, the law is gender neutral.

It governs either parties’ rights, issues on maintenance, Divorce, family violence, child issues and division of assets.


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