Living Apart – Ground for Divorce
In Singapore, the only ground on which one can get a divorce is when the relationship between spouses has “irretrievably broken down”. An “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” can be proven on a (1) on fault or a (2) no fault basis on the part of one or both spouses. Under the second limb, you need to show that:
(1) You and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years immediately preceding the filing of the writ and your spouse consents to a divorce judgment being granted
(2) Where you are able to show that and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years immediately preceding the filing of the writ” (spouse does not have to consent to a divorce judgment being granted)
(Sections 95(3)(d) and (e) of the Singapore’s Women’s Charter (Cap. 353))
The court must be satisfied that the spouses are living apart and the consortium must further have ceased.
Where spouses cohabit for less than 6 months in the middle of their separation, their cohabitation will not cancel out the period of separation prior to cohabitation that count towards 3 or 4 years of living apart (section 95(7) of the Singapore’s Women’s Charter). This is to encourage attempts at reconciliation between parties.
Under Singapore’s Supreme Courts Practice Directions (Amendment No. 5 of 2014),to prove “living apart”, you should aid your lawyers in preparing a Statement of Particulars specifically containing the following particulars:
(i) The date which you and your spouse commenced separation;
Commencement of separation should only be counted from when the parties had the desire to bring the consortium to a permanent end.
A physical separation due to a lack of alternative (e.g. for work, studies abroad will not suffice and cannot count towards the time period of separation between parties (Seah Cheng Hock, Deepak Govindran).
(ii) The reasons for both you and your spouse’s intention to commence separation
(iii) The duration of the separation
(iv) The separate residential addresses of you and your spouse during the period of separation (if known); and
(v) If you and your spouse have been living in separate households under the same roof for the period of the separation, to give details on how you and your spouse have been living in separate households.
Living in Separate Households
Spouses can live under the same roof but they must live apart by sleeping in separate bedrooms and keeping separate households (section 95(8) of the Singapore’s Women’s Charter).
For example, where parties’ meals were from a common source where the husband provided money for food and the wife bought the food, the courts held that the parties were living under the same household, even though parties slept in separate bedrooms (Le Brocq).
Also, where parties slept under different roofs but the husband spent a lot of his waking hours with the wife and children, the courts held that the parties cannot be considered to be living apart (Leong Kwek Keong).