Embarking on the journey of divorce is both challenging and emotionally charged. Through our Singapore Divorce Lawyer Blog, we endeavour to provide comprehensive and transparent information to those navigating this complex path.
Recognising the critical need for accessible and reliable resources, we dissect and explain various aspects of the divorce process, ensuring you are well informed and prepared to make crucial decisions.
“At GJC Law, we strive to empower you with knowledge, simplify legal jargon, and offer supportive insights, making your journey towards a new beginning as smooth as possible.”
Grounds for Divorce
Division of Assets and Debts
Choosing the Right Divorce Team
Support and Guidance
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Singapore’s divorce process consists of two stages.
During the First-Stage, the focus is on deciding the fate of the marital relationship itself. The court takes charge of determining whether the marriage should end. Upon successful conclusion of this phase, the involved parties are granted an Interim Judgment.
In the Second Stage, the court focuses on addressing ancillary issues. This encompasses the allocation of shared marital properties (inclusive of the matrimonial residence), determining the custody arrangements for any children involved, and settling any spousal or child support obligations. At the conclusion of this phase, a Final Judgment is issued to the parties involved.
Read more: Divorce Process in Singapore
Grounds for Divorce
In Singapore, to obtain a divorce, you must establish that your marriage has “irretrievably broken down.” The law recognises five facts to support this claim:
: You can file for divorce if your spouse has committed adultery and you find it impossible to continue living with them. However, if you continue to live with your spouse for more than six months after discovering the adultery, you may not be able to use this fact to support your claim.
: This is applicable if your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This could include violence, verbal abuse, drug abuse, or any other form of unreasonable behaviour. Unreasonable behaviour is assessed on a subjective basis (ie. what you deem as unreasonable) and an objective basis (ie. the court will take into account the personalities and character traits of both parties to determine if you can reasonably be expected to live with the other spouse).
: If your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years without your Consent, you can file for divorce using this fact.
Living Apart for Three Years with Consent
: You can apply for a divorce if you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least three years, and your spouse agrees to the divorce.
Living Apart for Four Years (without Consent)
: If you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least four years, you can file for divorce without needing your spouse’s Consent.
“These facts serve as the legal basis to demonstrate that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, which is a requisite for obtaining a divorce in Singapore.”
The most commonly used fact for divorce in Singapore is unreasonable behaviour.
What constitutes unreasonable behaviour?
If you choose to rely on this ground, you will need to provide the particulars of your spouse’s ‘bad’ behaviour to the court. Examples include
- extra marital-affairs,
- improper association (as it is a high threshold to meet for adultery and you would like to use your spouse’s unfaithfulness/ infidelity as a reason for divorce.)
- family violence,
- lack of intimacy,
- spending many late nights outside and not spending enough time with the family,
- chronic irresponsibility,
- failure to provide maintenance etc.
Read more: Establishing the Ground for Divorce
In Singapore, the general rule is that Parties will have joint custody of the children unless there are exceptional circumstances to suggest otherwise. Where necessary, the courts may order one party to have sole custody of the children.
1. Joint Custody
: In a joint custody arrangement, both parents are responsible for making major decisions in the child’s life, such as education, religion, and health. Despite the joint custody, the child may reside primarily with one parent, and the other parent will have visitation rights. Joint custody encourages both parents to continue playing an active role in their child’s life.
2. Sole Custody
: In a sole custody arrangement, only one parent is granted the legal right to make major decisions in the child’s life. The other parent may still be involved in the child’s life and have visitation rights, but they do not have a say in major decisions. Sole custody is typically granted when one parent is deemed unfit or it is in the child’s best interest to have a stable and consistent living arrangement with one parent.
Apart from custody, there are also caregiving arrangements regarding access or visitation rights, which dictate how the non-custodial parent can spend time with the child. Access can be reasonable access, supervised access, or fixed access, depending on what the court finds to be in the best interest of the child.
Care and control refers to the day-to-day living arrangements of the child, specifying which parent the child will live with regularly. The parent who is granted care and control is responsible for the child’s everyday needs, including their meals, school matters, and daily activities.
Sole Care and Control
: Typically, one parent is granted sole care and control, while the other parent receives visitation rights. This arrangement ensures that the child has a stable living environment, which is crucial for their well-being and development.
Shared Care and Control
: Although less common, the courts may grant shared care and control if it is in the best interest of the child and both parents can cooperate effectively. This arrangement allows the child to spend substantial amounts of time living with both parents.
When determining care and control, the court considers various factors, including the child’s age, the existing relationship between the child and each parent, each parent’s living arrangement, and the ability of each parent to provide for the child’s needs.
The parent without care and control is usually given access to the child, allowing them to spend time together and maintain a parent-child relationship. Access arrangements are determined based on what is in the best interest of the child, and they can vary widely depending on the circumstances. Some examples of access orders include reasonable access, supervised access, or fixed access, depending on what the court finds to be in the best interest of the child.
All these arrangements are made with the child’s welfare and best interests as the paramount consideration.
Determining child support in Singapore involves a comprehensive assessment of various crucial factors. The court evaluates the child’s financial requirements, the economic capabilities and income of both parents and the standard of living that the child was accustomed to prior to the divorce.
Here’s a further elucidation of these factors:
1. Financial Needs of the Child
: The court assesses the child’s expenses, including costs related to education, healthcare, daily living, and other special needs. This ensures that the child continues to have access to necessary resources and maintains a similar standard of living post-divorce.
2. Income and Financial Capacity of Both Parents
: Both parents are expected to contribute to the child’s upkeep according to their means. The court examines the income, earning capacity, and financial stability of both parents before determining a fair quantum for child support. If one parent is not employed, the court may consider their potential earning capacity based on their qualifications and experience.
3. Standard of Living
: The standard of living that the child was accustomed to before the divorce is taken into consideration. The court aims to ensure that the child’s living standards are not adversely affected due to the divorce.
4. Age and Special Needs of the Child
: Younger children and those with special needs may require additional financial support. The court considers the child’s age, health, and any special requirements when determining the quantum of child support.
5. Custody and Access Arrangements
: The caregiving arrangements, including who has custody, care and control, and the access arrangements, may also influence the amount of child support. For example, a non-custodial parent with significant access or shared care and control may have a different child support obligation compared to one with limited access.
6. Any Existing Agreements
: If the parents have any pre-existing agreements regarding child support, the court will take them into consideration to determine whether the terms in the agreement are reasonable and in the best interests of the child.
At the end of the day, the court has the discretion to determine the appropriate amount of child support, and the court can also modify the amount if there is a significant change in circumstances.
Read more: How is Child Maintenance Calculated?
Spousal support, also referred to as spousal maintenance, is a significant consideration in divorce proceedings. It entails the financial support that one spouse may be required to provide to the other following a divorce, particularly if there is a disparity in their earning capacities or financial resources.
Eligibility and Applicability
Under Section 113 of the Women’s Charter in Singapore, a wife can claim spousal maintenance during marriage, upon divorce, or during separation proceedings. In certain circumstances, a husband who is incapacitated and unable to earn a living can also apply for spousal maintenance.
Factors for Consideration
The Family Justice Courts in Singapore consider a variety of factors when determining the amount and duration of spousal support, including:
- Income and Financial Resources: The court assesses the income, earning capacity, assets, and financial resources of both parties.
- Financial Needs and Obligations: The court evaluates the financial needs and obligations of the dependent spouse and any children involved.
- Age and Health: The age and health of both spouses are taken into consideration, especially if it affects their ability to work and support themselves.
- Standard of Living: The standard of living enjoyed by the family during the marriage is considered to ensure that the dependent spouse is not subjected to a drastic reduction in living standards.
- Duration of the Marriage: Longer marriages may result in higher spousal maintenance awards, particularly if one spouse has sacrificed career opportunities for the family.
- Contributions to the Marriage: The court acknowledges both financial and non-financial contributions, including homemaking and caregiving responsibilities.
- Any Other Relevant Factors: Any other relevant circumstances will be taken into account to ensure a fair and equitable decision.
Application and Enforcement
A spouse seeking maintenance can apply for it anytime during the marriage, upon separation, or during divorce proceedings. Once an order for spousal maintenance is granted, it is legally binding. Failure to comply can result in enforcement proceedings, and the defaulting party may face penalties.
Types of Maintenance Orders
- Lump Sum Maintenance: A one-time payment to cover spousal support.
- Periodic Maintenance: Regular payments made monthly or at other specified intervals.
Spousal maintenance orders can be varied if there is a significant change in circumstances. Either party can apply to the court to increase, decrease, or terminate the maintenance payments.
“The courts strive to achieve a balance, ensuring fairness and equity in the distribution of financial responsibilities.
Division of Assets and Debts
At the Ancillary Stage of the divorce (after the court grants the interim divorce), the court will have to decide how the Matrimonial Assets are to be divided between the parties by making orders as to the division of the assets.
Under the Women’s Charter, Matrimonial Assets consist of:
- Assets acquired before or during marriage by one or both parties to the marriage
- These assets ought to have been ordinarily used or enjoyed by parties or children
- For shelter, transportation, household, education, recreational, social and aesthetic
- If the assets were acquired before marriage by either party, such assets may form part of the pool of Matrimonial Assets, if they were substantially improved during marriage by one or both parties to the marriage.
In considering how the assets are to be distributed, the court will consider the following factors:
The court assesses the direct financial contributions made by each party towards acquiring, improving, or maintaining the matrimonial assets. This includes payments for the home, car, and other properties.
Non-monetary contributions, such as caregiving for the family, managing the household, and contributing to the welfare of the family, are also taken into account.
Debts and Liabilities
Any debts and liabilities incurred by either party in acquiring or maintaining the assets are considered.
Needs of the Children
The court considers the needs of the children, ensuring that they are provided for and that their living standards are maintained.
Standard of Living
The standard of living enjoyed by the family prior to the divorce is considered. The court aims to ensure that neither party experiences a significant reduction in their standard of living, especially the financially weaker party.
Age and Health of Each Party
The age and health of each spouse can influence their ability to work and support themselves, and these factors are taken into consideration.
Income and Earning Capacity
The court assesses the current income and future earning capacity of both parties.
Duration of the Marriage
Longer marriages may result in a more equal distribution of assets, as the contributions (financial and non-financial) of both parties are likely to be more intertwined.
Contributions to the Career or Career Potential of the Other Party
If one party has contributed to the career advancement or potential of the other, this is also taken into account.
Any Agreement Made concerning the Ownership and Division of the Matrimonial Assets
Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements regarding asset distribution may be considered, provided they are fair and voluntarily entered into by both parties.
Any Other Relevant Circumstances
Through the careful evaluation of these factors, the Family Justice Courts in Singapore aim to achieve a balanced and fair outcome that reflects the contributions and needs of both parties.
Choosing the Right Divorce Team
If divorce is on your mind, you’ll need the right family law firm to assist you throughout the legal process.
How do you identify the best law firm and divorce lawyer for your specific circumstances?
The field of “Divorce Law” encompasses a diverse range of legal specialities, necessitating a lawyer who possesses extensive knowledge in various areas of law (Personal Law). Below are the crucial legal domains and the role of a lawyer in each:
If you or your spouse have a stake in a business, it is paramount to engage a lawyer proficient in corporate law. Your lawyer should
ensure an accurate valuation of the business interests and guide any potential claims involving these interests. The valuation is integral as it significantly influences the total assets pool and its eventual division. Opting for a lawyer with strong business acumen is crucial to safeguard your corporate interests during the divorce proceedings.
Estate Law & Wills
Experience in estate planning is vital when inheritance or other assets come into play in a divorce. Your lawyer can assist with the creation and modification of wills, appointing beneficiaries, and filing for deputyship or lasting power of attorney, aligning with your objectives for asset distribution. Moreover, they can review your pre- and postnuptial agreements, ensuring your assets remain protected according to your wishes throughout the divorce.
A proficient divorce mediator can significantly reduce divorce-related expenses by steering you and your spouse towards an amicable settlement, circumventing the need for litigation. This approach not only saves time but also fosters a more harmonious post-divorce relationship, which is particularly beneficial if children are involved to establish an amicable co-parenting relationship.
By considering these diverse legal areas, you ensure a comprehensive approach to your divorce, addressing all potential complexities and safeguarding your interests effectively.
Read more: Why you need an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
Support and Guidance
A divorce is more than just a legal process; it is an emotional rollercoaster, encompassing moments of both despair and relief. As practitioners in family and divorce law, we witness firsthand the emotional strain that dissolving a marriage imposes on individuals.
As well as navigating the complex legal framework, it is crucial to address the human side of this situation.
“In our capacity as lawyers, we play a pivotal role in aiding our clients to manage and mitigate the anxiety associated with divorce.
Here’s a glimpse into how we contribute to this vital support:
Understanding the Emotional Landscape
Before delving into the legal specifics, it’s paramount to grasp the emotional upheaval our clients are undergoing. Feelings of anxiety, anger, fear, and sorrow are common and perfectly normal. Acknowledging and understanding these emotions enables us to handle each case with a greater sense of empathy and compassion, ensuring our clients feel heard and supported.
Offering Transparent Information and Direction
A significant source of anxiety in divorce proceedings stems from the uncertainty and confusion concerning the divorce process. Legal protocols, timelines, and possible outcomes can appear daunting and complex to understand, potentially intensifying emotions and heightening stress levels.
Our role as legal representatives is to create a more transparent, understandable, and less intimidating experience for our clients, helping them navigate their divorce with greater ease and emotional stability.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
People and families are often further ripped apart by litigation and court processes. Alternatives such as mediation and collaborative divorce can positively influence not just the adults involved but their children as well.
Your lawyer should be well-versed in mediation and collaborative divorce practices to evaluate whether embarking on the mediation path is the right choice for your situation.
A harmonious divorce positively impacts every family member, fostering a supportive environment for all involved.
Here’s a concise overview:
Reduced Stress for All
A peaceful divorce minimises stress and anxiety, creating a more stable environment, which is particularly beneficial for children. This will allow the parties to have a clean break with no lingering negativity, and the parties can move on with their respective lives.
Positive Co-Parenting Relationship
Amicable proceedings encourage a cooperative co-parenting approach, ensuring children receive support from both parents.
Emotional Stability for Children
A harmonious separation helps children to adjust more quickly to changes in their family dynamics, thus promoting their emotional well-being.
Fair financial settlements and lower legal costs contribute to the overall financial stability of the family.
A cooperative divorce tends to resolve more swiftly, allowing the family to move forward and establish a new normal.
In essence, a harmonious divorce sets a positive foundation for the future, ensuring stability, support, and healthier relationships for every family member.
At the free consultation stage, our Divorce Lawyers will:
- Assess if you can file for divorce in Singapore.
- Help you understand each step of the divorce process.
- Address questions & concerns related to divorce process.
- Help you explore your divorce options.