Do you know of the divorce case where an ex-wife of a Singaporean doctor was granted S$25 million in the Canadian Court following the divorce? This amount included matrimonial assets, child & spousal support. Though uncommon, divorces can be costly when spouses can’t reach an agreement on terms.
Identifying Your Assets
It is essential to identify the assets you and your spouse hold before discussing the division to better understand your current financial situation. It includes identifying all assets held in sole names, in parties’ joint names, and joint names with other third parties (such as parents).
Nevertheless, if you suspect your spouse is liquidating or dissipating any marital assets, notify the account holder in writing and apply for an injunction to restrain him or her from dealing with the assets.
In addition to taking stock of your assets, you should keep track of all insurance policies, loans (personal and joint), and any other outstanding family debt. It is important to highlight who paid for each asset and the amount paid by each spouse for that asset, e.g., the wife paid $100k for the house, while the husband paid $150k.
Protecting Your Mutual Assets
During divorce proceedings, if you believe that your spouse may attempt to dissipate joint assets (joint bank accounts, properties, etc.) to prevent you from acquiring a portion, you should contact an experienced divorce lawyer swiftly for advice on steps you can take to safeguard your joint assets (e.g., filing of injunctions).
Consequently, it is prudent to monitor the funds in joint accounts.
Closing Credit Card Accounts
If you wish to separate parties’ financial responsibilities, you may terminate joint credit card accounts.
Do note that you may only be permitted to close the account upon the balance being paid in full, meaning that you will continue to be partially responsible for charges and balance until you contact the bank.
Monitoring Funds in Joint Accounts
Opening a bank account in your name prevents scenarios where your spouse drains funds from the joint account upon commencing divorce proceedings. Withdrawing excessive money from joint accounts can adversely affect you during legal proceedings.
Furthermore, you should ensure sufficient amounts remain in your checking account to avoid bounced checks.
Holding on to Your Family Home
The parent with primary care and control of the children usually prefers to stay in the family home to limit disruptions in the children’s lives. Before deciding if keeping the house is the right thing to do, make sure you meet the eligibility criteria to keep the flat.
For an HDB flat, you may have to refinance the loan if there is still a mortgage. As a single parent, you can retain the flat if you have care and control of your children.
You may have to consider selling your home and downsizing. Do note that you are only eligible to sell your HDB flat if you have reached the minimum occupancy period (MOP) of at least 5 years.
You can keep the flat under the Single Singaporeans Scheme if you meet the eligibility criteria mentioned below:
- do not have children
- are a Singaporean citizen
- at least 35 years old, and
- your matrimonial home is a home purchased on the open market that does not qualify for a CPF housing subsidy for your family
Updating Estate Documents
If you are contemplating filing for divorce, making or updating your Will is also important and essential. Under Intestacy laws, if you do not have a Will, at least half of your assets will go to your spouse in the event of your demise.
Hence, you may instruct a lawyer to prepare a Will for you. You can then specify who will receive your assets and in what proportions.
If you have previously executed a Will before your marriage, it is automatically revoked once you get married. Contrary to popular belief, a divorce does not revoke a Will.
Divorce does not automatically revoke your earlier nomination, so you may wish to review and make a new one.
Monies invested under CPF investment schemes
You and your spouse should discuss how to split the shares of your investments from the investment of CPF monies in products (such as unit trusts, investment-linked insurance products, shares, bonds, etc.).
Monies in CPF accounts
In dividing matrimonial assets, the Court may order the transfer of CPF monies from one spouse’s CPF account to the other’s or pay the funds to the other spouse in cash if certain withdrawal conditions are met. Thus, it is essential to consider how your participation in CPF schemes may be affected if a portion of your CPF money is to be distributed to your spouse.
Lasting Power of Attorney Nomination
It is vital you appoint a new donee(s) you know and trust during your divorce proceedings. Your donee(s) will be given powers (i.e., Personal Welfare and/or Property and Affairs) to make decisions on your behalf when you lack mental capacity or when they have reason to believe you lack such capacity.
Considering Mediation or Collaborative Divorce
If you and your spouse want to avoid the financial and emotional aggravation of a contested divorce (courtroom battle) and are willing to come to agreements outside of Court.
The alternative dispute resolution route provides more flexibility than the adversarial legal process
Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third-party mediator facilitates negotiations between couples in a family proceeding to find a solution to one or more issues. For spouses with children, it should be noted that Mediation is an integral part of the Family Justice System (“FJC”) where the paramount consideration of the Courts is the welfare of the child.
Firstly, the focus during Mediation is to problem-solve and assist parties to come to a solution that is practical, workable and acceptable by both taking into account their concerns and goals. There is no finger-pointing and the process is not about deciding who is right or wrong.
Secondly, Mediation saves time and costs. There is better cost control as parties are aware on how much to pay to the mediators. On the other hand, in litigation, costs can snowball where interlocutory applications are filed and the matter goes on appeal(s).
A Collaborative Divorce is a voluntary, client-centered process, whereby each party engages their own Singapore Dispute Resolution Centre-accredited lawyers who work together towards achieving an amicable result for their clients.
Importantly, Collaborative Divorce is founded on three principles:
- A pledge not to litigate in Court.
- An openly honest and voluntary approach to the exchange of information.
- A commitment to work towards solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both parties and their children.
The collaborative Divorce process can be used to address all of the issues addressed under the traditional divorce process, such as:
- Child custody care and control, child access
- Spousal and child maintenance
- Division of matrimonial assets
The goal of the collaborative family process is to help couples to work successfully within the Collaborative Law Structure to achieve a positive outcome for both parties whilst trying to avoid the social, emotional and economic strain a traditional divorce process can have.
Noting Debts of One Partner
Conflicts often arise when one partner has a debt, and the other is debt-free.
When dividing the debts in a divorce, the Courts distinguish between joint and individual debts.
Individual debts are debts owed by one partner, such as gambling debts, credit card debts, or any other loans taken for personal benefit. A joint debt, such as a mortgage or home renovation loan, is acquired for the use of the family or children.
Read more: Avoiding Financial Mistakes in Your Divorce
FAQs on Saving Costs in Divorce Proceedings
What are the cheapest ways to get a divorce in Singapore?
There are quick and inexpensive ways to get a divorce, provided you understand how the process works.
- An uncontested divorce is the cheapest and fastest way to terminate a marriage
- Using a mediator is an effective way to avoid paying high lawyer fees for divorce
What is the quickest divorce I can get?
Through the Simplified Uncontested Divorce Process, you can attain interim judgement (temporary divorce) in 1 month Then, there is an additional mandatory 3 months waiting period before the final judgement is given. A simplified uncontested divorce saves costs as fees for legal proceedings only mount with an extended time.
How do Courts divide matrimonial assets?
Any assets the couple acquired when they were married are considered marital assets. In some cases, assets acquired by one or both partners before the marriage and used or enjoyed by the couple after marriage can also come under marital assets.
These marital assets could include a family home or a car. It is important to remember that the Court does not equally divide marital assets by default.
The Court looks into many factors, including prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, the needs of the children, if any, and the direct financial contribution made by the parties to acquire the assets before dividing them.
Thus, to protect your money during a divorce, you should gather financial records, create an inventory of assets and liabilities, and consider options such as postnuptial agreements or mediation. Seeking professional guidance from lawyers and financial advisors can help spouses navigate the process and ensure a fair distribution of assets.
How can GJC Help?
Whether it is concerns over financial matters or other matters, it is crucial to seek professional advice from family lawyers. In urgent cases, you should swiftly contact an experienced divorce lawyer for advice on safeguarding your joint assets (e.g., filing of injunctions).
We are committed to providing you with the legal help you need when you need it most, regardless of your situation.
You can trust that our divorce lawyers offer a high standard of representation and compassionate guidance from the start to the end of your matter.
We are committed to providing affordable fees for our clients and have tailored our packages to suit your needs and budget.
GJC Law credits Trainee Noelle Teoh for her research and advice.
We’re here for you
At Gloria James-Civetta & Co, we aim to find a solution that will work for you and your family. Our matrimonial law team will provide a consultation tailored to your circumstances and needs.