Alternatives to Divorce & Annulment
Notably, the couple must have been married for at least three years before they are eligible to file for divorce, and there are specific non-exhaustive grounds under which Annulment can be sought.
It leads to instances where married couples are “stuck” and can neither file for a divorce nor an annulment. Given such circumstances, what alternatives are accessible to a couple whose marriage has broken down?
In this blog post, we will explore the two possible legal avenues open to couples who face this situation, providing insights into the nature, legal implications and considerations for informed decision-making.
Deed of Separation
A Deed of Separation or a separation agreement is a legal contract entered into by a married couple who wishes to live apart and formalise their terms of separation without any formal divorce application. Such an agreement allows for setting clear guidelines and avoiding further conflicts during the separation period.
The Deed of Separation would set out the date for which separation commences, the rights and responsibilities of each spouse during the separation period, and also address various aspects such as child custody, access, financial matters, asset division and spousal maintenance (if applicable).
Read more: Terms in a Deed of Separation
Advantages of a Deed of Separation
: A Deed of Separation allows couples to mutually agree on the terms of their separation, promoting a sense of control and collaboration. It can lead to a more amicable process and minimise potential conflicts.
: The terms outlined in a Deed of Separation may be tailored to suit the specific needs and circumstances of the couple. This flexibility allows for customised solutions which may be less readily available through other legal means. Furthermore, a Deed of Separation may be revoked at any time with the consent of both parties.
: While the Deed of Separation does not dissolve the marriage formally, it provides a structured framework on how the couple can handle their affairs while living apart and can serve as a stepping stone to either reconciliation or divorce.
: It is essential to seek legal advice from a family lawyer when drafting a Deed of Separation to ensure that you receive appropriate guidance for a fair, comprehensive and legally binding agreement.
: If applicable, it is also essential to ensure that factors such as property division, spousal maintenance, and child maintenance are considered and addressed in a Deed of Separation.
Judicial Separation (before the 3-year marriage mark)
A judicial separation is a legal option available for married couples who want to be legally separated without formal marriage dissolution.
It is similar to divorce proceedings where it involves the intervention of the Court, but the marriage is not dissolved. Instead, it is a legal recognition that the couple is separated and no longer carrying on as a family unit.
As part of the decree of judicial separation, the Court can make orders regarding child custody and access, and financial arrangements such as division of assets and maintenance, much like a divorce.
However, the couple remains legally married, and neither party would be free to remarry unless they subsequently obtain a divorce.
It serves as a good alternative for individuals who do not meet the specific criteria for a divorce or for those who may choose not to divorce for various reasons, such as religious beliefs that discourage divorce or where they wish to retain certain marital benefits such as healthcare or immigration.
Read more: Judicial Separation in Singapore
Advantages of a Judicial Separation
: Opting for judicial separation provides couples with a legally recognised separation status. It can be beneficial in cases where there is a need for a formal legal acknowledgement of the separation.
: During a judicial separation, the Court can make orders regarding various aspects of the separation, including child custody, division of assets, and maintenance. These court orders can provide a structured framework and ensure enforceability and compliance.
Protection of Rights
: Judicial separation allows individuals to protect their legal rights and interests during separation. It can offer safeguards regarding financial matters, property ownership, and spousal maintenance, ensuring that both parties are treated fairly and their interests are considered.
: Unlike a deed of separation, a voluntary agreement entered between the couple, Judicial Separation involves actual Court proceedings. Given the legal costs and court fees, this process would likely be more time-consuming, complex and potentially more costly.
: Judicial separation does not dissolve the marriage, but it allows the couple to deal with ancillary matters before filing for divorce (in the future).
When couples find themselves in a situation where they are unable to file for divorce or Annulment, it is not the end. There are still options available to them.
Exploring the alternatives, such as a Deed of Separation or filing Judicial Separation, provides the couple with a structured framework to address their various rights, responsibilities, and financial matters.
Each option discussed has advantages and potential implications for each couple, making it essential for couples to seek professional advice and evaluate with their legal team which approach best aligns with their situation.
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- Laws applicable to your situation;
- Options available if you decide to take matters forward;
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