What if my Spouse Commences Divorce Proceedings in another Country?

overseas divorce singapore
Your spouse must first fulfil the requirements for divorce in the other country in order to obtain a foreign divorce order.

However, this does not preclude you from filing for divorce in Singapore simultaneously, even if proceedings overseas have already commenced. You may wish to do so if you think that you are able to get a more favourable result by filing for divorce here.

However, you must first apply to the foreign court to stay the ongoing foreign divorce proceedings in favour of the Singapore divorce proceedings.

The Singapore court will then deliberate if it would be more appropriate for the divorce proceedings to be heard here or in the jurisdiction of the foreign country.

The foreign common law court may take into consideration the doctrine of forum non-conveniens (depending on the laws of that foreign country, whereby a court acknowledges that another court is more appropriate and accordingly, send the case to that court, in their exercise of its discretion to assume jurisdiction.

Appropriateness in this current issue of divorce may be dependent on several factors such as the duration of time spent in Singapore and the foreign country respectively during the marriage, the country of habitual residence if there are any children of the marriage and any other prevailing factors which would show that the country had played a larger role in being the place of domicile during the marriage.
Read more: Can an Expat Divorce in Singapore?

If the foreign court is of the opinion that it would be more appropriate for the divorce to be heard in the foreign jurisdiction, and the marriage has been dissolved as a result, the Singapore court cannot grant another divorce.

Thus, the first court to grant a divorce in either country will dissolve the marriage and rule on all matters relating to the divorce, be it maintenance for children/spouse, custody & care and control of the children and division of matrimonial assets.

Read more: What if a Court in another Country has made a Maintenance Order?

Not all hope is lost; where the Singapore court is of the view that the foreign court has little connection to the marriage, they may refuse to recognise and uphold the orders of the divorce set out by the foreign court.

Thus, the defendant spouse may still avail themselves to a divorce proceeding held in Singapore where it could arguably be a more appropriate forum for the proceedings to be heard.

However, on the other hand where the foreign court is convinced that Singapore courts would be the more appropriate forum for this divorce to be heard in and the foreign proceedings have been stayed, you will be able to proceed with divorce proceedings in Singapore.

How will I proceed with the divorce proceedings in Singapore?

To file for divorce in Singapore, the marriage must either be:

  • Domiciled in Singapore at the time of commencement of the Singapore divorce proceedings. If one spouse is a Singaporean, the court will automatically presume that the marriage is domiciled in Singapore, unless there is evidence contrary to this; or
  • If spouses are habitual residents of Singapore for a period of 3 years preceding the commencement of the Singapore divorce proceedings. However, if there are long periods of absence during those 3 years in which the spouse claims to be a habitual resident of Singapore, and there are no extenuating reasons, Singapore will not be considered to be a place of habitual residence. In the case of Lee Mei-Chih v Chang Kuo-Yan, where the wife had spent 12 months out of 3 years abroad, the court held that her absence had broken her period of habitual residence in Singapore.
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