How to get a Civil Divorce

Demystifying Divorce in Singapore: The Divorce

Obtaining a divorce in Singapore is often a stressful and daunting event. At I.R.B. Law LLP we believe that having a comprehensive understanding of the procedures will help to calm your nerves regarding the process.

This article puts together the break-down of the proceedings involved in a civil divorce, thus allowing you to have a better picture of what is to come if you were proceed with a divorce.


Key Stages in a Divorce

Primarily, there are 2 stages to divorce proceedings in Singapore.

– Stage 1 – The first stage focuses on the outcome of the divorce. Which means, a decision of whether the divorce is granted.

At this stage, parties may contest the divorce itself, for example if the Wife does not agree that the marriage has broken down. Or the parties may contest the grounds of the divorce, for example if the Husband disagrees that he had committed adultery and cause the breakdown of the marriage.

– Stage 2 – The second stage deals with the ancillary matters such as maintenance (for the Wife & Children), matrimonial assets and issues regarding child custody.


Conditions that MUST be met to be eligible for divorce

– Parties must have been married for at least three (3) years.

In special cases, proceedings can be commenced before meeting the criteria of a marriage that is at least three (3) years of length. However, you will have to prove that you have suffered exceptional hardship or if your spouse has been exceptionally unreasonable and cruel. This process is known as annulment.

As for the ambiguity of the terms “exceptional hardship” or “exceptionally unreasonable and cruel behavior”, the applicant for divorce has to show that his/her personal circumstances as proof in order to persuade the Court that there is exceptional hardship as a whole. While there is no fixed legal definition, it is best to consult a lawyer who can present your case before the Court in the most compelling manner possible.

If you are unable to proof your case of “exceptional hardship” or “exceptionally unreasonable and cruel behavior”, then you would not be able to file for an annulment of your marriage and you would also not meet the requirements to commence divorce proceedings.

Typically, parties in such a situation can engage the services of a lawyer who can draft an “agreement” between the parties. This agreement is known as a Deed of Separation and it can serve to protect interest with regards to your assets. By entering into a Deed of Separation you will be able to inform the Court that at that particular time both parties had intended to go their separate ways and as such any assets gained should not be considered a matrimonial asset that ought to be divided.

– One of the parties must be domiciled in Singapore

You or your spouse must be domiciled at the start of the divorce proceedings. What this means is that either one of the parties must have resided in Singapore for at least three (3) years immediately before the commencement of divorce proceedings.


– The marriage must be a Non-Muslim (Syariah) Marriage

If the marriage is a Syariah Marriage then you will need to commence your divorce proceedings in the Syariah Court of Singapore, the process and the requirements


Grounds for Divorce

In order for there to be a divorce, there has to be an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. This is the sole ground of divorce in Singapore. In order to show an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, at least one of these legally-defined situations must be proven. They are as follows:

*We will use the term A and B as an example of the parties involved in the marriage.

– Adultery

If A, has committed adultery, and the other party, B, finds it intolerable to live with A, then B can file for divorce. The burden of proof is on B to gather relevant and adequate evidence to prove that A had committed adultery. It is important to note that actual evidence of adultery


– Unreasonable Behavior

In order to show and prove unreasonable behavior, for example A has to show that B has behaved in a certain way such that A cannot be reasonably expected to live with B. What constitutes to unreasonable behavior is subjective. Some examples of unreasonable behavior are;

  • Violence
  • Drug addiction
  • Deprivation of sex
  • Working too many hours
  • Refusal to socialize
  • Constant late nights


– Desertion

According to the Women’s Charter, desertion is described as B having deserted A for a continuous period of at last 2 years immediately before the filing of a divorce.


– Separation (live apart) for 3 years

A has to prove that A and B have lived separately continuously for a period of 3 years.

B has to agree to the divorce, and A has to show evidence of living separately.


– Separation (live apart) for 4 years

Supposing A and B have lived separately continuously for a period of 4 years, then the consent of B is not necessary.


How a lawyer can assist you

When you commence divorce proceedings, you are making decisions that affect the rest of your life, so it is only natural if you find yourself overwhelmed.

However, it is important to remember that divorce is something that you need to get right the first time. Obtaining assistance from a family lawyer can make your experience of divorce less stressful, less emotionally-damaging, and even less expensive. With a professional divorce lawyer at your side, you not only have an advocate to defend you, but also an friend during what may be one of the most difficult periods of your life.

Although not everyone needs one, engaging a good divorce lawyer is most often in your best interests, especially so if your divorce is contested, if you have children and/or significant assets, or if your spouse has also engaged a divorce lawyer. In these cases, choosing to represent yourself could end up being a costly mistake.


How We Can Help

Filing for a divorce and divorce procedures in Singapore are delicate issues and may be too technical for you to fully understand alone. We understand that going through such an event in your life is difficult and emotional. Worry not, at I.R.B. Law; we have experienced divorce lawyers who are well versed in family law proceedings in Singapore. We will be able to guide you through the process and explain to you each and every stage of your divorce or your separation.

Do contact us to receive advice on how your divorce proceedings can be best handled so that you can focus on getting back up on your feet. Our first consultation is usually free as we wish to focus on you and not on your wallet. Do not hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] or call us at 6589 8913 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.