What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is one where both parties of a marriage part ways with an amicable agreement on key issues and ancillary matters (such as custody of the children, maintenance and the division of assets). On the other hand, a contested divorce is one where some or all of these matters are yet to be resolved and thus require the court to adjudicate on the same.
Grounds for divorce
The only valid ground for divorce in Singapore, as per Section 95 of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. To prove the irretrievable breakdown of marriage you would need to prove at least one of the following:
– That your spouse has committed adultery, and you find it intolerable to live with him or her;
– That your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her;
– That your spouse has deserted you for at least two years;
– That you and your spouse are separated:
o If your spouse agrees to the divorce, the separation must have occurred for at least three years,
o If your spouse does not agree to the divorce, the separation must have occurred for at least four years.
An uncontested divorce takes place when a divorcing couple has already settled all issues and ancillary matters pertinent to their marriage Once both parties have agreed on all ancillary issues, a Draft Consent Order can be filed in Court (among other documents such as the Writ of Divorce). Service on the opposing party may also be dispensed with. Once the court is satisfied that there is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage, and all ancillary matters have been settled, an Interim Judgment will be granted without delay. This Interim Judgment will be made final after three months.
Can an initial contested divorce proceed as an uncontested one?
A divorce that begins as a contested one may subsequently proceed later as an uncontested one. After the Plaintiff serves the Writ of Divorce, the Defendant has 22 days from the date of service to contest the writ and file a Defence. If no Defence is filed in these 22 days, the Plaintiff can proceed to set down for trial as an uncontested action. However, if the Defendant files a Defence, then the Plaintiff will have 14 days from the date of service of Defence to file a Reply to Defence and/or counter-claim.
Benefits of an uncontested divorce
Uncontested divorce proceedings are more simplified as compared to contested proceedings. There are many benefits of an uncontested divorce, as seen below.
1. It is less costly than a contested divorce
An uncontested divorce is easier on your pockets. There is no need for the help of divorce lawyers or the court to help the divorcing couple settle disputes over ancillary matters as these matters have already been discussed and agreed upon privately between the parties. Hence, parties in an uncontested divorce are able to skip the lengthiest part of divorce proceedings. Parties will also be content and are more likely to adhere to the orders made in the divorce as they had themselves discussed and agreed upon them. In contrast, parties in a contested divorce may incur enormous costs fighting for assets, and then receive a ruling by the judge that one or both parties are unhappy with. The costs incurred by the parties in prolonging proceedings, in some cases, might thereafter make up a significant chunk of the assets wrestled over. On a cost-benefit analysis, a contested divorce may not worth the financial and emotional expense. These costs could be better spent on your children, whether it be day to day expenses or investing in their future.
2. It is faster
Uncontested divorce hearings are usually held in chambers and will not take more than several minutes to conclude. Parties do not even need to attend the hearing. They may end their marriage and move on with their lives. In a contested divorce, you have hearings over various motions, discovery requests and responses, and so on. It would be necessary for contesting parties to attend compulsory mediation if the couple has children below 21 years of age, attend trial and be cross-examined. All of these motions and hearings take time and progressively increases acrimony between parties. A contested divorce can be extended for months or, in extreme cases, even years.
3. It is private
The agreement between parties do not have to be on record, although the divorce papers are submitted to the court, and the hearing takes place in the privacy of the judge’s chambers. A contested divorce however, can get ugly quickly. The parties’ dirty laundry would be aired as each side will do whatever they can to fight, prove, and win their case. This would take place in open court, which is accessible to members of the public.
4. Easier transition
An uncontested divorce is less taxing on both parties. You would have spent less time and money, while minimizing tensions and emotional damage. Couples who go through a divorce amicably are probably able to communicate cordially without feelings of bitterness or animosity. Neither party would feel like they have “lost” the divorce. In cases where there are children to the marriage, the willingness of parties to compromise can make the difference between happy and adjusted children, and children that experience negative consequences from their parents divorcing. An uncontested divorce is ultimately better to facilitate what may be a distressing and radical transition in the lives of everyone involved.
The Singaporean courts take a pro-divorce stance. This does not mean that the courts in any way encourage or promote divorce. It means that in cases where one party is resolute in refusing to reconcile and wants to end the marriage, the court is likely to grant the divorce. As it takes two hands to clap, when one party makes the choice not to carry on with the marriage, the court will thus make a finding that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Further, in reality, it is an uphill task of rebuilding a relationship that has been incorrigibly broken. Parties may therefore want to consider moving forward.
Divorce, whether uncontested or contested is a very emotionally draining process. If you and your spouse have decided that a divorce is the best option, and you are able to communicate amicably to decide on the terms of the divorce, then an uncontested divorce is the right way forward. At the end of it all, an uncontested divorce will be a win-win for everyone involved.
If you are contemplating divorce and want to learn more about your options, 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 typically 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 and schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.