GROUNDS FOR GETTING A DIVORCE IN SINGAPORE
There are many misconceptions about the “grounds” on which one is able to get a divorce. One often hears of adultery being a “ground for divorce”. However, it bears stating that in Singapore, there is only one ground for divorce, that is, the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”. All other facts, such as adultery, may point towards such an “irretrievable breakdown”, but are not themselves grounds for divorce. This article discusses, in brief, some of the preconditions to filing for a divorce, as well as what is necessary to show an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” so as to get a divorce. Pre-Conditions for filing for a Divorce Before getting into the discussion of grounds for a divorce, you must first satisfy certain requirements to file for a divorce. First, either you or your spouse must either be domiciled in Singapore at the commencement of the divorce proceedings or must have resided in Singapore for the three years immediately preceding the commencement of the divorce proceedings. To be domiciled in Singapore is to have Singapore as your permanent place of residence. Singaporeans are presumed to be domiciled in Singapore unless the evidence suggests otherwise. Second, you and your spouse must have been married for at least three years. If you have not been married for at least three years, you may still be able to file for divorce, but only if you can prove that you have suffered exceptional hardship or if your spouse has been exceptionally depraved. There are no hard and fast rules as to what constitutes exceptional hardship or depravity, except that you will likely have to persuade the court that your personal circumstances are indeed “exceptional” and justifies an early divorce. Third, if you have children below the age of 14 years old, or 21 years old with effect from 21 January 2018, you and your spouse are required to participate in the Mandatory Parenting Program. The Mandatory Parenting Program is a consulting session for parents with minor children, designed to aid divorcing couples with making informed decisions that prioritise the well-being of their children. The ground for divorce – irretrievable breakdown of the marriage As mentioned earlier, there is only one ground for divorce in Singapore – there must be an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. According to the Women’s Charter (Cap 353), to succeed at obtaining a divorce, you must adduce sufficient evidence to satisfy the court of one or more of the following facts listed below. Adultery If you can adduce sufficient evidence that your spouse has committed adultery, and the court agrees with your claim that it is intolerable to live with your spouse, the court may grant the divorce. However, an issue to consider is the difficulty in obtaining evidence of said adultery. It is unlikely that your spouse would admit to committing adultery. You may wish to try to obtain evidence of the adultery yourself, or learn more about the process of hiring a private investigator to aid in obtaining such evidence. Unreasonable Behaviour If you can adduce evidence that your spouse has acted in a way so unreasonable that you cannot be expected to live with your spouse, the court may grant the divorce. While what constitutes unreasonable behaviour is subjective, some examples may include (but are not limited to): Domestic violence; – Domestic abuse; – Substance abuse; – Compulsive gambling issues; – Constant late nights or working too many hours; and – Significant periods of deprivation of sex. Desertion If your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding your filing for divorce, and you are able to adduce evidence of said desertion, as well as evidence of an intention to desert on the part of the deserter, the court may grant the divorce. It should be noted that in calculating the continuous period of two years of desertion, allowances can be given for anyone period not exceeding six months, or two or more periods not exceeding six months in total, for when you and your spouse have resumed living with each other, though this period will not count toward the period of desertion. Separation If, in the case of an uncontested divorce (i.e. both parties to the divorce proceedings agree to have the divorce), you can adduce evidence that you and your spouse have been living separately for a continuous period of at least three years, the court may grant the divorce. The court may also grant the divorce if you can adduce evidence of separation for a continuous period of at least four years if the case is one of a contested divorce (i.e. your spouse disagrees with you in having the divorce). You may adduce evidence of such a separation without any formal agreement to separate, with a formal agreement of separation (such as a Deed of Separation), or with a judgement of Judicial separation. The separation must be of choice and not out of necessity. It should also be noted that in calculating the continuous period of separation, allowances can be given for anyone period not exceeding six months, or two or more periods not exceeding six months in total, for when you and your spouse have resumed living with each other, though this period will not count toward the period of separation. 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 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 +65 6589 8913 to and schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.