In an increasingly globalized and modern society, Singapore has seen an increase in marriage to foreign (spouses of a nationality other than Singaporean) spouses. Given the impact of a breakdown in matrimonial relations, there is hence an increasing need to familiarize oneself with the rights and obligations of such marriages in the event of a divorce. This article sets out in brief the rights of the foreign spouse to remain in Singapore and the rights of each party in relation to a child of the marriage.
Right to reside
There is no automatic right of residence for a foreign spouse upon marriage to a Singaporean. There is a need to apply for a visit pass / permanent residency to secure rights of residence. Consequently, the right to remain after a divorce will depend on the rights secured.
Pre-Marriage Long-Term Visit Pass Assessment (“LTVPA”)
With effect from 1st Jan 2015, couples may elect to use the LTVP to assess their eligibility to apply for an LTVP/LTVP+.
This free online pre – marriage LTVP assessment facility will give the couple greater clarity in planning their future together. A Singaporean who intends to marry a foreigner can check whether the intended spouse is eligible for LTVP through this free pre – marriage LTVP assessment facility. Couples who are successful in their assessment will be issued with a Letter of LTVP Eligibility (“LLE”) and may proceed to apply for the LTVP after they are legally married.
Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP)/LTVP+
This is a common pass that a foreign spouse will apply for. The LTVP+ is similar to the LTVP except that it grants greater certainty of stay (through allowing for a longer period of residency) and certain employment / healthcare benefits. Generally, couples with at least 1 child who is a Singapore Citizen (“SC”) from their marriage will be eligible to apply for the LTVP+. For those without a child who is a SC, other factors such as duration of marriage, ability of the sponsor to support the family financially, the parties’ conduct, amongst others will be considered. Applications submitted after 1 April 2012 will automatically be considered for the LTVP+.
The duration of the LTVP+ is valid for up to three years on the first application and up to 5 years for subsequent renewals. A LTVP+ will likely be revoked upon divorce as it requires proof of marriage and sponsorship by a Singaporean spouse on renewal.
Permanent Residency (“PR”)
If the foreign spouse has applied for and successfully obtained PR, then his/her right of residence is no longer dependent on the Singaporean spouse. It is important to note that one other way to get residency rights which are not dependent on the Singaporean spouse is to get an employment pass.
Rights over a child of the marriage
A common issue which arises upon divorce between a Singaporean spouse and foreign spouse is the child’s residency. Often, the Singaporean spouse would like for the child to remain in Singapore while the foreign spouse would like to remove the child and return to his/her birth country.
At times, this leads to the foreign spouse unlawfully removing the child in contravention of a custody order. In the event that this happens, the other spouse may make an application to the Central Authority of Singapore to have his claim sent to the Central Authority of the Contracting State (under the Hague Convention) for the Contracting State’s assistance in locating and returning the child.
Article 8 of the Hague Convention provides that:
“Any person, institution or other body claiming that a child has been removed or retained in breach of custody rights may apply either to the Central Authority of the child’s habitual residence or to the Central Authority of any other Contracting State for assistance in securing the return of the child”.
In order for a foreign spouse to lawfully relocate back to their home country with the child, an order of Court to this effect must be obtained. Otherwise, the foreign spouse may also be able to do so if the other spouse consents.
How we can help
I.R.B. Law LLP has an experienced team of family law practitioners. We are able to assist you with any questions that you might have with regards to your rights and obligations in a marriage, as well as represent you in the unfortunate event that a divorce is proceeded with. We are also able to help with drafting agreements between you and your spouse.We also have the experience to deal with divorces and other matrimonial matters where foreign nationals are involved.
So 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. So don’t hesitate and reach us at [email protected] or call us at +65 6298 2537 and schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.