The Syariah process in Singapore is different from Civil Divorce. There are a number of issues that you need to take note of before commencing divorce proceedings. I.R.B Law happens to have the largest Syariah Law practice in Singapore, so should you require an assistance in this area, please feel free to get in touch.
What do I need to do before a Muslim divorce?
Before you commence for a Muslim divorce, you will need to attend counselling sessions under the Syariah Court’s Marriage Counselling Programme (MCP). It is mandatory for a Muslim couple to undergo marriage counselling before they can apply for a divorce. The marriage counselors will attempt to work with individuals to explore strategies that are helpful in overcoming their concerns and difficulties.
Ideally, you would patch up with your spouse after the sessions, but in the event that you still wish to pursue for a Muslim divorce, you are required to inform the counselor of your decision and the Syariah Court will follow through accordingly.
Location for the session and dates will be sent again in another letter to you after your initial application. These sessions may range from one session to months depending on the complexity of your situation. The following are a list of Syariah Court approved counselling agencies:
The counselors will also run through a proposed parenting plan for both you and your spouse in the event either of you decide to push for a divorce. The welfare and safety of your child is of utmost importance to the Courts. This can have severe negative outcomes for your child in the long run.
Just because you are no longer attached with your partner, you must understand that you still hold a responsibility as a parent to be a good role model to your child. You can find a copy of the form here: https://www.syariahcourt.gov.sg/syariah/back-end/Attachments/ProposedParentingPlan.pdf. Couples who are referred for counselling under MCP are not required to pay any fee but are required to attend their session on the scheduled date.
How do I commence divorce proceedings?
To commence divorce proceedings in Singapore, there are several documents that you must prepare and file to the Syariah Court. The first of these documents that you will need to file is an originating summons. An originating summons is a document which you service or send to your spouse to commence legal action, in this case, to summon your spouse for divorce proceedings.
You could either serve the documents to them personally or use a substituted service by way of a lawyer. The second document you will need to prepare at the start of the divorce is a completed case statement (Form 7 for male plaintiff / Form 8 for female plaintiff). A case statement will specify the ground or grounds for divorce on which you are relying upon, whether it be through talak, khuluk, taklik or fasakh. You will also be required to bring the following documents when filing for a divorce:
- Identity card/Valid Passport which is not expired
- Original/Extract Copy of Marriage Certificate or Revocation of Divorce Certificate issued by the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM)
- Children’s Original Birth Certificates
- Latest CPF statement showing the Public Housing Withdrawal details
- Latest CPF statement showing the balance in your Ordinary, Special, Medisave, Retirement and Investment accounts
- Latest HDB standard query reply (applicable to HDB flat owners/permitted occupiers only)
- Latest HDB/Bank statement on outstanding housing mortgage loan
- Property statement (applicable to private property owners only)
Mediation will be the first step of your divorce process. Mediation is your first court session and both you and your spouse are required to attend the session even though you have engaged a lawyer.
What do I need to do in mediation?
The mediation session will involve you and your spouse to settle on the divorce and ancillary matters such as custody of the children, division of matrimonial property and maintenance matters such as nafkah iddah and mutaah. There will be a mediator conducting the session to ensure that the session goes as amicably as possible.
It would be in your best interest to prepare documents such as the estimated values of property based on recent valuations by HDB, latest CPF statements showing the Public Housing Withdrawal details, balance in your Ordinary, Special, Medisave, Retirement and Investment accounts to name a few so as to share with your spouse the maintenance and proper valuations that you require. If there is a mutual agreement, the mediator will prepare a settlement agreement.
Once you have paid the registration of the divorce and the consent court order, both you and your spouse will be required to appear before a President of the Syariah Court for his approval to record the settlement agreement as a consent order. However, if both parties did not come to an agreement, the mediator may put the session to a close and will reschedule your case to move forward to a Pre-Trial Conference.
What can I claim from my spouse?
The wife can claim nafkah iddah, which is the maintenance during the period within which a divorced woman or a widow is forbidden by the Muslim law to remarry. The duration can be after three menstrual cycles; after confinement if, at the time of divorce, the woman is pregnant; or three months for a woman who has reached menopause or for a girl who has not begun menstruating.
Additionally, the wife can claim mutaah – the consolatory gift for a wife who has been divorced by her husband. The amount of nafkah iddah and mutaah is proposed by the wife and is subjected to the Court’s discretion to determine what is appropriate after taking into account the husband’s ability to pay and the circumstances surrounding the divorce.
The wife can also claim her husband’s CPF and the nett sale proceeds of the HDB flat should they be sold. However, parties’ proposal on the amount that can be claimed is subjected to the Court’s assessment after taking into account parties’ direct and indirect contributions during the marriage as well as the husband’s ability to pay. In the event of a joint tenancy of the HDB flat, respective parties’ CPF contributions will be refunded.
Maintenance, Custody, Care and Control
Ancillary orders for maintenance for wife and or children may be made by way of a consent order if mutually agreed upon by both parties in a mediation session conducted by a Syariah Court’s appointed mediator. If such orders are not complied with, parties can only enforce such orders in the Family Justice Courts and not the Syariah Court.
Child custody grants the custodial parent(s) authority in making major decisions regarding their child. Some of these decisions include matters concerning education, religion and decisions regarding the well-being of the child. Courts are inclined to give joint custody orders where there is no history of abuse, or the relationship of the parents is not highly acrimonious.
Care and control are only given to one parent, who will be involved in the child’s day-to-day matters. It is the party the child/children reside with. The parent not given care and control will be granted reasonable and/or supervised access to the child(ren) for the period agreed by both parties or by which the Court deems appropriate.
A pre-trial Conference is intended to prepare both parties for the divorce hearing. Your lawyer can attend on your behalf if you had engaged one. In the event that the Registrar finds that there is a possibility of a settlement, the Registrar will refer the case back to the mediator. However, if there is to be no settlement, the Registrar will ask both parties to file their respective affidavits leading to the hearing.
These documents can be found in the Syariah Court website at https://www.syariahcourt.gov.sg/syariah/front-end/Default.aspx?pid=M17. It is best to leave the filing of these documents to your lawyer as they would be better equipped to fill the necessary documents.
The Syariah Court hearing will require both you and your spouse to be in attendance, together with your lawyers, if any, as this is mandatory. Matters such as custody of your child and the division of matrimonial property will be heard by the President of the Syariah Court and they will make the necessary judgement and orders. Maintenance matters such as the amount to be paid for nafkah iddah and mutaah will be evaluated and decided by the Courts.
The more acrimonious the divorce is, the longer the proceedings will take, with some spanning to a year or more before the final judgment of divorce will be granted. In the event that you do not agree with the decision of the Court, you may file an appeal to the Appeal Board within 30 days from the date of the decision. Do seek legal advice from your lawyers to ensure that your appeal is validated and substantiated before filing for one. The Appeal Board is located at Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), Singapore Islamic Hub, 273 Braddell Road, Singapore 579702.
Collection of Divorce Certificate and Order of Court
Once the Court has been satisfied with your divorce case and granted an order on the divorce and ancillary issues, you will be issued with the Divorce Certificate. The certificate will only be released after the completion of the nafkah iddah period, regardless of your gender. The Order of Court for the divorce will be released seven working days after the date of the Order.