Deed of Separation: Managing Rights and Obligations in Singapore

Deed of Separation: Managing Rights and Obligations in Singapore 

Under Singapore law, separation occurs when parties to a marriage live separate lives and no longer present themselves as husband and wife. Despite living apart, they remain legally married, and all the legal obligations associated with marriage still apply. In such cases, a deed of separation can be a useful agreement to define and manage each party’s rights and responsibilities within the marriage.

 

Outline various aspects of separation with a Deed of Separation

A deed of separation outlines various aspects of the separation and can cover matters such as:

  • Care and control, custody, and access to the children: The deed can establish arrangements for the care, custody, and access to children born out of the marriage. It ensures that both parents have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities towards their children.
  • Maintenance for the wife and/or children: Financial support is a crucial consideration in separation. The deed can outline the financial obligations of the husband towards the wife and children, ensuring that adequate support is provided.
  • Division of matrimonial assets in the event of a divorce: The deed can address the division of assets accumulated during the marriage, including properties, savings, investments, and other jointly owned assets. It helps to establish a fair distribution of assets in the event of a divorce.
  • The timeline, reasons, and party to commence a divorce: The deed can include provisions related to the timeline for commencing a divorce, the grounds for divorce, and which party will initiate the divorce proceedings.

 

A Deed of Separation is not  a Court Document and Does not mean the commencement of divorce proceedings

It’s important to note that a deed of separation is not a court document and cannot be filed in court. Signing a deed of separation does not automatically result in a divorce in the future. However, there are several practical reasons why a couple may choose to have a deed of separation.

  • Couples who have been married for less than three years and wish to divorce: Singapore law generally requires a couple to be married for at least three years before they can seek a divorce. However, some couples may not wish to wait that long before moving on with their separate lives.
  • Couples who have been married for more than three years but do not wish to divorce yet: In certain situations, even if a couple has been married for more than three years, they may choose to remain legally married due to factors such as children or HDB property restrictions.
  • Couples who wish to live apart temporarily without initiating divorce proceedings: Some parties may not have made a final decision about divorce but prefer to live separately for a period of time. In such cases, a deed of separation can serve as evidence of the commencement of the separation period.
  • Establishing proof of separation for future divorce proceedings: Should a party decide to pursue a divorce in the future, a deed of separation can serve as documentary evidence of the actual separation date. This can be crucial in establishing the duration of separation, which may be a requirement for divorce proceedings.

 

Essential to consult with a family lawyer on your Deed of Separation

While a deed of separation can provide clarity and manage the rights and obligations of parties during separation, it’s essential to consult with an experienced family lawyer to ensure that the deed meets the specific needs of both parties and complies with legal requirements.

 

Judges and Case Law recognise a well-drafted and properly executed Deed of Separation

  • In Singapore, judges have emphasized the significance of deeds of separation in divorce proceedings. For example, judges have opined that a well-drafted and properly executed deed of separation can be persuasive evidence of the intentions of the parties and the arrangements made during the separation period.
  • In a recent case, the court referred to a deed of separation that outlined the agreed-upon timeline for filing for divorce. The document provided clarity and established the intentions of the parties, thereby guiding the court’s decision-making process.
  • In a further example, the court reviewed a deed of separation that specified the husband’s monthly maintenance obligations towards his wife and child. The deed played a pivotal role in determining the appropriate amount of maintenance and ensuring the financial well-being of the dependent parties.
  • Other examples include a deed of separation guided by the division of matrimonial assets between the separating spouses. The court considered the terms of the deed when making decisions regarding the equitable distribution of assets upon divorce.

The court recognizes the importance of parties reaching amicable agreements and documenting their separation arrangements through a deed of separation. Sometimes, because a deed of separation is not well drafted, or properly executed, it may be rendered unenforceable by the Court. Even in those instances, whilst the deed itself may not be legally binding, it carries weight in court proceedings and can influence the judges on decisions related to divorce, child custody, and financial matters.

 

Circumstances in which a Deed of Separation is rendered unenforceable or set aside

However, it is important to note that there are circumstances in which a deed of separation may be set aside or rendered unenforceable by the court. These include:

  • Non-Disclosure or Misrepresentation: If one party fails to disclose all relevant information or intentionally misrepresents crucial facts during the drafting or execution of the deed, the court may set it aside. Full and honest disclosure of financial assets, liabilities, and other pertinent details is essential to ensure the validity of the deed.
  • Unconscionable or Unfair Terms: If the terms of the deed are deemed unconscionable or unfair by the court, it may refuse to enforce them. The court evaluates the reasonableness and equity of the provisions to ensure that they do not unfairly disadvantage one party over the other.
  • Lack of Independent Legal Advice: If one party can demonstrate that they did not receive independent legal advice before signing the deed, the court may consider this as a ground to set it aside. Independent legal advice is crucial to ensure that both parties fully understand their rights

 

The following is an example of a case in which the Court set aside a deed of separation on the ground that it was unconscionable.

  • The deed of separation was entered into by the parties after they had been married for 20 years. The deed provided that the parties would live separately and maintain their own households. It also provided that the husband would pay the wife $10,000 per month in maintenance and that the wife would waive her right to claim any further maintenance or division of assets in the event of a divorce.
  • The wife applied to the High Court to set aside the deed of separation. She argued that the deed was unconscionable because the husband had pressured her to sign it at a time when she was emotionally vulnerable. The husband argued that the deed was valid and enforceable.
  • The Court found in favor of the wife. The court held that the deed was unconscionable because the husband had taken advantage of the wife’s vulnerability to pressure her into signing it. The court also found that the deed was unfair because it gave the husband all the benefits of a divorce without any of the risks.
  • The decision is a reminder that deeds of separation should not be entered into lightly. Parties should carefully consider the terms of the deed before signing it, and they should seek legal advice if they have any concerns.

 

A Deed of Separation is a valuable tool for managing the rights and obligations of the parties

In conclusion, a deed of separation is a valuable tool for managing rights and obligations during a period of separation in Singapore. It addresses various aspects of the separation, including child custody, financial support, asset division, and the possibility of a future divorce. Seeking professional legal advice and drafting a comprehensive and legally sound deed of separation can provide clarity and protect the interests of both parties involved.

 

Trust in Our Experience: Resolving Deed of Separation Matters Effectively

Our team of experienced lawyers has successfully handled numerous deed of separation cases, providing our clients with sound legal advice and representation. We understand the nuances of Singaporean family law and will guide you through the intricacies of the process. Our goal is to secure a fair and equitable resolution, ensuring your financial well-being and the stability of your family.

The Straits Times, in collaboration with Statista, has recognized I.R.B Law as one of the leading family law firms in Singapore. This honor mirrors our unwavering commitment to legal excellence and our ability to deliver exceptional legal services tailored to our client’s unique needs.

Trust in our dedicated team’s ability to guide you through this complex process with competence, compassion, and respect. Our team’s dedication, coupled with our experience in dealing with diverse and complex cases, makes us your ideal ally in seeking a successful resolution to your legal process in Singapore.

 

Author: Mohamed Baiross/IRB LAW LLP

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Caryn graduated from the University of Bristol (UK) with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) Degree in 2016. Caryn was subsequently admitted to the roll of Advocate and Solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore in 2018.

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Kulvinder’s practice focuses on civil and commercial litigation, and matrimonial affairs. She has successfully obtained sole custody and highly favorable access arrangements for her clients (both mothers and fathers).

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