What are the Alternatives to Divorce?
Separation is an alternative to lengthy divorce proceedings; it is easier for couples to commence separation proceedings since there are no prerequisites before such proceedings can begin. However, in the case of a separation, parties are still legally married and cannot remarry.
Separation exists as an alternative where parties want to live apart from each other but choose to stay legally married with the future possibility of reconciliation or maintain their religious commitment to marriage.
There are two main ways for parties to bring about a separation.
a) Informal Separation: parties can choose to live apart based on agreed terms. It is a highly flexible option since parties can decide on the terms through mutual consent, requiring little administrative costs.
Parties choosing to separate informally should ensure physical separation and bring all spousal duties (domestic activities like washing and cooking for each other) to a halt to ensure that the courts recognise such an arrangement.
b) Deed of Separation: A Deed of Separation is a legal contract that defines the relationship's terms and conditions during separation. It can outline living arrangements, financial arrangements, property and child custody arrangements.
"The deed of separation can only be invoked with both spouses' consent."
A Deed of Separation ensures both parties are clear about the terms of the separation. It is a helpful precursor to divorce if parties decide to terminate the marriage altogether.
It can also help couples avoid the need for costly court proceedings at a later stage when filing for Divorce.
You may opt for Judicial Separation, a formal separation sanctioned by the court and under s101 of the Women's Charter. This course of action requires proof of an irretrievable marriage breakdown.
"A judicial separation is sometimes relied upon by couples who have a religious or moral objection to divorce or have not yet been married for three years."
The court can make orders about the division of financial, property and child-related matters just as they are on Divorce without terminating the marriage.
Upon judgement, you and your ex-spouse are no longer required to live together.
Another alternative to Divorce is an Annulment. It is a means of dissolving marriage under a specific set of circumstances (Void or Voidable) in a marriage that is less than three years.
To understand the grounds for an Annulment, please refer to our blog, Step-By-Step Guide to Annulment of Marriages in Singapore.
An important point to note is that while the annulment of a marriage is a possible alternative to Divorce, it should not be considered an easy or quick way out of a marriage.
"An annulment requires a high threshold of evidence which may require court attendance."
The effect of an Annulment judgment is such that the marriage never existed at all, and parties revert to 'single' status.