What are some Alternatives to Divorce?
It isn’t an easy time when you are deciding whether to end your marriage, but you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. According to the Department of Statistics in Singapore, the median duration of marriages in 2017 stands at 10.3 years. Ending your marriage may at times be the best decision, allowing parties to get a new start in their lives.
A divorce is the legal way of dissolving your marriage, and has the strictest requirements and looks into factors such as the length of the marriage and reasons for divorce. Due to its strict requirements, the process is sometimes expensive and complex. In addition, parties undergoing a divorce may potentially face stigma from family and friends who are more conservative.
In this post, we explore alternatives that couples could consider when deciding to go their separate ways.
What are some alternatives to Divorce?
1. Separation: As compared to lengthy divorce proceedings, it is definitely easier for couples to commence separation proceedings since there are no prerequisites before such proceedings can commence. However, in the case of a separation, parties are still legally married to each other and are unable to 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 2 main ways for parties to bring about separation.
a) Informal Separation: Firstly, parties can choose to live apart, based on a set of agreed terms. This is a highly flexible option since parties can decide on the terms through mutual consent and requires 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 such an arrangement is recognised by the courts.
Secondly, parties can choose to separate, based on a Deed of Separation, a document which defines the terms and conditions of the relationship during separation. This could include living arrangements, financial arrangements and child custody.
This usually involves a lawyer to help draft the Deed of Separation, and acts as a useful precursor to divorce, in the event parties decide to terminate the marriage completely. Hence, it may involve lawyer’s fees and other administrative costs.
b) Judicial Separation: Secondly, parties can opt for judicial separation, where parties apply for an official judgment of separation from the court, pursuant to s101 of the Women’s Charter. Upon this judgement, the plaintiff (the one applying for the judgement) does not need to cohabit with the defendant any more. This course of action requires parties proving that there is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage, which may be complex and costly.
2. Annulment: Another alternative to divorce is via an annulment. Annulment is a means of dissolving marriage under a specific set of circumstances, which can be for a void or voidable marriage that is less than 3 years.
The effect of an annulment is that the marriage never existed at all, and all property and liability would be assigned back to its original owner as before the marriage. This is an option in the event where parties want ownership of their original assets. Some examples of where annulment is successful includes: underage marriage, incestuous marriage or polygamy.
For more information, please refer to our blog posts on Annulment
No matter which you opt for, ending a relationship is a trying period, each with issues of its own. Our lawyers are always ready to assist you should you require legal representation or require more information.