Divorce by Mutual Agreement – A New Starting Point For Therapeutic Justice
In Singapore, divorce is a two-stage process. The 1st stage relates to the reasons for the breakdown of marriage, while the 2nd stage deals with the ancillary matters (i.e. the child(ren) and financial issues).
While the 1st stage of divorce generally does not have any impact on the 2nd stage, it is common for parties to face challenges when attempting to agree on how the marriage had broken down.
The Women’s Charter (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 43/2021) (the “Amendment Bill”) may potentially help decrease the number of cases where Parties face a hurdle or are unable to move past the 1st stage of divorce.
The Amendment Bill was read in Parliament the 1st time on 1 November 2021 and subsequently passed on 10 January 2022.
Once enacted, the Amendment Bill will insert section 95A which introduces a new fact that divorcing parties may utilise to satisfy the Court that their marriage has irretrievably broken down – under section 95A(1)(f), Parties may agree that their marriage has irretrievably broken down (Divorce by Mutual Agreement – “DMA”).
Read More: FAQs on Divorce By Mutual Agreement
As stipulated by section 95A(6)(a), this agreement by Parties must be in writing and must state:
- The reasons that led Parties to conclude that their marriage has irretrievably broken down;
- The efforts that Parties have made to reconcile; and
- The consideration that Parties have given to the arrangements to be made in relation to their financial affairs and any child of the marriage.
These requirements serve as a safeguard to ensure that the marriage has truly irretrievably broken down and cannot be salvaged. Further, the Court will not accept Parties’ agreement if it is of the view that in all the circumstances of the case, there remains a reasonable possibility that Parties might reconcile (section 95A(6)(c)).
Accordingly, it can be viewed that DMA is not intended to lower the threshold of what constitutes an irretrievably broken-down marriage. Rather, the inclusion of this new fact of divorce would have the effect of smoothening the process for Parties to move past the 1st stage of divorce (where the marriage can be said to be unsalvageable).
Beyond simply saving time, effort, and costs for Parties, another positive impact that DMA may bring about pertains to reducing the acrimony between Parties that stem from the divorce proceedings. This is particularly important where there are children to the marriage and Parties will still have to co-parent and communicate even after the divorce.
Consequently, DMA can be said to balance the preservation of the sanctity of marriage while still encouraging the Therapeutic Justice approach.