The Divorce Process – In a Nutshell
In Singapore, Divorce is a 2-stage process, with each stage being contested or uncontested.
Before you can start divorce proceedings in Singapore, you have to determine if the Singapore Courts have jurisdiction to hear your matter.
First Stage of Proceedings
At this stage, the Courts will deal with the termination of the marriage itself. Here, the Court will decide whether the marriage should be dissolved.
You would have to prove the particulars for divorce which led to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage:-
The Defendant committed adultery and the Plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the Defendant
The Defendant has behaved in such a manner that the Plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her
The Defendant has deserted the Plaintiff for 2 years without any intention of returning
Parties have lived apart for 3 years and the Defendant consents to divorce or Parties have lived apart for 4 years and the Defendant does not consent to the divorce.
As the Plaintiff in the divorce proceedings, you will have to engage a lawyer to act on your behalf, and sign a Warrant to Act to enable your lawyer to represent you. Your spouse, the Defendant, may decide to engage his own lawyer if he wishes to contest the divorce.
You will need to file the following documents in the first stage:-
WRIT FOR DIVORCE
This commences the divorce suit.
STATEMENT OF CLAIM
This stipulates the ground of divorce upon which you are claiming that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or living apart.
STATEMENT OF PARTICULARS
This document sets out the particulars of the ground of divorce, with examples demonstrating how the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
PROPOSED PARENTING PLAN
This pertains to the custody, care and control of the children (if any). This document is only necessary if the children of the marriage are below 21 years of age. The document details how each parent will care for the children of the marriage during and after the divorce.
PROPOSED MATRIMONIAL PROPERTY PLAN
This contains the particulars of the matrimonial property and the proposed arrangements with regard to payment of any outstanding loans on the property, including division based on contributions to the purchase price.
With regard to matrimonial property, if you and your spouse are/have previously been living in an HDB, a HDB and CPF Standard Query form has to be filed so as to ensure that your matrimonial property may be divided in a way that adheres to HDB’s rules and regulations.
Upon receiving these documents, your spouse has the option to dispute the divorce or to agree to the same. If he disputes the divorce, he would file a Defence (i.e. he does not want a divorce). If he wants a divorce but disputes your particulars of the divorce, he would file a Defence and Counterclaim (he disagrees with your particulars but wants the divorce on his grounds).
If parties cannot agree to the particulars, the divorce then becomes contested and a Hearing will be held wherein parties are subjected to examination and cross-examination.
At the conclusion of this stage, if successful, parties will receive an Interim Judgement (i.e. a “temporary” divorce).
Second Stage of Proceedings
The Court will go on to deal with the ancillary matters only after the first stage has concluded.
Ancillary matters include the division of matrimonial assets, custody of the children, maintenance of the wife and/or children etc.
In practice, parties would usually be directed by the court to attend one round of mediation, which is a form of out-of-court alternative dispute resolution. This is in line with the Singapore Court’s approach to encourage parties to settle their disputes amicably as far as possible. This is compulsory if there is a child below 21 years old.
Should mediation fail, parties will go on to submit and exchange Affidavits (sworn statements). There are usually two rounds of affidavits exchanged, before parties proceed to a hearing for the Court to decide on the matters.
At the end of this stage, parties will receive a Final Judgement. At this point, parties would be officially divorced in the eyes of the law and free to re-marry.