If parties wish to live apart permanently but do not wish to commence divorce proceedings for various reasons, then you may make an application to Court for Judicial Separation.
A Judicial Separation is a divorce from bed and board, this means that the couple won’t have to live with each other or continue to have a relationship with each other as a married couple. Reasons for why parties may not want to get a divorce but opt for a Judicial Separation include religious commitments, moral grounds, societal norms or responsibility of their children.
A decree of Judicial Separation is a court order similar to a divorce, under which the couple remains legally separated but not divorced. In Singapore, a couple has to follow certain obligations to be eligible for a Judicial Separation.
The couple should be married legally for a period of 3 years; otherwise they will not qualify for Separation. There are exceptional circumstances to this rule, where events of such gravitas permit, the courts may consider the case for early Separation.
If a spouse engages in illegal activities, adultery, or domestic violence such that the party becomes unbearable to live with, these would be reasons sufficient for a Judicial Separation.
After the Judicial Separation is granted, parties’ normal marital obligations cease, they no longer have to go on living together. However, a judgment of Judicial Separation granted by the court does not allow parties to remarry.
FAQs on Marital Obligations
If I divorce or get a decree of judicial separation, am I discharged from all my obligations owed to my (ex)spouse?
Preliminarily, it should be noted that a decree of judicial separation would have the effect of rendering parties legally separated but not divorced. As such, parties would still be considered husband and wife.
Getting divorced or judicially separated would have a similar end result in that parties would be relieved from any marital obligations owing to one another.
There is, however, a distinction between a marital obligation and a personal obligation undertaken during the marriage.
What is the difference between a marital obligation and a personal obligation?
Examples of marital obligations include, for instance:
- Staying faithful to one’s spouse
- Provide mutual care and support to each other
On the other hand, a personal obligation undertaken during the marriage may be one where one spouse (A) becomes a guarantor for the benefit of their spouse (B) for e.g, a bank loan, this is a personal contractual obligation from A to the bank.
Accordingly, getting divorced or judicially separated would not discharge A’s personal liability to the bank.
How can I discharge my personal obligation(s)?
As elaborated in the above example of a personal obligation, there is no automatic discharge of any obligation or liability incurred for the benefit of one’s ex-spouse (in the case of a divorce) or spouse (in the case of a judicial separation).
Instead, one would have to write to the corresponding counterparties (i.e the bank) to request to be discharged from their personal obligations/liabilities.
What obligations still subsist after divorce or judicial separation?
Notwithstanding any personal obligations, parties would still owe certain duties even after getting divorced or being legally separated (in the event of a judicial separation).
Obligation to maintain child(ren)
Where there is a child or children to the marriage, both parties have an ongoing obligation to financially provide for the child(ren).
Obligation to maintain spouse / ex-spouse
Depending on the facts, a husband or ex-husband may also have to provide his wife or ex-wife with spousal maintenance after the judicial separation or divorce respectively. Among several other factors, this would depend on parties’ lifestyles during the marriage as well as their respective incomes / earning capacities.
In certain circumstances, the wife or ex-wife may have the obligation to provide spousal maintenance for their husband or ex-husband (for judicial separation and divorce respectively). This would be in the situation where the husband or ex-husband, as the case may be, is considered an incapacitated husband and is unable to maintain himself.