Obtaining Maintenance in Singapore After a Divorce Overseas
Ordinarily, the Family Justice Courts could only order financial relief in the form of division of matrimonial assets (s 112, Women’s Charter (“WCh)), or maintenance of the former spouse (s 113, WCh) in respect of marriages that had been terminated in Singapore.
However, after the Women’s Charter (Amendment) Act 2011, the power to seek such financial relief has been extended to former spouses who may have been divorced in a court outside Singapore. As a threshold, the former spouse’s marriage must have been dissolved, annulled, or legally separated by judicial or other proceedings overseas (s 121B(a), WCh), and the termination must be recognised as valid under Singapore law (s 121B(b), WCh).
Having met this threshold, there are 3 considerations before such a spouse can obtain leave of court to seek financial relief from the Family Justice Courts in Singapore. First, Singapore must be the appropriate forum for making an order for financial relief in respect of an International divorce (s 121F(2), WCh). Second, the applying spouse must show that there is “substantial ground” for the making of such an order (s 121D(2), WCh), and third, the court must observe principles of comity in not contravening findings of a foreign court.
Leave for an application for financial relief may then be granted in situations where either the party connected to Singapore had no real opportunity to pursue financial relief in the course of the foreign matrimonial proceedings, or where inadequate or no financial provision was made by the foreign court (Harjit Kaur d/o Kulwant Singh v Saroop Singh a/l Amar Singh  4 SLR 1216). An applicant should not seek leave for such application merely to have a “second bite of the cherry” in seeking a ‘top-up’ of financial relief already granted or denied by the foreign court which adjudicated over the marriage.