What is the Criteria for an Expat to File for Divorce in Singapore?
Divorce, in itself, is a difficult issue. It can be even more tricky if you are seeking foreigner divorce in Singapore. If you are a Singapore citizen looking to divorce a foreign spouse or vice-versa, there may be consequences beyond a divorce that you may need to consider.
First and foremost, you must be married for at least three years to be eligible for a divorce in Singapore. Also, as an expat, you will only be allowed to file for divorce at the family court if:
- Either you or your spouse is a Singaporean citizen
- If you or your spouse have been living in Singapore for at least three years prior to seeking a divorce
- If both of you have been living in Singapore and you are seeking an annulment on the grounds that your marriage is void
What the grounds for expat divorce in Singapore?
The divorce eligibility for expats is the same as that of Singapore citizens. You have to be married for three years and must prove that your marriage is broken beyond repair.
You can show that your marriage is irretrievably broken on the following grounds:
- Your spouse has committed adultery, and you cannot tolerate living with him or her
- Your spouse has been displaying unreasonable behaviour in such a way that you cannot be expected to live with him or her
- Your spouse had deserted you for two years prior to the divorce
- You and your spouse have been living separately for at least three years before the divorce, and you now seek an uncontested divorce
- You and your spouse have been living separately for at least four years before the divorce, and you are now seeking a contested divorce
Any of the above issues can be used as a means to show that your marriage is broken and hence lay down the ground for divorce.
Division of matrimonial assets and maintenance
If you have assets overseas, the Singapore court will consider dividing them provided they fulfil the definition of matrimonial assets under Section 112 of the Women’s Charter.
In the case of immovable property overseas, you may need to apply at a foreign court since courts in Singapore do not deal with property matters overseas.
The Singapore court may, however, order you to pay maintenance to your foreign spouse. You can also consider if you are able to seek maintenance from your foreign spouse by filing for an application in his or her home country.
The court will make a decision based on the children’s best interest.
If your children are Singapore citizens or Permanent Residents, they can continue to live in Singapore after the divorce. If you are on an S Pass or an Employment Pass and have custody of the children, they may live with you as dependents.
Children who are older than 21 can file for Student Visa to pursue their education in Singapore.
If you wish to relocate the children overseas, you may only do so after obtaining written consent from the other parent.
In the case of expat divorces, a standard divorce lawyer may not be of great help.
You need an international divorce lawyer to guide you through the complexities of the divorce process. Your Singapore divorce lawyer must be aware of the legal complications in expat cases.