Guide to Getting a Divorce in Singapore

Everything You Need To Know About Getting a Divorce in Singapore

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A divorce can be one of the most difficult things a person has to go through, especially when it involves children.

To get a fair outcome in a divorce,  you must get proper advice on what you are entitled to.

PKWA Law Practice, a leading family law firm in Singapore with 30 years of experience, has put together the following list of information to assist you if you are thinking of getting a divorce in Singapore.

The following provides key information on the various aspects of getting a divorce in Singapore, including divorce procedures and process, divorce law and divorce fees.  For a more detailed overview, click on the respective links below to find out more about the processes involved in a Singapore divorce.

Our divorce fees are very affordable.  If you are having an Uncontested Divorce, our fees start from only $1,500.  Please refer to our Divorce Fees page here.

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The Singapore Divorce Lawyers’ Guide to Getting a Divorce in Singapore

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  1. Getting a Singapore Divorce – The Basics
  2. Divorce Fees
  3. Singapore Divorce Process
  4. Uncontested Divorce vs Contested Divorce
  5. Uncontested Divorce
  6. Child Custody
  7. Divorce Maintenance
  8. Matrimonial Assets
  9. Annulment of Marriage
  10. Deed of Separation
  11. HDB Concerns

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1. Getting a Singapore Divorce – The Basics

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How do you define a divorce?

A divorce is basically a legal proceeding to officially terminate a lawful marriage.

In Singapore, when a divorce application has been approved by the Family Justice Courts, an Interim Judgement of Divorce will be given by the Judge of the case. This marks the beginning of the second stage of a Singapore divorce process.

The Interim Judgement of Divorce does not include settlement of child custody issues, joint named properties, division of other matrimonial assets and maintenance. In legal terms, such matters are regarded as ‘ancillary matters’.

Ancillary matters are typically managed and settled after the Interim Judgement of Divorce has been obtained. This is also where the second stage of a legal Singapore divorce comes in.

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Who is eligible for a divorce in Singapore under the Family Justice Courts?

The Singapore Law on divorce may be referenced in the Women’s Charter, which may be found here.

Before even applying for a divorce with the Courts, it is vital that you ensure that you are eligible for one by going through the requirements. If unsure, it is highly recommended to consult a qualified family lawyer for advice.

You may not apply for a divorce with the Family Justice Courts if you and your husband/wife are Muslims, or the marriage was authorised under Muslim Law.

The basic requirements for a Singapore divorce are;

  • either the husband or wife is a Singaporean
  • the applicant or his/her husband/wife has resided in Singapore for a minimum of 3 years prior to applying for a divorce
  • the applicant or his/her husband/wife has been domiciled in Singapore

Additionally, a divorce may not be carried out if the marriage has not been legally bind for a minimum of 3 years. Special permission from the Court has to be obtained should the applicant wishes to proceed with a divorce on a marriage less than 3 years.

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What criteria must be met before a divorce may be legally granted?

The Judge from the Family Justice Courts will only approve a divorce application when he or she has agreed that your marriage has ‘irrevocably broken down’ beyond the point of repair or reconciliation. This also means that the Judge agrees that your marriage has ended.

Upon agreement, the marriage has to be proven to have ended by showing the Court one or more of the following:

  • that your husband/wife has committed adultery, and that residing with him or her has turned into an intolerable affair
  • that the behaviour of your husband/wife has been in such a way that it is beyond reasonable boundaries to continue staying with him/her
  • that your husband/wife has abandoned or lost contact for a minimum of 2 years
  • if your husband/wife agrees to a divorce; you and him/her must have been separated for a minimum of 3 years
  • if your husband/wife does not consent to a divorce, you and him/her must have been separated for a minimum of 4 years

The requirements may be found in more detail under section 95(3) of the Women’s Charter.

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2. Divorce Fees

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What are the costs involved when going through a divorce in Singapore? What are the factors that may affect the costs?

An uncontested divorce in Singapore typically costs (from $1,500 all in) much less than contested divorces. An uncontested divorce means that both parties (husband and wife) have both agreed on the terms and conditions of the split. An uncontested divorce, on the other hand, may mean that there are additional matters where an agreement cannot be reached and further discussions have to be conducted.

For more information on the divorce costs you may refer to Singapore Divorce Costs guide, where PKWA Law’s fee structures are explained.

When looking for a family or divorce lawyer, it is also important to ensure that the fees stated are final, transparent and inclusive of everything. Look out for items such as GST or other service fees that might not have been included. It is also good practice to request for a breakdown of the costs involved and if time permits, to request for different quotes from different law firms. Many good and reliable family law firms offer free first consultations, so be sure to use this to your advantage. Check out the credentials, background and history of the law firm you intend to engage. When it comes to handling a divorce, you do not want any unnecessary hiccups or setbacks or even additional costs (if not handled properly), so be sure to do your due diligence.

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3. Singapore Divorce Process

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How do you go about a divorce in Singapore? How do you even get started? How long is the process?

There are generally 2 main stages involved in a Singapore divorce. First; the dissolution of a marriage. Second; handling of ancillary matters.

In the first stage there are several sub stages – the preparation of relevant paperwork to kick-start the proceedings, the submission of the said documents, entering an appearance whereby the defendant is given a total of  8 days to contest the proceeding. In the last of the sub stages in a Singapore divorce, a hearing date will be arranged by the Court to conclude the divorce proceeding. Depending on the complexity of the case, and whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce, the parties involved may or may not be required to attend the Court hearing.

For more details on the above mentioned points and the second stage of a divorce (concerning ancillary matters), please read on our Singapore Divorce guide. Some of the more common processes and the things to look out for will also be explained in greater clarity. You may also refer to our Singapore divorce simplified flowchart for an overview of the full processes involved.

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4. Uncontested Divorce vs  Contested Divorce

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Can you divorce in Singapore? If yes, is yours an uncontested or contested divorce? What are the differences in processing time and procedures between the two?

An uncontested divorce generally refers to one where there is no conflict between you and the other party in any issues related to the divorce. This include child custody issues, financial differences and issues regarding shared matrimonial assets. As much as possible, an uncontested divorce is the preferred and recommended approach to a divorce as the proceeding is generally shorter with less hassle and fees involved. An uncontested divorce is significantly faster to process as it involves primarily a ‘single stage’ approach where the divorce and ancillary matters are settled concurrently. In contrast, a contested divorce involves a two stage process where the divorce is dealt with first before ancillary matters.

Apart from the nature of a divorce, such as it being a contested or uncontested divorce, the duration of a Singapore divorce proceeding also depends on the complexity of the case. Especially in cases of contested divorce, the specific duration, processes and fees involved may differ significantly depending on the number and severity of differences between the contestants.

For more information on the above, our Uncontested Divorce v Contested Divorce page will help you determine your divorce eligibility and also provide answers to frequently asked questions.

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5. Uncontested Divorce

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Getting a divorce in Singapore need not be painful and protracted. If yours is an uncontested divorce, the process is usually simpler and more affordable. Find out in greater detail if you are eligible for an uncontested divorce and the processes involved with our Uncontested Divorce page. A typical Singapore divorce, if it is mutual, amiable and uncontested, takes approximately 4 months. The hearing will be conducted within the Family Justice Courts’ Simplified Uncontested Divorce Process. The fees and duration involved in such a process is usually the simplest, lowest and fastest.

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6. Child Custody

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Does your divorce proceeding involve fighting for care and control of your child / children? What is sole custody and joint custody?

It is important to understand the legal terms involved and exactly how the court determines the welfare and future of the child / children. When deciding who to grant custody of a child to, the primary consideration of the Court is whether the decision would be in the best interests of the child. Many factors come under consideration during this stage. Not limited to material, monetary or physical comfort, the child’s mental well-being, education, individual development, prospects and many other factors are jointly considered as well. The decision has to be made in the best interests of the overall well-being of the child and not limited to any single or separate factor.

Read our Child Custody page to find out more.

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7. Divorce Maintenance

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Who can apply for maintenance? Do you have to maintain your child / children if the court has granted care and control to the other parent?

Read our Divorce Maintenance page for the fundamental conditions required to be fulfilled before a maintenance application may be processed.

Also take note of frequently asked questions when it comes to applying for maintenance after a Singapore divorce. Get your most pressing questions answered in our divorce maintenance overview.

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8. Matrimonial Assets

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What are considered matrimonial assets? How does the court deal with matrimonial assets and property when it comes to a divorce?

Any asset acquired during a period of marriage may be considered a matrimonial asset, though items acquired before a wedding may be considered matrimonial assets as well. Matrimonial assets may include, but are not limited to, the cash component available in each person’s Central Provident Fund accounts, family transport and vehicles, jewelries, joint name businesses, stock purchases, shared savings, property and housing.

Explore our comprehensive Matrimonial Assets guide for more information.

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9. Annulment of Marriage

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What is an annulment of marriage? What is the difference between a divorce and annulment of marriage? What happens to your HDB flat after an annulment of marriage?

A Singapore annulment of marriage is fundamentally different from a Singapore divorce, in the sense that it renders the marriage invalid and void in the eyes of the law. It is as if the marriage has never taken place at all. The conditions governing an annulment of marriage may be chiefly summarized into 4 major points. The processes involved in a Singapore annulment of marriage differs significantly from a Singapore divorce as well. For example, the duration of the ‘marriage’ need not be for a minimum of 3 years.

Read our Annulment of Marriage page to find out more.

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10. Deed of Separation

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What is a deed of separation? People seeking a divorce are often surprised when they find out they are not eligible for a divorce. A marriage needs to be valid for at least 3 years before a couple may follow through with a divorce proceeding. In the event that a marriage has not yet met the 3 year validity requirement, the parties involved may proceed to have a deed of separation prepared. A deed of separation typically involves mutual agreements between the parties involved. It will include the terms and conditions governing both parties before Singapore divorce proceeding may be officially conducted under fulfilled conditions.

Read our Deed of Separation page to find out more.

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11. Divorce and Your HDB flat

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Another concern of many when it comes to a divorce is the HDB flat under joint names. There are certain pitfalls to look out for when selling your HDB flat after a divorce in Singapore.

Read our HDB Divorce page to find out more.

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PKWA Law Family Lawyers

The PKWA team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading family and divorce lawyers in Singapore by independent leading legal publications. 

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