After you have confirmed that you are eligible to get a divorce in Singapore and that you have been married for at least three years, it is important to understand the process of getting a divorce. There are two stages to the process, be it a contested or an uncontested divorce:
- The dissolution of the marriage; and
- The ancillary matters stage.
The First Stage: Dissolution of the marriage – Singapore Divorce
The first stage is where parties must show the Court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and after which, the Court will issue an “Interim Judgment”.
1. Commencement of Proceedings: Filing of documents
In divorce proceedings, the person seeking the divorce is known as the ‘Plaintiff’, while his or her spouse is known as the ‘Defendant’. If the Defendant has committed adultery, the third party will be known as the ‘Co-Defendant’. The Plaintiff’s solicitors will have to file the following documents in order to commence divorce proceedings:
- Writ for divorce;
- Statement of Claim: to set out the basis for divorce and what the Plaintiff wishes to claim in terms of ancillary matters;
- Statement of Particulars: to elaborate on why the marriage has irretrievably broken down;
- Proposed or Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan if parties own a HDB flat (Note: Standard Queries Forms must be sent out to HDB and CPF Board prior to filing the documents in order to obtain relevant information on parties’ respective contributions to the HDB flat);
- Proposed or Agreed Parenting Plan if parties have any children under the age of 21;
- Acknowledgement of Service; and
- Memorandum of Appearance.
2. Service of documents
After which, the same documents must be served personally on the Defendant or the Defendant’s lawyers through E-Litigation. However, if service on the Defendant fails after two attempts or the Plaintiff is not aware of the Defendant’s exact whereabouts in Singapore, the Plaintiff can apply for substituted with the Court, in order to notify the Defendant of proceedings via post to the Defendant’s last known address or even newspaper advertisements. The Plaintiff can also apply for dispensation of service, that is, not to serve the documents on the Defendant at all. Substituted or dispensation of service will inevitably prolong proceedings by about another 4 weeks.
3. Entering an appearance
Upon receiving the divorce documents, the Defendant has 8 days to enter an appearance to state if he or she wants to contest the divorce and/or ancillary matters. There are three possible outcomes:
- If the Defendant is not contesting the Writ for Divorce (“Writ”), the Plaintiff can set down the matter for trial on an uncontested basis by filing a Request for Setting Down Action for Trial;
- If the Defendant is contesting the Writ, he or she will have a further 14 days to file either a Defence (to oppose the application) or a Defence and Counterclaim (stating out the Defendant’s basis for the divorce and his or her claim on ancillary matters, if any); and
- If no appearance is entered by the Defendant within 8 days, the Plaintiff can proceed to file an Affidavit indicating that service has been made and to set down the matter for trial. The Court may then proceed to fix a divorce hearing date and grant the divorce in the Defendant’s absence.
4. Divorce Hearing
If the divorce is uncontested, after the Request for Setting Down Action for Trial has been filed, a hearing date will be given by the Court. Parties’ attendances are not usually required at this hearing. An Interim Judgment will be granted thereafter if the Court is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
On the other hand, if the divorce is contested, an Assistant Registrar may, at a case conference, direct parties to attend counselling or mediation sessions for them to come to an agreement, so that the matter need not go to trial. In the event that the matter does go to trial, however, parties have to each file an Affidavit of Evidence-in-Chief stating their position, and inform the Court should they wish to call upon any witnesses during the trial. A contested divorce hearing is very different from an uncontested divorce hearing due to its complexity, and the hearing may range from one to several days, depending on the case. Similarly, an Interim Judgment will be granted at the conclusion of the hearing if the Court is satisfied that either party has proven their claim.
The Second Stage: Ancillary Matters – Singapore Divorce
Ordinarily, three months after the Interim Judgment has been granted, a document known as the “Final Judgment” is issued, to reflect that the Interim Judgment has been made final. However, this is subject to the completion of the second stage of the matrimonial proceedings. In this ancillary matters stage, the Court will deal with issues which include custody, care and control of any child(ren) to the marriage, matrimonial assets, and maintenance for the wife and the child(ren).
Once again, there may be mediation and counselling sessions that parties have to attend in order to resolve the outstanding issues. However, if parties are unable to do so during these sessions, their solicitors would have to file various affidavits to disclose parties’ income, expenditure, assets and liabilities and provide submissions so that the Court can decide on these issues at an Ancillary Matters Hearing.
1. Ancillary Matters Hearing
If parties manage to reach a settlement on the ancillary matters before the hearing, the Court will direct for a consent ancillary matters hearing to be fixed instead, during which parties must have a signed Draft Consent Order ready, stating down parties’ agreed plan on the ancillary matters. Alternatively, if there is no settlement, a contested ancillary matters hearing will be fixed.
As stated above, after the conclusion of the hearing and three months after the Court has granted an Interim Judgment, parties may proceed to apply for the Interim Judgment to be made final, thus concluding all divorce proceedings.
2. File the necessary papers to oppose the application
If you disagree to a divorce, you have to file a Memorandum of Appearance within 8 days of receiving the divorce papers stating your intention to contest the matter and after which, you have to file a Defence, stating why your spouse’s claim is not true. If you merely disagree with your spouse’s claim on the ancillary matters, you should file the Memorandum of Appearance indicating which issues you are contesting, so that the Court can adjudged on the various issues after the marriage has been dissolved.
Summary for Divorce Process in Singapore