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A Guide on How to Get a Divorce in Singapore

A Guide on How to Get a Divorce in Singapore

Marriage can be tough, even if you’ve planned everything out perfectly. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and divorce is the best option. 

I just want you to know that if you’re going through something similar, it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or confused. These are all normal emotions to have during a difficult time.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get divorced in Singapore.

How to Get a Divorce in Singapore

DifficultyDifficult ●●●●○
Time required6 months to 1 year, depending on how complicated the case is
Things you needIRAS statements
CPF documents
Insurance documents
Documents on any debts/liabilities
Bank statements
And other documents that show financial contributions

There may be more documents that you will need depending on the case of your divorce. (More details are explained below.)

Step 1. Know your eligibility for divorce in Singapore

Before pursuing a divorce in Singapore, it is crucial to understand whether you meet the eligibility requirements. 

a. Citizenship and Residency

a. Citizenship and Residency
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To file for a divorce in the Family Courts, you or your spouse must be a Singapore citizen or have resided in Singapore continuously for at least three years before submitting the divorce application. 

However, if both parties are not Singapore citizens, you must provide residency proof for the past three years. 

Examples of suitable documentation include

  • An employment pass indicating the length of stay
  • An employment agreement 
  • A tenancy agreement

b. Duration of the Marriage

b. Duration of the Marriage
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The length of your marriage is also significant. Only people who have been married for at least three years can file for a divorce. 

If you and your partner have been married for less than three years, you can only get a divorce once you get permission from the court to do so.

c. Civil Weddings

c. Civil Weddings
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Weddings based on civil law are the only ones subject to the rules for getting a divorce.

If you and your partner are Muslims or married under Muslim law, you must go to the Syariah Court to get a divorce. The Syariah Court handles divorces according to different rules and processes.

d. Domicile/Habitual Residence

d. DomicileHabitual Residence
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As a citizen of the country, you or your spouse must also meet the domicile/habitual residence standards. Domicile is where a person considers their permanent home or to which they have strong ties.

Meeting these standards means

  • One of you must be a Singapore citizen
  • Both have lived in Singapore regularly for at least three years before filing for divorce
  • Or both have your home in Singapore

e. Marriage Counselling Programme

e. Marriage Counselling Programme
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Before you can file for a divorce, you have to sign up for and go through the Marriage Counselling Programme. This program aims to assist and guide couples who are experiencing difficulties in their marriage.

Also, if you have kids, you must participate in the Parenting Programme. It stresses the importance of caring for your kids during and after divorce. 

Step 2. Determine the grounds for divorce

Step 2. Determine the grounds for divorce
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Once you’ve found out if you can get a divorce in Singapore, the next step is determining the acceptable grounds to file for one. 

In Singapore, a divorce can only be granted when a marriage is on an “irretrievable breakdown.” 

When a couple can’t work out their problems or makeup and their marriage has irretrievably broken down, they reach a point where they can’t save the union. In Singaporean law, this is the only thing that can lead to a divorce.

To prove something in the eyes of the law, you need to explain or break down the facts in detail.

Simply put, according to the law, you must show what happened and why it matters.

Here are some of the common grounds for a divorce in Singapore:

a. Adultery

a. Adultery
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Party B can file for divorce if Party A has committed adultery and Party B finds it intolerable to continue living with Party A. 

Proving adultery can be difficult, as Party A may not readily admit to the act. In such cases, gathering evidence is critical, and you can hire a private investigator to assist you in obtaining the necessary proof.

b. Unreasonable Behavior

b. Unreasonable Behavior
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To prove unreasonable behavior, Party A must show that Party B has acted in a way that makes it unreasonable for Party A to continue living with Party B. Unreasonable behavior is subjective and depends on what Party A considers unjustifiable.

Some examples of unreasonable behavior include violence, staying up late constantly, refusing to socialize, and drug addiction. Other examples may include compulsive gambling habits, deprivation of sex, and working excessively long hours. 

This ground is commonly used in uncontested divorces, as party B doesn’t have to confess to the conduct, unlike in cases of adultery.

c. Desertion

c. Desertion
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In legal terms, desertion is when one spouse leaves the other for two years or more without a good reason. 

Party A must demonstrate that they have been living separately and that Party B intends to desert. Evidence of party B’s lack of intention to return is typically required to establish this ground.

d. Separation (Living Apart) for 3 Years

d. Separation (Living Apart) for 3 Years
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Party A must prove that both parties (A and B) have lived apart for three years to be eligible for a separation-based divorce. 

Party B must also agree to the divorce for this ground to be valid. Proof of separate living arrangements is crucial, and individuals may use a deed of separation for this purpose.

It is critical to note that the separation must be voluntary and not due to necessity. Brief reconciliation periods of up to six months are allowed during the three-year separation.

Still, the time spent living together during reconciliation does not count towards the required duration of separation.

e. Separation (Living Apart) for 4 Years

After four years of continuous separation, Party A may file for divorce without Party B’s consent.

f. Mutual Agreement (Effective from 2023)

f. Mutual Agreement (Effective from 2023)
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Couples can now divorce by mutual consent. Both parties must agree that the marriage is over and sign a written agreement that includes the reasons for the divorce.

The agreement should also include any efforts to reconcile and information on financial and child custody arrangements. The court may refuse to grant the divorce if it believes there is a chance for reconciliation.

Please note that “irreconcilable differences” is not a valid reason for proving the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage in Singapore. 

Understanding the grounds for divorce is important, as it forms the basis for your divorce application. I recommend seeking legal advice and guidance to ensure compliance with all requirements and procedures.

Step 3. File a Writ for Divorce with the Family Justice Courts

Step 3. File a Writ for Divorce with the Family Justice Courts
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After establishing the grounds for divorce and collecting the required papers, you need to file a Divorce Petition with the Family Court.

This step describes the filing procedure, whether you represent yourself or hire an attorney.

Filing MethodProcedure
Filing through an attorneyIf you have a lawyer, they will file your divorce papers for you. They will ensure all the necessary documents are prepared and submitted to the right people.
Filing by yourselfIf you represent yourself in a divorce, you can file your divorce papers online through eLitigation at the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau or through the Divorce eService.
If you represent yourself in a divorce, you can file your divorce papers online through eLitigation at the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau or through the Divorce eService.

eLitigation is a web-based system that allows you to file and manage your divorce case online.

The Divorce eService is a mobile app that allows you to file and manage your divorce case on your smartphone or tablet. 

Both eLitigation and the Divorce eService are free to use.
The Divorce eService is a mobile app that allows you to file and manage your divorce case on your smartphone or tablet. 
Both eLitigation and the Divorce eService are free to use. 

Required Documents

To ensure a smooth and successful divorce application process, you must complete, sign, and submit all necessary documents through your chosen platform.

Writ for DivorceThe divorce petition is the formal document that starts the divorce process. It states the reasons for the divorce and the relief that the person filing for divorce is seeking.
Statement of ClaimA declaration that details the specific events and reasons supporting the grounds for divorce
Proposed Parenting PlanThis document outlines a child’s care arrangements after the parents’ divorce.  

It includes details such as where the child will live, how often they will see each parent, and how the parents will make decisions about their care.

This requirement only applies to couples who have children.
Proposed Matrimonial Property PlanThis is a plan that details the distribution of marital assets and debts.

This requirement only applies to couples with debts and assets that can be distributed.
Proposed Maintenance PlanThis document specifies the financial support arrangements for the spouse and/or children.

Several factors affect your eligibility for spousal maintenance in Singapore. This may include the number of your children and how old you are.

The Family Justice court will decide whether a spouse is eligible.
Affidavit of Evidence-in-ChiefIt’s a sworn statement providing evidence and supporting documentation for the claims made in the Statement of Claim.
Other Supporting documentsSupporting documents are any relevant documents, such as financial statements, bank statements, property documents, and other evidence supporting the claims made in the divorce application.
Marriage CertificateYou’ll need a copy of your marriage certificate to prove the legal marriage between you and your spouse.
NRIC or PassportThe NRIC, passport, or other identification documents will be used to establish your identity.
Acknowledgment of ServiceThis is served to the other party, confirming receipt of the divorce papers. The spouse who received the documents will be responsible for providing this.
Consent for eServiceIf the other party agrees to receive documents through electronic service, their consent is required. This is only required if you have both decided to file the divorce through eService.

Step 4. Attend a pre-trial conference

Step 4. Attend a pre-trial conference
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A Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) is a meeting between the divorcing couple, their lawyers, and a judge. It takes place before the divorce hearing and allows the judge to understand the case and explore the possibility of a settlement.

Both parties are required to attend the PTC. If you have a lawyer, they can represent you instead.

It’s usually held in the Family Court, in private chambers, with only the judge, the lawyers, and the involved parties present.

The judge will ask questions at the PTC, such as

  • Have you filed all the necessary documents?
  • Have you tried to reach a settlement?
  • Are you willing to go to mediation or counseling?

If the judge thinks a settlement is possible, they may suggest mediation or counseling. If the parties are unwilling to settle, the judge will set a date for the divorce hearing.

Attending the PTC and being prepared to answer the judge’s questions is important.

Step 5. Attend a mediation session

Step 5. Attend a mediation session
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Mediation helps couples discuss their divorce and reach agreements about child custody, dividing assets, and spousal support.

You can do it before or after filing for divorce. Mediation is usually less expensive and stressful than going to court.

Types of MediationDescription
Mediation Involving Children or Court Mediationn Singapore, couples with children under 14 must attend mediation sessions at the Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC) before they can file for divorce. 

Trained judges facilitate the mediation sessions to help the couples to develop a parenting plan that is in the best interest of their children. 

The plan will address issues such as custody, access, and co-parenting. 

Couples are encouraged to settle on all issues during mediation, even if they disagree on financial matters.
Mediation for Couples with Children Between 14 and 21Couples with children aged 14–21 can attend mediation at the Family Court. 

This mediation is a meeting where they can discuss issues related to their children, such as custody, visitation, and finances. A mediator will help them communicate and reach an agreement.
Private MediationIn private mediation, a mediator helps couples resolve their differences fairly and flexibly. The mediator helps the couple discuss property division, child custody, and child support.

After completing mediation and discussing all issues, the mediator will draft an MOU or Memorandum of Understanding.

The MOU will include all agreements made during mediation, and each party’s lawyers will receive a copy. The lawyers will use the MOU to complete the necessary divorce or separation paperwork for an uncontested divorce.

Mediation can help couples resolve their financial and parenting issues in a constructive and civil way. 

With the help of a mediator, couples can find common ground, make informed decisions, and work towards an uncontested divorce with less conflict and emotional strain.

Step 6.a. File a Consent Order with the court if you reach an agreement
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Once you and your spouse have agreed on all the details of your divorce, you can create a Consent Order. This legal document states the terms of your divorce, and both parties will sign it.

There are two types of Consent Orders: a Simplified Consent Order for uncontested divorces and a Judge-made Consent Order for contested divorces.

  • Uncontested and Simplified Divorce

When both parties agree on everything, such as the reasons for the divorce, child custody, division of assets, alimony, and costs, this is considered uncontested. 

This type of divorce is usually quicker and less expensive than a contested divorce.

Both parties agree upon the divorce terms through private negotiations or court mediation. Doing this ensures that they have resolved all issues before finalizing the divorce.

  • Contested Divorce

In a contested divorce, both parties disagree on who gets the house, who gets the kids, and how much each person will pay. 

If they later agree on all these things, a judge can sign a document called a “Judge-made Consent Order” that says what they agreed on. This order is legally binding, so both parties have to follow it.

Both parties must follow the terms of the Consent Order once they agree upon it and file it with the court.

Once you agree to a Consent Order, you can’t change your mind later.

However, if your circumstances change significantly or the order becomes unworkable, the court may be able to change it. For example, if you lose your job or your child’s needs change, you can ask the court to vary the order.

Step 6.b. Attend a trial if you don’t reach an agreement

Step 6.b. Attend a trial if you don't reach an agreement
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If the other person in your divorce doesn’t agree to the divorce, you will have a court hearing. 

Before the hearing, the court may ask you and your lawyer to meet with them to discuss the case. The judge will decide what will happen with your marriage at the hearing.

a. Case Conference

a. Case Conference
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The case conference is a court session where only those directly involved attend. Members of the public are not allowed. 

If you have a lawyer representing you, they will attend the case conference on your behalf. 

The court will give instructions on preparing for the contested divorce hearing, which may include filing the Affidavit of Evidence-in-Chief (AEIC) for both parties and their witnesses, if applicable.

b. Affidavit of Evidence-in-Chief (AEIC)

b. Affidavit of Evidence-in-Chief (AEIC)
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An Affidavit of Evidence-in-Chief (AEIC) is a sworn statement by a witness used as evidence in a trial. During the trial, the court questions the witness based on the AEIC.

The witness’s lawyer prepares the AEIC and files it with the court before the trial. The witness must ensure that it is truthful and accurate and be ready to answer questions during the trial.

An AEIC is a useful tool for both parties in a trial. It allows the parties to present their evidence clearly and concisely and helps ensure the trial is fair and efficient.

c. Bringing Witnesses

c. Bringing Witnesses
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All parties must inform their witnesses of the hearing date and location. The court may reject the affidavit if the witness fails to appear.

If a witness does not want to appear in court, the parties can apply for a subpoena through eLitigation, which will compel them to appear on the specified date and time.

d. Court Hearing

d. Court Hearing
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On the day of your contested divorce hearing, you should arrive early at the courthouse and locate the courtroom where your hearing will occur. 

According to the court’s dress code, you should dress neatly and decently. During the hearing, you should conduct yourself courteously towards the judge, your ex-spouse, and their lawyer. 

Attendance at the hearing is compulsory, and if you are absent without a valid reason, the court may proceed with the case in your absence.

e. Trial Process

e. Trial Process
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Both parties will present evidence to support their case during a contested divorce trial. The court will then decide whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down. 

If the court is satisfied that the marriage has broken down, they will grant an Interim Judgment, which marks the end of the first stage of the divorce process.

f. Ancillary Matters

f. Ancillary Matters
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The Interim Judgment is a court order that grants a divorce. It does not address other issues, such as child custody, property division, or maintenance. 

The court will set a date for the parties to attend a case conference on ancillary matters. The parties will discuss these issues and prepare for an ancillary matters hearing, which the court will decide.

Step 7. Receive the final judgment

Step 7. Receive the final judgment
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Following the contested or uncontested divorce process, the final judgment serves as the conclusion of legal proceedings, certifying the dissolution of the marriage. 

To obtain a Certificate of Final Judgment in Singapore, you must obtain a legal document issued by the Family Justice Courts (FJC), which confirms the permanence of the divorce settlement and the end of the marriage. 

This certificate is useful for various legal and administrative purposes, such as updating identification documents, changing marital status, handling HDB-related matters, and accessing government benefits.

  • Uncontested Divorce

After a hearing, you can get an Interim Judgment if you and your spouse agree on everything in your divorce. 

This judgment says your marriage is over but not yet final. You must wait 3 months before getting a final divorce decree.

  • Contested Divorce

After 3 months, either Party can apply for a Certificate of Final Judgment. You can apply in person or online at the eLitigation portal.

The judge will finalize the divorce terms in a final judgment after the trial. If the parties don’t appeal the judgment within three months or if the appeal fails, the court will finalize the divorce.

After the court approves your request, please print a copy of the Certificate of Final Judgment and submit it to the Records Section at the Family Registry of the Family Justice Courts. 

You will receive a certified true copy once they verify the document and you pay any additional fees. 

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