Why Choose an Uncontested Divorce in Singapore

  • Divorce
Why Choose an Uncontested Divorce in Singapore

Going through a divorce is often a difficult and complicated process. However, if it turns into a contested divorce proceeding, then the process can become even more complicated.

In many instances, the best alternative for both the plaintiff and the defendant is agreeing to a simplified uncontested divorce. As a matter of fact, Singapore’s judicial system encourages simplified uncontested divorces, as they do away with all court proceedings and require only divorce papers to be filed in court.

Once the divorce has been filed, the involved parties can expect an interim judgement of divorce within a month’s time. About three months later, the Family Court issues a certificate that makes the divorce final, therefore concluding the process.

A simplified uncontested divorce, as the name suggests, comes into effect when both the plaintiff and defendant agree on the reason the marriage is to be dissolved. Both parties should also agree on ancillary matters such as the division of assets, maintenance of the wife and children, and the custody, care and control, and access of the children. By doing so, the entire divorce process stays on a simplified track.

Of course, qualified divorce lawyers are still instrumental in this type of divorce. With proper legal assistance, the involved parties can ensure that they are following the set procedures and observing all the requirements and nuances that come with filing for divorce.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

In an uncontested divorce, the divorcing parties agree on both the reasons for marriage dissolution as well as all ancillary matters.

At times, the parties agree to the dissolution of marriage, but cannot agree on matters such as the care and custody of the children or the division of property. For a simplified uncontested divorce to transpire, both aspects must be agreed on.

Should the spouses opt for this type of divorce, they may opt to retain lawyers to file the signed divorce papers with the Family Justice Court through the eLitigation module. If the papers are all in order, an administrative divorce hearing will commence in roughly a month’s time (Note: the court does not require the attendance of the parties). Afterwards, the interim judgment of divorce is then extracted. Compared to a contested divorce proceeding, this type of divorce saves the parties a lot of time, money, and effort.

A simplified uncontested divorce is not to be confused with an application for an Annulment of Marriage.

What are the Requirements for a Simplified Uncontested Divorce in Singapore?

In Singapore, filing for both contested and uncontested divorces have the same list of pre-requisites. These include:

  • The marriage should have lasted for at least three years; and
  • Either of the spouses should be either a Singaporean citizen or be domiciled or have resided in Singapore for at least three years;

If the above-mentioned requirements are met, then foreigners may also file for divorce in Singapore. Those married under Muslim laws must proceed to Syariah Court should they consider getting divorced.

Both contested and uncontested divorces also require the same legitimate reasons for filing. These reasons fall under four categories:

  • Adultery – If the defendant has sexual relations outside marriage, and the plaintiff finds continuing to live in the marriage intolerable;
  • Unreasonable behaviour – If the defendant behaves in an intolerable manner or inflicts mental or physical abuse on the plaintiff. An example could be spending too many hours at work and neglecting to spend quality time with the spouse.
  • Desertion – If the defendant leaves the plaintiff for at least two years, and cannot be contacted at all and shows no signs or intentions of returning;
  • Separation – When the spouses maintain separate households or live separately with mutual consent for at least three years, or do so without mutual consent for over four years.

To file for a simplified uncontested divorce, spouses should agree on both the reasons for the dissolution of marriage and the material provisions following the divorce. These include:

  • Care and custody of the children — This includes arriving at a decision on who is to live with the children after divorce, and who has the rights to make major decisions on the child’s relocation, education, medical treatment, etc. This also includes determining the type of access to children for the non-custodial parent.
  • Division of property — This includes any existing debts, needs the children may have, and even each party’s contribution towards the acquisition, maintenance, and improvement of marital property.
  • Material provision for the wife — This does not apply to short marriages, and when the wife’s income is deemed to be sufficient.
  • Material provision for the children — Provision is only given to children below 21 years of age.

For a simplified uncontested divorce to be considered valid in Singapore, both parties must agree on each of the above-mentioned terms. Such an agreement is to be confirmed by the documents provided in court.

The Phases of Divorce and the Required Documents

All Singapore divorces entail a similar process, except for the trial and ancillaries hearing that take place in contested divorces.

Phase 1

The first phase typically takes one month for uncontested divorces. Contested divorces, however, may take several months as the plaintiff must prove his or her case at trial. This phase comprises of the following:

  • Filing of divorce papers to the court;
  • Hearing of the case; and
  • Receiving the interim judgement on the divorce.

Phase 2

This phase comprises of the following:

  • Filing of affidavits;
  • Discovery on assets and other aspects pertaining to ancillaries;
  • Ancillary hearing on material provisions after the divorce; and
  • Receiving final judgement on the divorce.

Note that the interim judgement for divorce only becomes final after three months. A simplified uncontested divorce may take as short as four months, while a contested divorce may take up to a year or even longer.

Contested Divorce vs. Uncontested Divorce

When it comes to a contested divorce in Singapore, spouses either disagree on the dissolution of marriage, or on the ancillary matters that stem from divorce. The process generally takes longer than an uncontested divorce because it involves additional documentation, a pre-trial conference, and several court hearings. When young children are involved, the process may also include mediation at the Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC).

A family case conference is held with the purpose of general case management, as well as to offer mediation and hopefully convert a contested case into an uncontested one. Should the parties refuse to arrive at an amicable agreement on the dissolution of marriage, the judge gives the instructions for trial. Preparing for a trial will include witness statements, submissions, and the cross-examination of the parties.

In a contested divorce, numerous documents must be provided. These include the Affidavit of Evidence in Chief, the Affidavit of Assets and Means, and submissions to the court.

The following table outlines the major differences between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce in Singapore:

Contested Divorce Uncontested Divorce
Both parties cannot agree on either the dissolution of marriage or on ancillary matters (or both) Both parties agree on the dissolution of marriage, as well as on its consequences
Many documents are required, including facts that prove the reason behind the divorce There is only a limited number of documents required
The process can take up to 12 months or longer The process can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months
Both parties must appear in court for mediation or trial Both parties are not required to be present in court
Legal fees are high, and may be time-based Legal fees are lower compared to a contested divorce

Why Choose an Uncontested Divorce? 

As evident from the table above, there are far less complications for all parties involved in an uncontested divorce. The divorce process is far shorter, more inexpensive, does not involve a trial hearing, requires minimal documents, and does not require the parties’ presence in court.

In a Singapore divorce, the presence of guilt offers little to no advantage or benefit to either of the divorcing spouses. Similarly, the ability to prove adultery or unreasonable behaviour also offers little to no advantage or benefit to either party when it comes to the distribution of property, child custody, and other major factors. As such, there is very little reason to opt for a contested divorce.

Summary

Divorce is never simple. However, getting a simplified uncontested divorce makes an already challenging process much shorter and easier, and involves far less costs and effort. Divorcing spouses who wish to take the uncontested route must simply arrive at an agreement for the reasons for the divorce, and decide upon ancillary matters such as child custody and distribution of property.

Seeking legal assistance from an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer may be invaluable during such trying times. Your lawyer will be able to collect all necessary facts, gather and submit the required documentation, and ensure that everything is done properly to make this process as smooth as possible.