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.
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.
In Singapore, filing for both contested and uncontested divorces have the same list of pre-requisites. These include:
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:
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:
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.
All Singapore divorces entail a similar process, except for the trial and ancillaries hearing that take place in contested divorces.
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:
This phase comprises of the following:
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.
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|
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.
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.