As an expat, you might not be able to divorce your partner in Singapore even if you wanted to.
First, one of the parties must be a Singapore citizen or must have lived in Singapore for three continuous years at the date of filing for divorce. The marriage must also have lasted for three years or more.
If either of the conditions are not fulfilled, a party cannot file for divorce.
Family lawyer Rajan Chettiar explains more.
Can the three-year requirement be waived?
Yes, but only in very limited circumstances – for example, if one party’s mental condition has been severely affected. In this scenario, a psychiatric report must be submitted to the court in order to persuade it to make such an order.
The court order has to be obtained by filing a Summons before the party can file for divorce.
But what if both of us are expats?
The court also has the capability to grant a divorce for expat couples.
One spouse may apply for a stay of the divorce proceedings in Singapore on the reason that the country the couple was married in ought to be the preferred forum for filing a divorce.
The Singapore’s Family Justice Courts must then decide whether the divorce proceedings in Singapore ought to be stayed.
What happens after I’ve filed the divorce papers?
Your spouse (the defendant) has eight days to complete, file and serve the documents. This is known as a Memorandum of Appearance.
Within 22 days of receiving the divorce papers, the defendant can file a defence, which is known as a response or Defence to the Statement of Particulars.
In other words, the defendant is informing the plaintiff (a.k.a, you) that he or she does not agree to the divorce, and that the marriage did not break down solely because of the reasons you have provided.
Often, the defendant chooses to file a Defence and Counterclaim: The defendant files for divorce against you with his or her own set of reasons.
Fourteen days after receiving the defendant’s Defence and Counterclaim, you can file a Reply to the Defence.
Completing the first stage will take between three and five months from the date of the initial divorce filing.
What about our children? What happens to them?
Couples with children below the age of 21 have to attend mandatory mediation and counselling to resolve the issue of custody, care and control of the children.
Information and support services on moving on and coparenting will be provided to the couple during the counselling sessions.
During the mandatory mediation, the Court will also assist parties to undergo divorce mediation, which tends to lead to an uncontested divorce hearing. In fact, most divorces these days are uncontested, thanks to divorce mediation.
By The Finder, December 2016
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Rajan Chettiar is a professional lawyer specialising in the areas of family law and personal law. He is also a trained collaborative family lawyer and a Court-appointed Child Representative and is qualified to oversee matters such as couples looking to resolve marital, child, financial and property issues before filing for divorce, or individuals seeking protection against family violence. A volunteer court mediator, Rajan offers family and commercial mediation services, including settling employment and commercial disputes to avoid litigation. Rajan Chettiar invites you to e-mail queries or comments to him on a no-obligation basis.