Oftentimes, when a person thinks about a divorce, he or she does not recognise the importance of hiring a good divorce lawyer. It is almost an afterthought that this person considering a divorce will reach out to a lawyer to help him or her with the court proceedings.
In order to better understand divorce proceedings in Singapore, we speak to Principal Partner & Matrimonial Lawyer from GJC Law, Ms Gloria James, who will answer some of the more common questions on divorce proceedings.
Can you tell us more about the role of a divorce lawyer?
The role of a divorce lawyer is to help his clients to deal with practical issues about divorce, understand their short & long term goals and needs, offer them effective advice and assistance in a cost conscious and individualised manner and to guide them to understand the bigger picture. In all, a Family lawyer provides practical legal advice and looks after the interests of his clients, playing an important role in helping his clients to move on in life.
Can you tell us how a divorce lawyer can help someone who is thinking of divorce?
A divorce lawyer will first and foremost help his clients to understand the legal implications that come with divorce and how they affect their interests. The lawyer also advises a client on their rights with regards to the dissolution of the marriage, child custody issues, marital assets division, and child/spousal maintenance where applicable.
What are the grounds for Divorce in Singapore?
There is only one ground for getting a divorce; that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. You need to show the court that one of the following grounds have led to the breakdown of your marriage.
- That your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him/her.
- Your spouse has behaved in such a manner (unreasonable behaviour) that you cannot be reasonably be expected to live with him/her any further.
- Your spouse has deserted you for 2 years without any intention of returning.
- You and your spouse have lived apart for 3 years and both agree to divorce (with consent) or that you and your spouse have lived apart for 4 years (Without the consent of your spouse)
What are the different stages of divorce proceedings and how long do they normally take?
There are two stages in the divorce process.
At Stage 1, the court will deal with the dissolution of the marriage by establishing Jurisdiction and grounds to file for divorce. At the end of this stage, if successful, the Court will issue an Interim Judgement to approve the divorce.
At Stage 2, the court deals with the ancillary issues such as child custody, assets and maintenance. At the end of this stage, parties will receive a Final Judgement.
Who gets custody of the children?
The courts priority is to ensure that there will be ongoing stability in a child`s life. This is the paramount consideration when determining which parent the child should live with.
The child’s wishes can sometimes be taken into consideration if the child is mature enough to express which parent he/she wishes to live with. Usually, court is more inclined to award joint custody with sole care and control to the mother in situations where the children are very young, however, where it is proven that the father shows to have played a more active role than the mother, or that the mother is unfit to look after the child, custody may be given to the father instead.
In Singapore, what are the rights of a woman when seeking a divorce?
A woman has the right to initiate divorce proceedings against her husband, provided she meets the grounds for divorce. She may ask and be entitled to seek Spousal Maintenance, apply for Interim Custody, Care and Control of her Child, seek Child Maintenance prior to, during or after divorce proceedings and seek fair and equitable Division of Matrimonial Assets.
Equally, what are the rights of a man when seeking a divorce?
Just like for a woman, a man has the right to initiate divorce proceedings against his wife, provided he meets the grounds for divorce. He might also seek Interim Custody, Care and Control of his Child, and claim Child Maintenance and fair distribution of Marital Assets.
Recent changes to the law dictate that men may seek maintenance from an ex-wife, should a husband be incapacitated by illness or disability.