What you should know before Filing for Divorce

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Consider your Legal Options
Divorce need not be fought out in courts these days. The Singapore court system both encourages and mandates that mediation be a part of the legal termination of the marriage process, particularly in matters where children and assets are involved.

This is not to say that all divorces are able to be resolved amicably or that all divorces are suited to mediation, but it is important to understand that these options are a part of the divorce process in Singapore.

You should know that even after filing a divorce petition, both parties are mandated by the court to attend mediation sessions in order to try and reach settlement on all contentious issues.

Filing for Divorce as an amicable separation
The below amicable separation options are available:

  • Deed of Separation: This refers to a legally binding document between a couple which states their mutual decision to live separately and lays the groundwork for the terms and conditions which will govern the relationship during the separation.
  • Mediation: This is a process where a neutral third party – the mediator – helps both parties to reach a compromise. You may also consider 2 way negotiations with a mediation trained family lawyer.
  • Collaborative divorce: This option enables each party to hire a solicitor specifically trained in collaborative divorce. The adversarial approach is replaced as both lawyers will work together in harmony to reach compromises and problem solved together.

Filing for Divorce on a Fault Basis
Divorce on a fault basis comes into play when both parties are acrimonious and are unable to reach an agreement on the termination of the marriage and/or ancillary issues.

There are two stages to divorce proceedings, mainly

  • – Divorce
  • – Ancillary matters

In the first stage, the Family Court will deal with the termination of the marriage itself, that is, the Court will decide whether the marriage should be dissolved. Divorce papers will be filed and served on your spouse. Upon receiving the papers, the spouse has the right to file a defence and counterclaim.

At the end of this stage, if successful, both parties will receive an Interim Judgement.

In the second stage, the Court will deal with the ancillary matters, which include division of matrimonial assets, final orders on custody of the children and the maintenance of the wife and children (if applicable).

Dealing with Joint Accounts
As soon as a divorce is filed, many attorneys will advise their clients to close any joint bank accounts, open their own individual accounts and keep their funds separated from those of their spouse. This is a good way to prevent the misuse of the joint funds by one of the parties and create further arguments.

Gather Financial Information
Most jurisdictions require both parties to file a financial affidavit, disclosing everything from their annual income to any expected inheritances. To this end, it is helpful for parties to begin gathering their personal financial documents such as:

  • – Tax Returns
  • – Pay Slips
  • – Insurance Policies
  • – Household bills
  • – Credit card bills
  • – Financial / Retirement Account Statements
  • – Real Estate Deeds (if any)

In amicable situations, some spouses even fill out their financial affidavits together to make the process as smooth as possible. Do remember to make two copies of each document after they are completed.

Interim Child Support
As soon as divorce is filed, one spouse can apply for interim child support with the Family Court if the other spouse is not taking responsibility to continue to provide for the children or have moved out of the matrimonial home.

Do be mindful that it is the responsibility of both parents to take care of the children expenses and filing for divorce do not simply take away this important responsibility. In most cases, the amount of child support owed is a set percentage of the other parent’s net income (their income before taxes), even though the Court has the right to deviate from the standard percentages where it deems necessary. Interim child support orders are important as they are often incorporated into the final divorce decree.

Interim Spousal Support
Interim spousal support can be applied at the Family Court as well. Unlike child support, interim spousal support is not an absolute right. It is granted at the discretion of the Court depending on the circumstances of both parties.

When determining whether or not to grant spousal support, the court will take several factors into consideration, including the needs of the party seeking spousal support, the financial capability of the party to provide for themselves financially, the educational level and annual income of the party from whom spousal support is sought, the age of both parties and the length of the marriage.

The most common type of spousal support is “rehabilitative” support, which is temporary in nature and is intended to stop once the party needing support is adequately able to be financially independent. “Permanent” spousal support is less common and usually is intended to remain in place for the rest of the parties’ lives.

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