When you Decide to Move on

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Deciding to move on and divorce can be the most difficult decisions to make. Yet, it is also one of those things which you must get absolutely right in order to get the best possible solution so that you can move on. Hiring an experienced divorce lawyer is therefore one of the important first steps to take.

Divorce Proceedings
You need to have certain grounds to file for a divorce in Singapore. Normally, a divorce will be based on either a fault basis or a no-fault basis.

A fault basis divorce means that one party will cite the “unreasonable behaviour” of the other spouse that caused the break-down of the marriage. It could be improper association, lack of attention, physical violence, emotional abuse or prolonged neglect.

A non-fault basis divorce means that both parties opt for a divorce based on separation and must have lived apart for 3 years with consent or 4 years without consent.

If you do not meet the 3 year separation bar
A deed of separation is a legal document entered between both parties as a Deed – signed, sealed and delivered. It states all the agreed terms pertaining to the divorce as well as the ancillary issues related to and arising from the marriage. It will state the date of separation of both parties and address ancillary issues such as child custody, care and control, access to children, spouse and child support and the division of matrimonial assets.

Amicable Divorce
Is there such a thing as an amicable divorce? Surprisingly, there is and in fact, there are high numbers of divorces which are amicable. Amicable divorce is the same as an uncontested divorce and involves agreement on matters including, but not limited to, child custody and support, visitation, property division, and spousal support (if any). Once all the core divorce terms are agreed upon, the couple will file the divorce as a simplified divorce in the Family Court.

Amicable divorce saves on time and emotional heartaches since there are likely to be no fights or disagreements. This also helps to orientate the children better as they can see their parents resolving the issues amicably. Usually, better decisions and agreements can also be realised in this method of divorce as both parents will each want the best for themselves and the children.

In Singapore, couples considering amicable divorce can consider the following 3 options:

  • Collaborative divorce: This is handled out of court. Each party hires individual collaborative trained divorce lawyer and retains some measure of control during the negotiations. Parties come to their own amicable agreements during discussions instead of leaving decisions in the hands of their lawyers. The lawyers will facilitate the couple’s communication and advise their respective clients on the steps in filing for the divorce as a simplified divorce.
  • Mediating a Divorce: This is also handled out of court. The couple seeks the help of a mediator and he or she helps the couple to work out an amicable agreement on all issues that need to be sorted out. The couple should use a divorce lawyer trained in mediation.
  • Self-determination: The couple can come to agreement on all issues between themselves without the use of lawyers.

No matter which approach is favoured, a couple who can amicably dissolve their marriage can usually expect to save time and money as no prolonged fighting is involved. This also helps the couple and the children to move on quickly without lingering bitterness.

Contested Divorce
A contested divorce can quickly escalate into a contentious matter, a scenario that most divorce lawyers would advise their clients against. However, if one or both parties dispute some aspect of the divorce, a contested divorce is unavoidable. The divorce proceedings would then take longer to complete and involve greater stress, emotional turmoil and higher legal fees.

With a contested divorce, both parties must hire their individual divorce lawyers and have to go through numerous stages before the divorce can be finalised. The steps include –

  • Prepare, file and serve (deliver) the divorce papers (legal paperwork asking for a divorce and stating the grounds for the break up) to the other spouse
  • Waiting for the response to the divorce papers from the other spouse
  • Engage in “divorce discovery” where applicable – the gathering of information which involves many legal procedures to get information from the other spouse and third-party witnesses (eg. written questions, subpoenas and deposition)
  • Attend pre-trial legal hearings
  • Submit settlement proposals and negotiations between divorce lawyers
  • If settlement fails, be prepared for trial

In a contested divorce, both lawyers usually strive to come to a settlement at mediation stage to avoid a court trial. Settlement is always preferred but in the event that both parties are unable to come to an agreement, the parties will have no option but go to court.

Child Custody and Single Parenthood
In divorce, be it amicable or contested, children continue to play an important part in all the decision-making processes. In an ideal situation, the court wants to see both play an equally significant part in their children’s lives. Joint custody orders involve both parents to actively decide on their children’s major life issues such as education, religion and healthcare. For care and control, the court will usually appoint the mother to care for younger children and grants visitation rights to the father.

Bear in mind that single parenthood is a personal choice that is made by you. Nobody can tell you whether it is the right or wrong thing to do. The best way forward is to always put your children’s welfare before yours, no matter what decisions you will make. By putting your children first, it is likely that you will be able to put aside your differences with your ex-spouse and make beneficial decisions for your children. You will also be able to communicate amicably with your ex-spouse either face to face, through a telephone or even through emails.

No matter which path you will ultimately walk, it is important for you to find and engage an experienced divorce lawyer to help you with all the legal documents and to fight for your interests and rights in a divorce.

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