Getting a Divorce in Singapore: A Marriage which has Irretrievably Broken Down and the Five Facts to Prove it

Author: Patrick Tan and Samantha Lek

 

Introduction

When one is certain that a divorce is the only way out of the marital relationship, what is the ground on which a married couple can obtain their divorce? In this article, we seek to explain the sole ground of divorce in Singapore and the five facts which can be used to prove it.

 

Obtaining a Divorce in Singapore

In Singapore, there is only one ground for divorce – that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. In order to prove that the marriage has indeed irretrievably broken down, any of the following five facts can be used[1]:

a. Adultery
b. Unreasonable behaviour
c. Desertion for at least two years
d. Separation for at least three years and both parties consent to the divorce
e. Separation for at least four years

You may only prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down through these five facts and not any other. You may also use more than one fact in support of your application for a divorce, for example, your spouse’s adultery and unreasonable behaviour.

Before proceeding to file for a divorce in Singapore, you must first be married for at least three years[2] and either party to the marriage must be either domiciled in Singapore (for example, a Singapore citizen) or has resided in Singapore for three years immediately before the commencement of divorce proceedings[3].

 

a. Adultery[4]

If evidence can be produced to show that a party to the marriage has had voluntary sexual intercourse with someone else who is not his or her spouse, the other party to the marriage can use this as a fact to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down if he or she finds it intolerable to continue living with the unfaithful spouse.

However, the party who committed adultery cannot use his or her own unfaithfulness as a fact to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

 

b. Unreasonable Behaviour[5]

If one party to the marriage has behaved in such a manner that it cannot be reasonably expected for the other party to live together with him/her, the other party can provide evidence of this unreasonable behaviour as a fact to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is the most common fact used to support a divorce application.

 

c. Desertion for at least two years[6]

If one party to the marriage has deserted the other party for a continuous period of at least two years before filing the divorce, this may be used to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Desertion is different from separation as there is no agreement between parties to end the marriage. The party who deserts the other must intend to do so and have done it unilaterally.

 

d. Separation for at least three years and both parties consent to the divorce[7]

If both parties to the marriage have lived separately for a continuous period of three years and both parties consent to divorce, this fact can be used to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

In addition, the parties will need to show that they intended to live apart, and did not live apart due to circumstances (such as one party staying overseas for three years due to further studies or work). To establish separation, a deed of separation, a document that contains the terms and conditions which the couple agree to as they separate from each other, can be used.

 

e. Separation for at least four years[8]

If both parties to the marriage have lived separately for a continuous period of four years, this fact alone is sufficient to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There is no need for both parties to consent to the divorce, and either party may apply to the court for a divorce.

 

Conclusion

While this article has sought to explain the irretrievable breakdown of marriage as the sole ground of divorce in Singapore and the five different facts to prove it, every marital relationship and the circumstances surrounding it would necessarily be very different. Deciding on the relevant fact and the necessary evidence to support a divorce application would be easier with the help of a lawyer. If you are considering the possibility of ending your marriage, speak to one of our experienced lawyers today, we are ready to listen.

 

[1] S 95(3) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed)

[2] S 94(1) of the Women’s Charter

[3] S 93(1) of the Women’s Charter

[4] S 95(3)(a) of the Women’s Charter

[5] S 95(3)(b) of the Women’s Charter

[6] S 95(3)(c) of the Women’s Charter

[7] S 95(3)(d) of the Women’s Charter

[8] S 95(3)(e) of the Women’s Charter

 

Written by: Patrick Tan and Samantha Lek

 

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