In Singapore, adultery is one of the five grounds that can be used to prove a marriage has broken down irretrievably.
To rely on adultery as a ground for divorce in Singapore, here are some things you should know:
1. There must be sexual intercourse
Under section 95(3)(a) of the Women’s Charter, you can rely on adultery as a ground for divorce. Adultery refers only to sexual relationship with another person who is not your spouse. If there is no sexual intercourse, you cannot rely on adultery as a ground for divorce. Instead, you may file for divorce for unreasonable behaviour based on ‘improper association.”
2. You must also show that it is intolerable to live with your spouse, and it is linked to the adultery
You need to show that you find it intolerable to live with your spouse as a result of your spouse’s extramarital relationship. This is easy to prove because it should follow that your spouse’s extra marital relationship has made it intolerable for you to live with him/her.
3. The evidence required to prove adultery
Normally, there will be no direct evidence of the extramarital relationship. You should engage a private investigator to collect evidence of adultery. Alternatively, you can show incriminating evidence of the relationship such as SMS, emails, a confession, or a lovechild or if there is a confession made.
4. If you have no evidence of adultery, you can still file for divorce based on unreasonable behaviour
It is quite common if you are not able to find any incriminating evidence. This does not mean that you cannot file for divorce. You can still file for divorce by citing “improper association” if evidence of adultery is hard to come by.
5. You cannot use adultery as a reason for divorce if you continue to live with your spouse for 6 months
If you knew about your spouse’s extramarital relationship, but continued to live with your spouse for 6 months, you will not be allowed to cite adultery as the ground for your divorce. The law deems that you have’ forgiven’ your spouse by not filing for divorce within 6 months. This is yet another reason why it is more common to divorce based on unreasonable behaviour. Very often, the innocent party ‘forgives’ the cheating spouse, only to find six months later that nothing has changed. The innocent spouse can no longer rely on that act of past adultery but has to rely on unreasonable behaviour instead.
6. Is it necessary to name the “other person” in the divorce?
It is legally not necessary to identify the co-adulterer in the divorce papers. However, spouses may feel betrayed and insist on naming the other party.
7. You don’t get more assets or more maintenance even if your spouse commits adultery
As a general rule, ancillary issues in a divorce are not based on fault. The Singapore Family Justice Courts do not look at who is at fault in deciding on children, property or money issues. Therefore, if you are the defendant in an adultery case, you will not be “penalised”. Likewise, if you are the plaintiff in an adultery case, you do not get a better outcome for children, property and money issues. The relevant rules govern the Singapore Courts in the Women’s Charter, and fault is not a factor for children, property and money issues in a divorce.
8. What then can I get even if I prove adultery?