Expat Divorce Singapore – Increasingly, more expatriates and foreigners choose to file for divorce in Singapore instead of their home country. What are some of the most commonly asked questions by foreigners who wish to divorce in Singapore?
Expat Divorce Singapore – More expatriates and foreigners choose to file for divorce in Singapore instead of their home country. There are several reasons for this.
Singapore offers a first-class legal system where the law is fair to both men and women, and the courts are extremely protective of children.
The courts also keep a watchful eye to make sure that cases are not delayed unduly. Therefore, divorce cases are concluded within a reasonable time and are not allowed to drag on indefinitely.
Another crucial advantage is that the Singapore family courts are extremely pro mediation. Foreigners who decide to file for divorce in Singapore are pleasantly surprised to find that there is a great deal of encouragement to resolve the cases by mediation instead of heated litigation.
As one in five divorces in Singapore involves a foreigner, we get many enquiries from expats and foreigners about Singapore divorce law. Here are some common questions that most expatriates and foreigners ask about divorce involving a foreigner in Singapore.
Question: Can a foreigner divorce in Singapore?
Yes, a foreigner can divorce in Singapore.
There is really no major difference in law or procedure between a Singapore national/PR and foreigner filing for divorce in Singapore. The only difference is that a foreigner must show that he has resided here for at least 3 years before the commencement of divorce proceedings. This is required to prevent someone (with no connection to Singapore) from just flying in to get to a divorce.
To commence a divorce in Singapore, an expat must be:
a) habitually resident in Singapore for more than 3 years before the start of the divorce; or
b) ‘domiciled’ in Singapore at the time that the divorce is begun.
If you have not been resident in Singapore for 3 years, you must show that you are ‘domiciled’ here. The definition of ‘domicile’ under Singapore law is basically residence in Singapore coupled with an intention to remain here permanently. A temporary stay is not sufficient to show “domicile”.
Do note that the requirement is only for either party to meet the jurisdiction. Thus, parties can file for divorce so long as one party has been here for three years.
Once you have shown that you have resided here for at least 3 years, the rest of the requirements for divorce in Singapore are the same whether you are a citizen or foreigner. The requirements are as follows:
1. You and your spouse have been married for at least 3 years.
.2. You must show one of the following five reasons in support of your claim that your marriage has broken down:
Your spouse has committed adultery, and you find it intolerable to live with your spouse.
Your spouse has behaved in such an unreasonable behaviour that you cannot be reasonably be expected to live with your spouse any more.
Your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least 2 years.
You and your spouse have been separated for at least 3 years, and your spouse consents to a divorce.
You and your spouse have been separated for at least 4 years.
Question: Should I divorce in Singapore or my home country?
This is a difficult question because it depends on the laws, procedures and costs of filing for divorce in your home country. You need to consult both a Singapore divorce lawyer and a divorce lawyer from your home country and compare which is better for you.
Many foreigners are attracted to the idea of filing for divorce in Singapore. It is hard to beat the efficiency, the fairness, the equality and respect that Singapore divorce laws have for the different contributions that both men and women bring to the marriage. Furthermore, if you have children, counselling and mediation are compulsory to ensure that their needs are looked after.
Question – how long does a divorce in Singapore take?
If your divorce is uncontested, you can get Interim Judgment (conditional divorce) as fast as 4 weeks from the date you filed. You then wait for another 3 months to obtain Final Judgment (final divorce). You and your spouse are not required to be present in court.
If your divorce is contested, your divorce may take up to a year, or more.
Question – Can I go home and take my children with me?
No, Singapore laws require that you get your spouse’s consent or permission from the court if you wish to take the children out of Singapore when divorce proceedings are going on.
If your spouse refuses to consent, your only recourse is to apply to the court for a court order that permits you to relocate with your children. The court’s paramount consideration would be the welfare of the children. The court will grant permission to relocate the children to show that the move is in their best interests.
If your spouse leaves Singapore with the children without your permission, you will have to seek assistance under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (‘Hague Convention’) for the return of your children.
The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty that provides an expeditious method to return a child who has been abducted by a parent from one member country to another.
Singapore is a signatory to The Hague Convention. You can find out which countries are signatory members of the Hague Convention here.
Thus, parents who have unlawfully relocated their child to countries that are also signatories to the Convention may be required to return them to Singapore.
Do note that even after you are divorced, and even if you have care and control of the children, a parent cannot leave Singapore with their children without the other parent’s consent or permission from the court.
Question – Are foreign prenuptial agreements enforceable in Singapore?
The Singapore courts will take any prenuptial agreement into account, but it is not bound to follow them. The court retains jurisdiction to override the prenuptial agreement so that the results are fair and just. A prenuptial agreement that deals with assets and financial agreements will attract a lesser degree of court scrutiny than a prenuptial dealing with children issues. Any prenuptial agreement that deals with children issues will certainly be re-looked into by the courts to ensure that the children’s interests are protected.
Question – What happens to the wife’s Dependent’s Pass?
If you are in Singapore on a Dependent’s Pass, you must leave Singapore after your divorce.
Once the DP is cancelled, you may be given a social visit pass or tourist visa to stay in Singapore, which could be 30 to 90 days. You cannot work in Singapore during this period. If you wish to stay in Singapore for a longer period, you need to get a job and have a Work Pass, or you can appeal to the immigration authorities to issue you with a Long Term Visit Pass. Another option is to sue your spouse in court to compel him/her to reinstate the DP.
It is not uncommon for one spouse to cancel the other spouse’s Dependent Pass before its expiry. The purpose of this is to force the other spouse to leave Singapore, in most cases, without the children so that the ability to litigate is compromised.
Question – What is the Singapore law on division of matrimonial assets and maintenance for expats?
The Singapore courts will divide matrimonial assets in a just and equitable manner. For a more elaborate discussion, you may wish to read the various articles on this here.
“I turned to Dorothy to assist me where all others had failed. I had four previous lawyers, who either dismissed me, took easy options, or ignored the facts of my case. In desperation to seek justice, and in my hour of need, I was recommended to PKWA.
Dorothy Tan LISTENED to my case and worked tirelessly over the holidays and weekends to meet impossible deadlines.
A very upsetting and stressful time, but I will be forever grateful as Dorothy believed in my case and sought a fair and just resolution against insurmountable odds.
At every juncture, Dorothy provided realistic, honest assessments and I proceeded based on her recommendations.
If Dorothy and her team decide to champion your cause, you should consider yourself very fortunate.”
16 February 2017
Note by PKWA: Dorothy Tan successfully represented Mr Twiss in the landmark Court of Appeal case of Twiss, Christopher James Hans v Twiss, Yvonne Prendergast  SGCA 52.
“PKWA Law represented me in my recent divorce, which was eventually resolved amicably and satisfactorily. Dorothy Tan and her team were a tremendous support throughout this stressful process. I have no hesitation in recommending PKWA and Dorothy to anyone looking for competent, knowledgeable, sympathetic, and efficient representation!”
At PKWA Law, our Family Lawyers team is consistently named as leading Singapore divorce lawyers by respected independent legal publications such as Benchmark Litigation Asia Pacific, the Straits Times, Asian Legal Business and Doyle’s Guide to Leading Singapore Family Lawyers.
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