Singapore is a very global city and its citizens have no lack of opportunities overseas. It is increasingly common for couples who were married in Singapore to move to other countries for a variety of reasons, whether professional or personal. However, marriages don’t always work out and the couple who has moved overseas may wish to file for divorce. This article answers some questions that may arise in such situations.
Can I still file for divorce in Singapore, even though I am living overseas?
You are allowed to file for divorce in Singapore if the Singapore court has jurisdiction to hear your case.
The Singapore court will have jurisdiction to hear your divorce if either you or your spouse is:
- Domiciled in Singapore at the time of commencement of the divorce proceedings; or
- Habitually resident in Singapore for a period of three years immediately preceding the commencement of the divorce proceedings.
Domicile is a legal concept which refers to the place where a person intends to reside permanently and is used to link an individual to a particular jurisdiction. A party is presumed to be domiciled in Singapore if he or she is a Singapore citizen, unless the contrary is proven.
This means that if you and your spouse had moved overseas but at least one party has not relinquished their Singapore citizenship, there is an automatic presumption that you can file for divorce in Singapore.
Is there any advantage to filing for divorce in Singapore, instead of the country I have moved to?
This is a complex question as different countries can have very different matrimonial laws and legal systems that can be either beneficial or detrimental to your case. It would be wise to consult a lawyer from both Singapore and the other country so that you can decide which is the better option for yourself.
Nonetheless, Singapore is well-known internationally for its highly efficient court system and is able to hear and settle divorce cases quickly relative to other jurisdictions. For an uncontested divorce, an Interim Judgment can be obtained as soon as 4 weeks from the date of filing. Following that, the Final Judgment for the final dissolution of the marriage can be obtained in another 3 months. Contested divorce proceedings can take a year, but the majority of cases are settled successfully through mediation and completed within 6 months.
Besides being efficient, Singapore’s legal system takes a strong interest in minimising the adversarial nature of divorce proceedings. In divorce cases, the Singapore courts work closely with community organisations to help provide plenty of resources to support couples and their children through the difficult experience. These resources include mediation sessions led by trained judge-mediators and family counsellors and the Mandatory Parenting Programme which is conducted free-of-charge.
What if I want to file for divorce in Singapore, but my spouse wants to do it in a foreign country?
There may be situations where you have or intend to commence divorce proceedings in Singapore, but your spouse commences separate divorce proceedings in the foreign country that you’re living in. The spouse will likely choose to do so if he or she believes that they can get a more desirable outcome under the matrimonial laws of that country.
In response, you may wish to apply for a stay of proceedings in that country, which, if allowed, would suspend the divorce proceedings there. In deciding whether your stay application should be granted, the court will consider various factors such as where your children live, and the location of your assets.
A successful application will allow you to continue with the divorce proceedings in Singapore.
Given the potential complex nature of such situations, it would be advisable to speak with a dedicated divorce lawyer.