GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE IN SINGAPORE UNDER THE WOMEN’S CHARTER

Under Singapore divorce law, there is only one possible ground for divorce: the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of your marriage’.  This can be demonstrated by one of five facts set out in section 95 of the Women’s Charter.

.GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE - wedding rings in divorce court

Statistics on marriages and divorce in Singapore for past 5 years

According to the Singapore Department of Statistics, a total of 27,007 marriages, comprising 21,308 civil marriages and 5,699 Muslim marriages, were registered in 2018. The yearly average number of marriages over the last five years was 27,984.

A total of 7,344 marriages ended in a divorce or an annulment in 2018, a decrease of 3.1 per cent from the 7,578 marital dissolutions in the previous year.  From 2014 to 2018, the yearly average number of marital dissolutions was 7,473.

In 2019, a total of 7,623 marriages ended in divorce or annulment in 2019, an increase of 3.8 per cent from 7,344 in 2018.

Roughly translated, this means there is one divorce out of every four marriages in Singapore over the past 5 years.

The majority of civil divorces in 2019 were initiated by wives (65 per cent).

The top reason among women filing for divorce was “unreasonable behaviour” of the spouse, cited by 58.5 per cent.  The top reason for men filing for divorce was “lived apart or separated for three years or more”, cited by 51.9 per cent of men.

Grounds for divorce in Singapore

When you file your papers, you will need to establish that you have a legal ground (or complaint) under the Women’s Charter for divorce.

Under Singapore divorce law, there is only one possible ground for divorce: the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of your marriage’. This can be demonstrated by one of five facts set out in section 95 of the Women’s Charter.  If you can prove any of the five facts, the Court will be satisfied that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” in your marriage, and grant you a divorce.  These 5 facts are as follows:

  • Adultery.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour.
  • Desertion of 2 years.
  • Separation for 3 years with spouse’s consent.
  • Separation for 4 years.

The proof required to support these 5 facts is elaborated below.

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Adultery

For adultery to occur, there has to be sex with a third party.  It is not adultery if there is physical intimacy, but sexual intercourse did not occur.

You can prove adultery by producing a private investigator’s report or where there is a confession or written evidence.  If you intend to rely on adultery, you must file your divorce within six months of discovering the deed.   You cannot rely on adultery if you knew about it and continued to live with your spouse for more than 6 months.

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Unreasonable behaviour

In 2019, the top reason among women filing for divorce was “unreasonable behaviour” of the spouse, cited by 58.5 per cent. Among men filing for divorce, the top reason was “lived apart or separated for three years or more”, cited by 51.9 per cent.

In 2016, 53.7% of all divorces cited “unreasonable behaviour” as the factual basis for the divorce – making this the most common reason for divorce.

“Unreasonable behaviour” essentially means your partner has behaved so badly you can no longer reasonably be expected to live with him/her. Here are some examples of unreasonable behaviour:

  • The Defendant has been violent toward the Plaintiff.
  • The Defendant has threatened the Plaintiff with physical violence or has been physically abusive.
  • The Defendant has been verbally abusive towards the Plaintiff.
  • The Defendant is an alcoholic, drinks to excess, and when he/she is under the influence of alcohol, he/she behaves unreasonably and aggressively.
  • The Defendant shows little or no respect for the Plaintiff.
  • The Defendant is always criticising the Plaintiff without any proper reason.
  • The Defendant repeatedly insults the Plaintiff by calling him/her “useless”, “good for nothing.”
  • The Defendant is financially irresponsible and has failed to maintain the Plaintiff and/or the children properly during the marriage.
  • The Defendant frequently comes home in the early hours of the morning, reeking of alcohol and perfume.  When questioned, he/she refuses to tell the Plaintiff where he/she has been.
  • During the marriage, the Defendant is a compulsive gambler, or has gambled to excess and has, on numerous occasions, caused considerable distress to the Plaintiff by getting into large gambling debts and dissipating the family’s savings.
  • The Defendant has borrowed money from the Plaintiff to feed his/her gambling habit.
  • The Defendant has no interest in the Plaintiff’s life.
  • The Defendant has formed an improper relationship with a woman/man whose identity is unknown.
  • The Defendant refuses to discuss the issues within the marriage with the Petitioner.
  • The Defendant shows no interest in talking with the Plaintiff and prefers to socialise alone with friends.
  • The Defendant is a spendthrift and has repeatedly spent money beyond the couple’s means.
  • The Defendant refuses to try and resolve the issues and continues to behave unreasonably.

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Desertion of 2 years

You need to show that your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately before the start of your divorce proceedings. Desertion can be proven by showing that your spouse packed up and left home and does not intend to carry on with the marriage.

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Separation for 3 years

You and your spouse must have lived separately continuously for a period of 3 years.  Your spouse also has to agree to the divorce.  This is a no-fault divorce ground and is commonly used by couples when they want an amicable split.

One common misconception is that once you have been separated for 3 years, divorce is automatic.  It is not automatic – you still need to file papers to obtain a divorce.

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Separation for 4 years

If you and your spouse have lived separately from each for the last 4 years, then your spouse consent to the divorce is not required.

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Read RELATED ARTICLES

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ABOUT PKWA LAW

PKWA Divorce Lawyers

At PKWA Law, our team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore divorce lawyers by respected independent legal publications such as Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review, Global Law Experts and Doyle’s Guide to Singapore Family Lawyers.  

If you wish to know whether you satisfy any of the grounds for divorce in Singapore, please contact us for a free consultation at tel 6854-5336.

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