For many people, the prospect of filing for divorce will seem a daunting task. Beyond the emotional toll of the process on all involved, the actual nuts and bolts of untangling lives and assets, and making arrangements for life after divorce, can be complex and stressful. While your lawyers will help you through the process, we set out some tips below on how you can prepare yourself and make divorce more manageable.
1. Read up on the process
While your lawyer will explain the process to you in detail and address specific concerns you may have, reading up on the divorce process, such as the basic requirements for a divorce, will help you face the road ahead more mentally prepared. There is a wealth of information easily available online – for example, our PKWA blog contains plenty of articles on topics related to divorce, from the filing process to the latest case law, which may give you a better idea of what to expect. Being an informed participant will help you navigate a trying and uncertain time with more confidence.
We also offer a free initial divorce consultation should you wish to discuss your situation and understand your options.
2. Get your paperwork organized
Whether you intend to discuss a settlement with your spouse or to file for a contested divorce, it is always a good idea to get your paperwork in order. Some of the most important documents are:
- Your IRAS statements;
- CPF documents;
- Bank statements;
- Documents pertaining to any debts/liabilities;
- Insurance documents; and
- documents showing your financial contributions to the matrimonial property (or properties), including any mortgage or housing loan statements and your CPF Property Withdrawal Statement (bearing in mind that not everyone will need all of these documents). You may also wish to make a list of monthly expenses for yourself and/or the children and plan a budget for legal fees.
You do not need to collect everything since the start of the marriage, but having at least the last 3 to 6 months’ worth of documents will help enormously.
3. Talk to your spouse and try to agree on a settlement
If possible, try to agree on the reason for the divorce (e.g. unreasonable behavior) and the ancillary matters (such as property, children, and maintenance) with your spouse ahead of time. While many of us might be conflict-averse, if you are able to work out a settlement with your spouse by yourselves, this will save you time and money in the long run. Moreover, consider the opposite situation: virtually no-one would react well to having divorce papers sprung on them without warning.
While this may not be possible in all cases, reaching a prior agreement will help to minimise further acrimony and avoid the risk of protracted litigation – thus keeping your legal fees low. Parties who are able to agree on a settlement by themselves are able to file for an uncontested divorce, which is by the quickest and most affordable route (generally requiring no more than 3 – 4 months).
4. Try to maintain civilised relations with your spouse as far as possible.
Even if relations between you and your spouse are exceptionally strained, avoid acting in a way to specifically antagonize him or her (such as by going to their workplace and causing a scene, or removing their belongings from the matrimonial home without their consent – both of which happen more frequently than you might think). This is especially important if there are children involved; an ugly fight between parents will only distress the entire family.
While the courts do not generally consider “fault” when deciding on the ancillary matters, fanning the flames between you and your spouse will only make things more acrimonious, and will increase the risk of a bitter, drawn-out legal battle. At PKWA, we encourage a less adversarial approach to divorce, which is cheaper, quicker, and less stressful for all involved.
5. Look after yourself
Divorce can be challenging in all sorts of ways – emotionally, financially, and practically. It may also take a long time; if you file for a contested divorce, the entire process, from filing the Writ to receiving the Certificate of Final Judgment, can take anywhere from about six months (at a minimum) to a few years.
As such, it is imperative that you are in a position, both physically and mentally, to face the process with clarity and focus. Seek out support from friends and loved ones, look after your physical health, and remember to be kind to yourself. Doing so from early on in the process will put you in a better frame of mind to make decisions for yourself and your family, rather than allowing the fear and uncertainty to control you.
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