Valid Reasons For Divorce in Singapore


What are valid reasons for divorce in Singapore?

An interesting case was on reported the Straits Times in late October 2016. Madam Lay Fay Yuen had used the reason of separation for 4 years to file for divorce against her husband, Dr Teng Cheng Sin. Dr Teng appealed. The High Court said that Madam Lay should not be allowed to divorce Dr Teng using separation as a reason given that she had walked out of him. Instead, the High Court ruled that Dr Teng’s claim that his wife deserted him was correct.

Rightfully, Justice Choo Han Teck said that separation is a “neutral ground with no adverse inference or finding of fault”. On the other hand, in desertion cases- one party would be at fault.

According to a lawyer who was interviewed, the decision “may be considered by the Court when assessing the non-financial contributions of a party and the time period could be discounted by the period of desertion.”

Dr Teng and Madam Lay have 3 children between the ages of 18 to 23. Theirs is a 26-year marriage. Dr Teng ran a family clinic and Madam Lay was his assistant.

Madam Lay filed for divorce using the reason that parties have been separated for 4 years. Dr Teng filed a counterclaim using the reasons of:

  1. Madam Lay’s unreasonable behaviour
  2. Madam Lay’s desertion

While the High Court allowed Dr Teng’s counterclaim on desertion, Justice Choo rejected his claim of Madam Lay’s unreasonable behaviour. Justice Choo urged parties to proceed to deal with ancillary matters (such as children custody, assets and maintenance) in the divorce.

See: K.C. Vijayan, “Woman’s divorce on grounds of separation wrong: Judge”, The Straits Times, 27 October 2016

Divorce in Singapore is a two-stage process. At stage 1, the Court will decide if there are valid reasons for divorce in Singapore. At stage 2, the Court will deal with ancillary matters involving children, assets and maintenance.

Valid reasons for divorce in Singapore

There are 5 valid reasons for divorce in Singapore:

  1. Unreasonable behaviour of his/ her spouse
  2. Adultery of his/ her spouse
  3. Desertion by his/ her spouse
  4. Separation for a period of 3 years (if both parties agree and consent to the divorce)
  5. Separation for a period of 4 years (if only one party agree to the divorce)

In general, if parties agree on all terms of the divorce (including children, assets and maintenance), the reason for divorce does not really matter.

Reasons for divorce in Singapore only truly matters when ancillary matters (involving children, assets and maintenance) are disputed. For instance, if one party were to claim that the other is an irresponsible parent (as part of his/ her unreasonable behaviour), this could affect the issue on child custody.

As a divorce lawyer in Singapore, I would advise my clients to resolve stage 1 as amicably as possible. After all, if both parties wish to proceed on for a divorce, the result will be a divorce so long as they use valid reasons for divorce in Singapore. It may be better to focus on resolving issues involving custody, assets and maintenance as these are matters which will have an implication on their future lives.

My goal as a divorce lawyer in Singapore is always to help my clients achieve the best possible outcome so that they are able to move on with their lives.

You may also be interested to read more about:

1. Divorce and Separation

2. Annulment (Nullity) of Marriage

3. Children’s Issues

4. Matrimonial Assets

5. Maintenance Issues (Alimony)

6. Family Violence

For more information, please contact us here.

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