Expat divorce Singapore
Emily’s (not her real name) Dependant’s Pass (DP) was cancelled by her spouse a month before she was due to appear in Court in November 2016 for a maintenance trial at the Family Justice Courts. She was handed a 4-week deadline to leave Singapore and her daughter who is schooling in Singapore.
Many expats in Singapore used this method to get their spouses to leave when things turned ugly. The expats usually hold an Employment Pass (EP) sponsored by their employers. Usually, their employers will also sponsor their spouses and children as dependants on his pass, which the expats can cancel at any point of time. This led to the problem Emily faced.
Recently, things have started to change. For example, the Family Justice Courts of Singapore ruled that Emily’s husband was to reinstate her pass for 2 years.
Emily said: “I want to stay here for my daughter, who still has 18 months back at school.” Emily is looking for a job in Singapore. Given that Emily’s husband is a frequent traveller, she needs to be in Singapore to take care of their child.
What led to the change in the Courts’ attitude?
Family lawyers interviewed said that this might have been due to more awareness on the predicament of expat spouses undergoing divorces, separations and family disputes. 40% of divorce cases in Singapore in 2015 involved at least one party of a different nationality.
One lawyer interviewed added that it is not in the interest and welfare of the children, which is of paramount importance, if one party is forced to leave Singapore.
Catherine Rose Yates, a British PR living in Singapore, set up a support group for expats going through separation in Singapore. Most members of the group have children and this makes it complicated for them to leave their children behind in Singapore.
Yvonne MuNulty, a SIM University senior lecturer, studied 252 expat spouses going through divorce proceedings in Singapore. In her 3-year study, she found that about 100 of the 252 expat spouses had their DPs cancelled or were threatened with cancellation.
See: Seow Bei Yi, “Hope for trailing expat spouses in divorce cases”, The Straits Times, 3 January 2017
As a divorce lawyer in Singapore, I have encountered many divorce cases involving expats in Singapore. There are more issues than the spouse’s dependant’s pass. Usually, the trailing spouse is not working in Singapore and depends on the employment pass holder for maintenance. There will also be issues on lodging, since the couple may not wish to live together any longer and the trailing spouse may have no family in Singapore to call upon.
Given the many issues involved, expat divorces in Singapore tend to be trickier than the usual divorces involving Singaporeans. Nonetheless, there is a way to solving every problem. It just takes more patience.
Please contact us to understand more about problems facing expats in Singapore who are going through the divorce process.
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