Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?

Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?

Since Singapore is a global hub, international marriages are very common. In fact, according to the data released by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in 2021, 1 in 4 Singaporeans marry non-residents. Unfortunately, some of these marriages also lead to divorce. This is especially true after the pandemic when there was a sharp increase in marriages and divorces. With regards to non-resident marriages, it raises the question: Can foreigners divorce in Singapore?

For expatriates and international couples living in this dynamic city-state, understanding how to navigate these challenges is crucial. While it is good to seek the expertise and experience of the best divorce lawyers Singapore has to offer, it is also good to take into consideration if the dissolution is even possible.

This article delves into the legal framework, outlining the specific requirements and processes for foreigners wishing to divorce in Singapore.

Understanding Jurisdiction and Eligibility

Singapore’s legal system permits foreigners to dissolve their marriages in its courts, provided certain criteria are met. The primary concern is the issue of jurisdiction, which is governed by specific legal stipulations to ensure that the Singapore courts have the authority to preside over the divorce.

For a Singapore court to have jurisdiction over a divorce, at least one party must:

  • Be domiciled in Singapore at the time of filing for divorce. Domicile generally refers to the country you treat as your permanent home or live in and have a substantial connection with.
  • Or, have habitually resided in Singapore for at least three years immediately before the filing.

These criteria aim to prevent forum shopping, where parties might choose to divorce in a jurisdiction perceived to be more favourable to their case.

Legal Grounds for Divorce

In Singapore, the legal grounds for divorce do not discriminate against nationality, ensuring that both local citizens and foreigners are held to the same standards. The irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the sole ground for divorce, but it must be substantiated by one or more specific conditions:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behavior
  • Desertion for at least two years
  • Separation for at least three years with consent (or four years without consent)

If you want to read more about the legal grounds for divorce, please click here.

Procedure

The procedure for obtaining a divorce in Singapore involves several steps, starting with the filing of a divorce petition. Foreigners need to pay particular attention to several aspects:

  • Filing for Divorce: The process begins with submitting a writ for divorce, statement of claim, and statement of particulars at the Family Justice Courts. For foreigners, ensuring that all documentation complies with Singapore’s legal requirements is crucial.
  • Serving Documents: The petitioner must serve the divorce papers to their spouse, which can be complicated if the spouse is overseas. Various methods, including international process servers, can be employed to address this issue.
  • Interim Judgment and Final Judgment: Initially, the court grants an Interim Judgment, which is a provisional order for divorce. After a period, typically three months, the divorce can be finalized with a Final Judgment, provided all ancillary matters like child custody and asset division are settled.

Considerations

Residency Status

A critical consideration for foreigners is how a divorce might impact their residency status in Singapore. For instance, spouses on dependent passes may find their ability to remain in the country affected post-divorce. The Singapore legal system takes these factors into account, often coordinating with immigration authorities to ensure that parties are not unduly disadvantaged by the divorce process.

Division of Matrimonial Assets

The division of matrimonial assets in Singapore is governed by principles of equity rather than equality. This means that the court looks at various factors, such as each spouse’s financial contribution to the family, their roles in the marriage, and their future needs, to determine a fair distribution. For foreigners, this process can involve assets located in Singapore and abroad, requiring detailed financial disclosures and sometimes international legal coordination.

Interestingly, Singapore courts have the discretion to consider assets acquired both before and during the marriage, which can significantly affect the division process for expatriates who may have substantial assets or investments outside Singapore.

Maintenance (Alimony)

When it comes to maintenance for the wife and children, Singapore’s approach is to ensure that adequate provision is made for their living expenses post-divorce. The amount of maintenance is determined by factors like the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, the income and earning capacity of each party, and the needs of the children. Foreigners may find that maintenance orders can reflect the cost of living in Singapore, which may differ significantly from their home countries.

Child Custody and Access

Child custody decisions are made with the paramount consideration being the welfare of the child. Singapore courts typically favour arrangements that allow the child to maintain a strong relationship with both parents. This can include joint custody, where both parents share decision-making responsibilities, or sole custody with visitation rights for the non-custodial parent.

Final Thoughts

Yes, foreigners can divorce in Singapore, provided they meet certain residency requirements and follow the prescribed legal process. As an international legal hub, Singapore offers a robust framework for the dissolution of marriages, including those involving foreign nationals. However, the intricacies of such proceedings highlight the importance of obtaining expert legal counsel to navigate the process effectively and protect one’s rights and interests.

Denisse

Denisse loves reading and writing about culture, history, and politics. Outside writing articles for The Singaporean, Denisse enjoys musicals, gaming, and Harry Potter.

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