To file for divorce in Singapore, at least one party to the marriage must have been ‘domiciled’, or living in Singapore for an indefinite period, or must be a ‘habitual resident’ in Singapore for at least 3 years.
What Does ‘Domicile’ Mean?
By definition, domicile refers to a place of permanent residence and can sometimes be evidenced if you have lived in Singapore for a substantial amount of time and have purchased a permanent home in Singapore.
However, in a legal context, it is a complex concept because it refers to someone based permanently in Singapore which will apply to both Singaporeans and foreigners. However, it does not include foreigners who are in Singapore only for work or studies for a specific time period.
Therefore, expatriates and students are not necessarily domiciled in Singapore even if they have been staying in the country for years. Singaporeans who are living overseas are also not considered ‘domiciled’ if they file for divorce in Singapore.
What is ‘Habitual Residence’ in Singapore?
By definition, ‘habitual residence’ refers to a voluntary residence for a settled purpose such as school or work, or a residence that you always return to when you are in Singapore.
To be able to file for divorce in Singapore, you will need to fulfil at least 3 continuous years of habitual residence in Singapore. Short holidays, business or other essential trips overseas can be included into this 3-year period without breaking the continuity.
However, if there are long absences, the court may decide that the continuity of residence has been broken. This has happened before in previous cases where the person has spent close to 12 months away from Singapore.
What if Your Marriage Has Already Been Dissolved Overseas?
Singapore’s court will not grant a divorce if a foreign court has already done so. This is a common issue that happens in divorce cases in Singapore between Singaporeans and foreigners, and foreigners based in Singapore.
However, if you have already begun divorce proceedings in a different country, possibly due to more favourable terms of divorce such as a stronger chance of child custody for example, then the first court to grant the divorce will dissolve the marriage and also wield the power to decide all other matters relating to the divorce, including division of property and maintenance terms.
Singapore courts will only recognise a foreign divorce if that court has some connection to the marriage or the parties. The Singapore courts may refuse to recognise the judgement from the foreign court if the parties are not residents of the country where that court is based.
A simple example would be when citizens of a particular country file for divorce in a different country that they are not residents of, then Singaporean courts may not recognise the divorce. If one of them is a Singaporean, then it might be possible to ask the court to prevent the other person from pursuing the matter in another country.
It is best to speak to your divorce lawyer to go deeper into the details.
Getting a Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Practice has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from domestic violence, spousal and child maintenance; family disputes to high-profile divorce; care and control and custody issues, relocation and child abduction. There is a Team of 4 experienced lawyers in the Firm. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.