If you are looking for topics related to divorce in Singapore, we have covered the requirements, as well as alternatives to divorce. In this article, we will look at what happens when a couple decide to get a divoce by mutual agreement.
Even if the decision to divorce is mutual, a married couple can only get a divorce if they can prove that their marriage has irreparably broken down by proving one or more of the existing five legally defined facts. They are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, as well as separation with and without consent. However, the requirement to prove any of these can prolong the divorce process, and even increase hostility between the spouses.
New Fact of Divorce
In order to reduce animosity and promote healing during the divorce process, the Singapore Parliament recently passed a bill to amend the Women’s Charter. One of the main changes that the Amendment Bill will introduce is a new fact of divorce – **Divorce by Mutual Agreement (“DMA”), the 6th fact.
This amendment bill however, does not change the fact that a court may only grant a divorce in Singapore if:
- the court is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down; and
- that granting a divorce is just and reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.
The court will consider the parties’ conduct and how the divorce will affect the parties and any children in the marriage.
The process can now be blameless
Under the new mutual agreement divorce option, the couple can agree to file for divorce as joint applicants without citing any reason to blame each other for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
This is in contrast to fault-based divorce reasons such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour, and desertion where the spouse must take the role of plaintiff or defendant, with the plaintiff citing reasons to blame their partner for the marriage’s breakdown.
There’s no requirement for duration of separation
To file for divorce by mutual agreement, the couple can now continue to live in the same household until the divorce is finalised.
However, this does not eliminate the other requirements for obtaining a divorce in Singapore, which will continue to apply to mutual agreement divorces. Couples must be married for at least three years before being eligible for divorce in Singapore.
The process of divorce by mutual agreement
The parties must agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and they want a divorce. DMA is not new ground for divorce. It is simply another option to prove an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, which remains the only ground for divorce in Singapore.
The couple must submit a written agreement with the conclusion that their marriage has irretrievably broken down, and state the efforts they had made to reconcile, as well as the consideration they have given to their financial affairs and any children from the marriage after the divorce.
The court will consider factors such as whether the parties are voluntarily entering into this agreement, as well as whether they have sufficient knowledge and understanding of it when determining whether the written agreement is sufficient. If the court determines that the written agreement is insufficient, it may order the couple to participate in mediation, counselling, or family support initiatives instead. It is best to engage a divorce lawyer who would be able to help you draft such an agreement.
Which is a better option?
Couples with children should note that divorce by mutual agreement may be less damaging for them as they would be able to cope with the divorce process and adapt to life after their parents’ divorce. This is because part of the process includes the couple attempting to reconcile prior to filing for divorce, and discussing adequate arrangements for their own affairs, as well as the affairs of their children after the divorce.
Furthermore, using one of the three fault-based facts may result in longer divorce proceedings because the plaintiff must prove the fact(s) at trial. You must also be living apart for the required number of years before filing for divorce. In contrast, when filing for divorce by mutual agreement, you can technically file for divorce as soon as your marriage has passed the three year mark.
Divorce by mutual agreement is not possible where only one spouse disagrees that the marriage is irretrievably broken down; or both spouses agree that the marriage has broken down, but one wants to file for divorce based on fault. Both parties have to be on the same page for this to proceed.
Engaging a Lawyer
If you are currently working out a solution with your spouse regarding this topic, it’s best for you to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.
Mr. Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years, from traffic offences and high-profile criminal cases to family and divorce matters. 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.
**The Women’s Charter (Amendment) Act 2022 will only come into operation when the minister announces a date. The new amendments may come into operation in 2023.