A Guide to Sexual Offences in Singapore [Part 2] – Protecting Minors

With the Act 15 of 2019 amendments to the law in response to sexual offence cases in Singapore, there will now be stronger safeguards in place to protect minors below the age of 16, as well as those who are 16 to 18 from sexual grooming or exploitation from online predators, as well as family members.

In a previous article, we explained what consent is in the context of the law and in Part 1, we provided examples of what would be considered sexual offences. In this article, we’ll highlight the various laws protecting minors and what you should know if you have children.

Sexual Grooming of Minors

According to the new Section 376E of the Penal Code, any person aged 18 and above will now be liable for an offence if they initiate or agree to at least one meeting to anyone below the age of 18 that leads to a sexual offence either during or after their meeting. It also does not matter if any prior meeting between them took place in or outside of Singapore.

If the victim is below the age of 14, the punishment for this offence is imprisonment that may extend up to 4 years and/or a fine. For any other case, the punishment may extend up to 3 years imprisonment.

What this means simply is that if you have a child below the age of 18, anyone they meet who is above the age of 18 will be subject to this law. This also includes sexual communication.

What is Sexual Communication?

Even if the person never meets the victim, the new Section 376EB now states it is an offence to send any form of sexual communication to the victim. This includes inappropriate text messages, photos and videos of a sexual nature. It does not matter where it was sent from, or if the victim replies or not. The mere act of sending such communication may lead to a 2 year jail sentence and/or a fine and if the victim is below 14, the jail term may be extended to 3 years.

This also means if you have a child who has access to the internet, it’s best to activate safeguards such as spam filters and monitoring who your child is talking to either online or via their messaging apps.

There are resources available online that guide you on how to activate child protection features on commonly used apps like Whatsapp and Facebook.

Clearer Definition for Commercial Sex Cases

The new amendments on Section 376B now include the definition of what ‘sexual services’ mean in commercial sex involving minors. In a previous article, we highlighted the problem of human trafficking in Singapore and there have been cases in the past where commercial sex workers turned out to be minors.

The new amendment now clearly defines what constitutes sexual offences. The punishment for those found guilty of an offence is up to 7 years in prison and/or a fine, and for anyone who expresses any interest in the form of communication to commit such an offence, may be liable for imprisonment up to 2 years and/or a fine. 

If you are currently in a situation where you may have encountered a sexual offence, or witnessed one – or if you are being accused of one, it’s best to contact a lawyer to better understand what the situation is, and what’s the best course of action to take.

Engaging a Lawyer

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, 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.

Source: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/PC1871?ProvIds=P4XVI-P4_375-.#pr376B-

A Guide to Sexual Offences in Singapore [Part 1] – Consent

With a proliferation in cases of sexual offences in Singapore, including a four-fold increase in cases of child sex abuse since 2010, there have also been sexual offence cases between family members, as well as within schools and workplaces, and cases involving voyeurism, affecting all genders.

In response, Singapore’s Courts announced the Act 15 of 2019, which took effect in the beginning of 2020, with new laws to better protect women, including consent for marital sex, as well as laws to protect minors from sexual grooming, including those between the ages of 16 and 18. 

Although these recent amendments may seem like the reason there have been more such cases in court these days, the new laws also mean there is a need for clearer definitions and education on what exactly is a sexual offence. 

If you are currently seeking legal advice regarding a possible sexual offence case, you should speak to a lawyer.

The Main Difference is Consent

Most sexual offences are committed without the victim’s consent. In a previous article, we explained the meaning of sexual consent in the context of the law and their respective conditions. However just as with most cases involving intimacy, there will be certain grey areas, usually shaped by moral codes within society. 

A common issue in marital rape cases is that there is an expectation by the husband that sex is an entitlement in the marriage but according to Section 375(4),(5) of the Penal Code, the husband may have committed a sexual offence against his wife if she did not provide consent.

However, if the victim of a sexual offence is below the age of 14, then consent is inconsequential.

What are Sexual Offences?

Is a gentle slap on your friend’s buttocks harmless? Should you give your attractive colleague a nickname based on an adult actor you know? Is it okay to watch someone else changing their clothes from your own window? Is it okay to secretly film and watch videos of your colleagues even if you don’t mean to share them? The short answer to these questions is no. In fact, they might get you into trouble.

Sexual offences can be looked at as a broad spectrum of actions that involve the exploitation of someone else’s modesty or dignity. This can include acts such as making sexual innuendo jokes about a person or their physical appearance, which may seem harmless and funny for some, but may be extremely hurtful and offensive for others, to much more serious offences such as sexual assault and rape. 

Sexual Assault and Rape

According to Section 375 of the Penal Code, any man who penetrates another person’s vagina, mouth or anus with his penis, either without her consent, or if she’s below 14, will have committed rape and will be liable for up to 20 years imprisonment including caning or a fine.

If the offender physically hurts or even issues verbal threats before or while committing the offence, the person will be liable to a minimum of 8 years imprisonment and at least 12 strokes of the cane. 

For sexual assault cases involving penetration, Section 376 of the Penal Code will apply when the offender causes another person to commit the sexual offence either on themselves or on someone else without the victim’s consent, or if the victim is below 14. 

If found guilty, the offender will be liable for up to 20 years imprisonment including caning or a fine and similarly, if there was physical hurt or verbal threats included with the offence, then the offender is liable to a minimum of 8 years up to 20 in prison, and at least 12 strokes of the cane.

In Part 2, we will explain how the new changes in the law will better protect minors from sexual grooming and exploitative relationships.

Engaging a Lawyer

If you are currently in a situation that requires mediation or legal advice, it’s best 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, 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.

Source: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/PC1871?ProvIds=P4XVI-P4_375-.#P4XVI-P4_375-

What If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Provide Maintenance?

In a previous article, we explained what a maintenance order is and how you can get one. If you already have a maintenance order, and are currently in a situation where your ex-spouse has defaulted on these payments, what can you do?

Apply to Enforce the Maintenance Order

Although not compulsory, we advise you to first submit a draft application online via iFAMS, on Singapore’s Family Justice Court’s website to get started. You will need to login using your SingPass ID and have the following documents ready:

  • NRIC or Passport;
  • Order of Court for the maintenance order you wish to enforce

You can find a step-by-step guide to filing this application here

If you are unable to go online, then you can verify your documents and submit your maintenance application at one of these organisations but the process may take longer:

If you are applying for a maintenance order from a divorce proceeding, you may visit these organisations:

Once you have submitted your application, you will then be asked to appear before a judge. If you have applied at the Family Justice Court, you will appear before the judge in-person. However, if you have applied elsewhere, you may appear before the judge via video conference. You will also be required to affirm that the contents in your application and your answers to the judge are all true.

What Happens Next?

Assuming that your application to enforce the Maintenance Order has been accepted, the judge will issue a summons to your ex-spouse with a specified date for a first court hearing of the case. Both you and your ex-spouse are required to attend the hearing and you will have to pay a nominal fee of S$1 for the summons to be issued to your ex-spouse.

If your ex-spouse shows up in court, a court officer will read your application to your ex-spouse who will then have a choice to agree, or disagree with your application.

  • If agreed, the court will record a consent order, confirming the agreement; 
  • If your ex-spouse disagrees with your application, then the court may send the matter for mediation. If both of you manage to settle the matter, the court will record the consent order. 

If mediation fails, the final decision will fall on the court on both parties’ behalf, and both of you will be given a court date to start the process.

If your ex-spouse fails to show up, a warrant of arrest will be issued against the person and if you fail to show up, your application will be struck out.

You are also advised to prepare a calculation of the maintenance you are currently owed. This can be laid out on a table showing the months and amounts owed, including bank statements and documentary evidence of all the expenses you are allowed to claim maintenance for. You should collect and keep your invoices and receipts so that it will be easier for you to keep track of this information.

What Will Happen to Your Defaulting Ex-Spouse?

Court Order: after the court has made the final decision about your maintenance, a court order will be sent to your ex-spouse to pay the outstanding amount of maintenance. This court order will state the amount, also whether it should be paid in a single payment or in monthly instalments.

Fine/Jail Term: under Section 71 of the Women’s Charter, the defaulting ex-spouse may be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 1 month, for each month of maintenance owed. Even with a prison sentence, the outstanding maintenance amount will still have to be paid upon release.

Financial Counselling: in cases where the defaulter is in a precarious financial situation, the court may instead, order the defaulting ex-spouse to attend financial counselling.

Others: there have also been cases where the defaulting ex-spouse was made to perform unpaid community service for a certain number of hours, or even subjected to an attachment of earnings order, where the defaulter’s employer will deduct the maintenance money from the defaulter’s salary to pay it to the court. 

This can also be listed as a debt in the defaulting ex-spouse’s credit report which can be accessed by financial institutions including banks. This will make it very difficult for the defaulting ex-spouse to apply for loans or sign up for hire-purchase schemes in the future.

For more information on dealing with a defaulting ex-spouse, it’s best to consult a specialist family or divorce lawyer who can guide you on your next steps based on your situation. 

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, family disputes to high-profile criminal cases. 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.

Additional Resource: https://singaporelegaladvice.com/law-articles/what-happens-if-your-ex-spouse-does-not-provide-maintenance

How Do You Change Your Name in Singapore?

Expat Laws in Singapore

Whether it’s for religious purposes, or simply because you have found a more meaningful alternative, you are allowed to change your given name in Singapore. However to get this process started, what documents will you need? How much will the process cost? How long will it take? Can foreigners change their names in Singapore too? These are some of the commonly asked questions that we will address in this article.

The Deed Poll

To officially change your name in Singapore, you will first need a legal document drafted by a lawyer called a deed poll. You have to be present at the lawyer’s office during this process so that the lawyer can verify your identity and witness your signing, also known as the “executing” of the deed poll. This document will then serve as your declaration that you will be renouncing your current name and taking on a new one.

The simple reason why a deed poll is necessary is because Singapore authorities only recognise any name changes executed with a deed poll. 

If you are above the age of 21, you will need to bring either your NRIC (pink/blue), or 11B if you’re serving your National Service, or passport. If you are doing this for your child below the age of 21, then you’ll need to bring your NRIC or passport, together with your child’s original Birth Certificate with evidence of your relationship with the child. If the original Birth Certificate is not in English, you will also need to include a certified true copy, which includes a notarised English-translated version. The deed poll process usually costs around S$100.

If you are looking to change your child’s name, the consent and signatures of both parents are required. However, if you are in the midst of a divorce, or facing resistance from your ex-partner, then it’s best to consult a lawyer to guide you through this process.

Changing Your Name in Official Documents

Once you’ve executed the deed poll, you will then have to update your particulars with the authorities, starting with your NRIC.

NRIC: Log on to ICA’s website and under e-Services, you can submit a “Change IC Particulars (Self)” application with a digital copy of your deed poll. This application should be processed within 3 working days and ICA will mail you a collection notice within a week. You will then need to collect your new NRIC in person at the ICA building. Please bring along your original deed poll with the documents stated in the collection notice. You will need to complete this process within 28 days of changing your name and the application fee is S$60.

Passport: To apply for a name change in your passport, you have to apply for a new passport. Simply follow all the instructions listed here on ICA’s website.

A deed poll cannot be used to change the name on your birth or marriage certificates however, an exception applies if you are changing the name of your child who is less than 12 months old. You may change the child’s name without needing a deed poll.

You will also need to manually update all the other relevant organisations that you have been registered to with your new name. This includes your current company, banks, memberships and other accounts. You may also have to update your name on your existing credentials including your academic and professional certificates. 

What Exactly Can You Change About Your Name?

Some of the more common name changes in Singapore include:

  • Changing the order of the words, eg. Michael Tan Meng Seng to Tan Meng Seng Michael;
  • Changing the spelling of the name, eg. Micheal to Michael;
  • Inserting married names, eg. Rebecca Lee to Rebecca Lee-Tan;
  • Inserting Baptism or religious names, eg. Michael Tan Meng Seng to Michael Angelo Tan Meng Seng;
  • Inserting, deleting or modifying an English or Western name even if you are not Christian, eg. Tan Meng Seng to Michael Tan Meng Seng;
  • Inserting, deleting or modifying any punctuation in your name, eg. Michael Tan Meng Seng to Michael Tan Meng-Seng;
  • Inserting, deleting or modifying your hanyu pinyin name;
  • Inserting, deleting or modifying the Chinese or Tamil characters in your name

Please remember that you cannot change your race, religion or other particulars with a deed poll. You will need to contact ICA directly for more information on how to amend those. Although rejections are uncommon, the ICA may reject certain names, especially those that are offensive or vulgar. Names that resemble famous politicians, or containing honorary titles such as ‘Datuk’ or even ‘Sir’ might also be rejected. There is also no limit to how many times you can change your name.

Can Foreigners in Singapore Change Names Too?

Technically foreigners, including Permanent Residents, can engage a Singaporean lawyer to execute a deed poll in Singapore. However, the name change also depends if the person’s home country recognises it depending on their respective laws and regulations.

If you are a foreigner residing in Singapore planning to change your name, it’s best that you first check with your respective embassy or consulate office in Singapore to determine if the deed poll executed in Singapore will be recognised in your country. Otherwise, it would be advisable to do it back home.

What About Singaporeans Living Overseas?

If you are unable to return to Singapore during this period, then a deed poll may be executed with a foreign lawyer and you may then update your new name online at ICA’s website. You will then need to contact the Singapore embassy’s consular section in the country of your stay to change your name in your passport.

Is a Deed Poll Mandatory?

Do take note that a deed poll is not necessary if you plan to include your married name to your original name on your NRIC as long as you submit your marriage certification. For name changes based on religious purposes, ICA will require a Baptism or religious certificate to process your application.

If you are currently planning to change your name or your child’s, you should consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through this process.

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, 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.

Additional Resource: https://singaporelegaladvice.com/law-articles/how-do-i-legally-change-my-name/

Child Custody, Care and Control: What You Need to Know?

Divorce cases involving a child will lead to decisions on who wins custody of the child, who is given care and control, as well as the access order granted. 

According to the Women’s Charter, a “child” is defined as a child of the marriage who is below 21 years of age. This definition is also the main statute governing child custody in Singapore under the Guardianship of Infants Act and the Administration of Muslim Law Act. Therefore, this law applies to every person in Singapore regardless of race or religion.

What is The Difference?

Child custody refers to the authority given to the custodial parent, or parents, to make major decisions for the child such as choice of school, religion and health-related matters.

Care and control is only given to one parent. This parent will be the child’s primary caregiver and will be involved in the child’s daily life while the other parent will be granted reasonable access to visit the child for a certain period. This order is necessary when the parents are separated and the court will require convincing evidence to deny this access to the other parent.

If the father had been the primary caregiver before the divorce, the court may grant shared care and control where time spent with the children will be split amongst both parents equally but this is subject to several factors including feasibility and the child’s welfare. Above all, the welfare of the child is paramount.

Care and control orders can also include a ‘penal notice’ where there are specific terms and responsibilities that the parent living with the child will need to abide by such as specific times to allow access to the other parent. If those terms are not complied with, the aggrieved parent may take the matter to court to seek recourse.

Child Custody Orders

There are about 4 types of child custody orders that are granted in Singapore courts:

  • Sole custody order: only one parent is granted custody of the child. Usually granted in cases where the couple’s relationship has broken down irretrievably, or one party concedes custody.
  • Joint custody order: both parents share equal custody rights over the child. This is also one of the more common custody orders granted in Singapore courts where both parents are expected to communicate with each other and reach a consensus when making decisions for the child.
  • Hybrid order: one parent will be granted custody over the child but will still be required to consult the other parent on matters relating to the child’s welfare.
  • Split custody order: custody of one or more siblings split between both parents. This is not very common as the court will usually encourage siblings to stay together. 

When a child is under custody or care and control order, nobody other than the custodial parent can take the child out of the country for a period of more than one month. The non-custodial parent can only be allowed to bring the child overseas with the consent of the custodial parent or the court.

Access Orders

The non-custodial parent, usually the father, will be granted unsupervised access to the child. The access orders are meant to be fair and reasonable to serve the welfare and best interests of the child and will be determined by the court. Access periods can also be specifically on weekdays, weekends, school or public holidays.

If there is a reason to believe that the child may face potential physical or emotional abuse, or if there is a need to assess the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the child, then a Supervised order will be granted where the session will be supervised by a third party.

The court may order for Access Evaluation Reports if necessary if there is dispute between both parents regarding access times.

There have been instances where parents were denied access to the child and if you are currently in this situation, you should speak to a divorce lawyer for help.

Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Practice has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from traffic offences, family disputes to high-profile criminal cases. 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.

What Happens When The Police Keep Your Passport?

court case Singapore Amarjit Singh

If the police have reasons to believe that you may be a suspect, or have been accused of committing a criminal offence, they may require you to surrender your passport. Are they allowed to do that? What happens after?

The answer to the first question is yes, but that is only provided the police officer is of the rank of sergeant or above and has the written consent of an officer above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, who has been authorised by the Commissioner of Police to give the consent. 

This power is also applicable to other law enforcement agencies such as the Immigrations & Checkpoints Authority and Singapore Customs, but also only with the written consent of the head of the agency.

Return of Travel Document

According to section 113 of the criminal procedure Court, a person who has surrendered his passport may apply to the authorised officer, or the head or an authorised director of the law enforcement agency or a person of a similar rank, for its return.

However, if the application has been refused, then the person may apply to a District Judge and state their reasons for the application.

The District Judge may either grant the application subject to conditions that may require further surrender and a provision of security for the applicant’s appearance at a specific time and place, or simply refuse the application.

If the applicant fails to comply with any of the stated conditions, then any security that was provided for the passport’s return may be forfeited by a Magistrate, and the applicant may even be arrested and dealt with the same way as someone who refuses to surrender their passport without any valid reason.

What Happens if You Refuse to Surrender Your Passport?

If you refuse a police officer’s request to surrender your passport, you may be arrested and brought before a Magistrate. If you are still unable to provide a good reason for not surrendering your passport, you may be sent to jail and remain there until you surrender your passport.

In the event that you have been charged with an offence and applying to be released on bail, the court or prosecuting agency may require your passport as a condition of your bail or you may not be released on bail.

How Long Can The Police Keep Your Passport For?

If the police believe you have committed an offence, your passport may be held until the end of police investigations. You may apply for a return if there is an urgent requirement to do so. If your passport is being held as a condition for your bail, you may only get it back after the case is concluded.

What if You Need to Leave Singapore?

If you need to leave Singapore while out on bail, you may apply to the court to have it returned to you if you have a valid reason. This could include a serious illness or emergency involving a family member overseas, or even a planned holiday. You will also need to ensure your bailor is present when you make your application to leave Singapore. 

Do take note that the court may increase the bail amount if your application to leave Singapore while out on bail is approved.

What Other Ways Are There to Get Your Passport Back?

There is a system in place to ensure fairness throughout the different procedures. If the police have reasons to believe you have committed an offence and have taken your passport, you may apply to that police officer or the Commissioner of Police to explain your reasons why it should be returned to you.

If the police reject your application, you may apply to the District Court instead. However in the District Court, the return of your passport may be subjected to conditions it deems appropriate as well as a provision of security to make sure you attend court on a certain date.

If the court grants the return on the condition that you will have to re-surrender your passport at a later date and you refuse, you may be arrested and any security you had provided for the return of your passport will be forfeited.

Getting a Criminal 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.

(Recap) First Person to be Charged Under Singapore’s New Anti-Money Laundering Law

According to a Straits Times article published on June 25, a 23-year old Singaporean woman became the person to be charged under the Payment Services Act for providing payment services without a license.

The Payment Services Act 2019 was implemented at the beginning of 2020 for the purpose of fighting money laundering and terrorism financing. The law is also meant to strengthen consumer protection for e-payments.

The Case 

The woman was charged with one count of providing payment services without a licence by receiving at least 13 fraudulent fund transfers amounting to around $3,000 on a digital payment token service into her bank account near the end of February.

She then used the amount to buy Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency that works on blockchain technology.

According to a Police spokesperson, “the amount deposited into her bank account turned out to be proceeds of crime from victims of online scams”. 

Due to her previous brushes with the law, her bail was set at $15,000 and if found guilty of the offence under the Payment Services Act, she can be jailed for up to three years and fined up to $125,000. 

Getting a Criminal 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 in civil and military courts 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.

How to Prove Unreasonable Behaviour for a Divorce

In an earlier article, we explained the process of getting a divorce. One requirement is that one of you will need to prove that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and therefore, unable to live together.

This can come in the form of your spouse displaying unreasonable behaviour, both actively or passively, and it is affecting your marriage. You may refer to section 95(3)(b) of the Womens’ Charter, or make an appointment with a divorce lawyer to better understand your legal options based on your circumstances.

What is Unreasonable Behaviour?

It is a very broad term with a wide range of meanings and can include acts, both passive and active, as well as failure to act, and includes a range of situations from adultery, to prolonged acts of humiliation, to domestic violence towards you, or even someone else.

This behaviour may be intentional or unintentional.

The main question that you will have to answer will be: Can you reasonably expect to continue living with your spouse?

If your answer is yes, the court will also take into account, both your behavioural attributes such as character and attitude, as well as how you have both been behaving throughout the duration of the marriage.

Are There Exceptions?

Since it requires just one of you to show why you can’t reasonably be expected to live together, there are also certain exceptions, also known as insufficient instances. This is why the court will take certain steps to test for unreasonable behaviour.

Unreasonable Behaviour is at the minimum, more than just a feeling or a state of mind. This means that if you are feeling bored of your spouse, or feel like you don’t love each other anymore even though both of you have not been fighting and living peacefully in the same address, then the court may rule that there is insufficient instance of showing unreasonable behaviour.

How Does The Court Determine Unreasonable Behaviour?

Depending on your circumstances, the court will look at the cumulative effect of this behaviour, how long it has been going on for and how it has been affecting you. This will apply for behaviour that may not be serious when done once, but may be considered unreasonable over a prolonged period, affecting your mental health for example.

Since this verdict only applies to your marriage, in the case of a successful divorce ruling, the evidence of unreasonable behaviour by your spouse to prove the divorce does not necessarily mean they will now be found guilty of misconduct. The focus is only on the acts related to your marriage, and if it is reasonable to expect you to continue living together.

If you are still unsure, or would like to know more about unreasonable behaviour with regards to your personal circumstances, it is highly advisable for you to speak to a divorce lawyer.

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.

What if You Want to File for Divorce But Can’t Find Your Spouse?

When you file for divorce, a writ for divorce will be issued by the court for your spouse, who will be the Defendant. The usual process is done by personal service. A copy of your Writ with your Divorce Case Number will be made with other relevant legal documents and personally sent to the Defendant by an authorised or registered service clerk.

However in some cases, the Defendant might either refuse to open the door, or is no longer living there and therefore, unable to receive the writ. Depending on the situation, there are two things you can do:

  • An order of substituted service – a way of summons with a supporting affidavit

But if that fails,

  • Service to be dispensed with – only allowed by the court if you can prove that you have attempted every other possible substituted service but still could not reach your spouse.

What is a Substituted Service?

If you are able to find your spouse’s (other) residential or email address, either by yourself or by asking others who may know, then you may apply for service to be made effected by:

  • Registered Post: if you have their residential address, you must explain why you believe that your spouse is currently at that address. You may also use this service if your spouse is living overseas and is not permanently based in Singapore.
  • Electronic Means: you can send it via email if you can show that the email account belongs to your spouse and is currently active.

What if I Cannot Reach My Spouse Even if I Have Their Details?

There are another 2 substituted services available should either of these fail but the requirements are more stringent. 

  • Posting on the front door at your spouse’s last known residential address in Singapore: If personal service was attempted but unsuccessful, then you will need to provide the court with the dates, times and outcome of each attempted personal service while also providing reasons to believe the person resides in that address, including evidence such as household bills or official government documents where both your spouse’s name and address are visible.

    You will also be required to reveal the date of your last contact with your spouse, as well as the mode and contents of the conversation; the names and addresses of your spouse’s relatives and friends; details of your attempts to contact them; the name and address of your spouse’s last known employer, if any, and details of your spouse’s nationality.

    After which, you will need to make another two attempts at personal service and only with evidence that your spouse is overseas and may, or may not have a return date, or just being told that the person has ‘moved out’ without indicating where, only then will you be able to effect this form of service. 
  • Newspaper Advertisement: If nobody seems to know where your spouse is, and all other available methods have been exhausted, then you may apply for an advertisement. You will need to provide information such as your spouse’s language(s) spoken and level of literacy. This is applicable if you are placing an advertisement in both an English, as well as a non-English language publication in Singapore, or a newspaper overseas in the country your spouse is believed to be at.

What if Every Possible Method has Failed and I Still Can’t Reach my Spouse?

In the event that you just cannot reach your spouse, the court will allow for a Dispensation of Service if they are satisfied that all your possible attempts at contacting your spouse has failed. This can be proven if you can show the court that you have no idea where, or which country your spouse is currently at, making advertising ineffective. There may be a higher chance this is allowed if there are no ancillary issues between Parties – such as matrimonial assets and/or children. It is on the merits of each case.

If you are in this situation, it is best for you to speak to a divorce lawyer.

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.

Meeting a Divorce Lawyer as a Foreigner in Singapore

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.