What is divorce by mutual agreement?
The law in Singapore states that to file for divorce; you must prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down. A divorce by mutual agreement will soon be a ground which parties can rely upon to show this. Divorce by mutual agreement is expected to come into effect sometime in 2023.
Divorce by Mutual Agreement is the new Singapore divorce law in which couples can now divorce without having to blame each other or go through a separation period to prove to the courts that their marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Although the other five grounds are achievable, they are invariably more burdensome to rely upon. That is because they usually incur additional time, expense, and stress trying to assert why the grounds should be met - often with the disapproval of the other party.
Ultimately, the court must be satisfied that granting a divorce is just and reasonable, considering all circumstances. (Once the divorce by mutual agreement laws come into effect, you will still be required to convince a judge that a divorce should be granted.)
Why is divorce by mutual agreement being introduced?
The current five grounds of divorce primarily contain elements of blame or acrimony. This can often derail rational agreements or negotiations surrounding the divorce.
The goal is to lessen conflict and prevent children from being embroiled in tension or arguments when parents throw accusations at each another. It also intends to preserve the mental health of the parties whilst they are going through the divorce.
The benefit of divorce by mutual agreement
A benefit of divorce by mutual agreement is there is no need for the parties to live separately, such as in a divorce by separation with consent. This offers "therapeutic justice" to the family justice system, less disruption to the children, and does not go against parties should they still live together.
How divorce by mutual agreement can make the process better for everyone
The children will benefit. They won’t hear or read about their parents blaming each other for their divorce. It is not uncommon for some people's mental health issues to be caused by childhood trauma, stemming from how their parents behaved in from of them.
As previously discussed, a divorce by mutual agreement does not require parties to live separately. This allows children to have more regular contact with their parents. It provides the parents more time to source alternative accommodation and get their finances in order. This also saves being compelled to make rash decisions for fear of delaying the process.
The divorce petition will take considerably less time, expense, and effort to produce than the other grounds for divorce. This is because there is less finger pointing regarding the unreasonable behaviour of one party. The smoother the process, the less stressful the divorce will be. Arguing over who is in the wrong and who is in the right will only cause further acrimony.
Stepping away from blame may also preserve the parent's inclination from tainting their children's view of the other parent. Not only would stepping away from blame prevent stress, but it also would prevent disagreements to the terms suggested by either party.
The grounds which constitute 'blame' can upset the other party as they would naturally become defensive. The accused party could then dispute the divorce, either slowing down or, in the worst cases, denying the divorce altogether. If this happens, and the opposing party rejects accusations of unreasonable behaviour, a judge may decline to break the marriage.
So, although divorce by mutual agreement is more amicable and offers a smoother resolution, it does not necessarily mean the divorce will be without contention, emotion, or resistance.
How long will it take to be granted a divorce?
It remains that to be eligible to file for a divorce; the couple must be married for at least three years. This is applicable in all cases, no matter the grounds relied upon.
Once all terms are agreed upon, there is a three-month reflection period before the divorce is finalised. This reflection period allows both parties to decide whether the divorce is indeed what they want.
The timescale of the divorce process largely depends on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. A divorce is contested when parties cannot agree to all terms and issues amicably. Therefore, a court's involvement is required, as a judge will decide on the matters the parties cannot agree on. A contested divorce can take up to a year or more from start to finish.
An uncontested divorce is a divorce where both parties agree to the divorce, and all ancillary matters of the divorce are agreed upon mutually. An uncontested divorce can be concluded from start to finish in four months. An uncontested divorce is often the less stressful and cheaper route rather than a contested divorce.
Although you may pursue a divorce by mutual agreement, it does not necessarily mean the divorce will be uncontested. The divorce may become contested due to a disagreement on how child arrangements should be made or how the finances should be split. Should the divorce become contested, you would need a judge to make the final decision on the matters on which each party disagrees.
Why you should still use a divorce lawyer in a divorce by mutual agreement
There are two sides to decision-making. There is the emotional side and the logical side. These are two distinct aspects which often do not work harmoniously together.
What do we mean by this?
When you make decisions based on emotion, it is because of a feeling or a want. It is typically a natural response to a situation which is important to you, whether it upsets you or makes you happy.
Take, for example, smoking cigarettes. Logically, you know you shouldn't smoke because it harms your health. However, because of your emotional state, a craving, or a stressful situation, you may still choose to smoke.
It is the same with approaching a divorce. Emotion and logic do not necessarily coincide, which results in parties pursuing or agreeing to terms out of emotion rather than logic. This can cause a person to agree to unfavourable terms. It can also cause the whole process to derail.
The easy solution
Our lawyers can guide you through the divorce, using their expertise to help avoid it becoming contested. Having a lawyer act, and taking an objective stance, means they will apply logic to achieve the best outcome. At the same time, they will take your instructions to understand the situation and what means most to you.
We can also assist you in making the correct financial decisions. What you believe to be a good deal at the time may not be enough for you to live on in the future. Matters such as earning capacities and future expenses are sometimes difficult concepts to grasp and understand. Getting the best legal advice and knowing you are receiving the most out of the divorce, you will also achieve greater peace of mind.
The preparation of documents can be difficult and stressful. Our lawyers have years of experience helping people prepare their documents succinctly and accurately.
Having advice and help with negotiations on when to insist on terms and when to make concessions to get the things which are most important to you may be invaluable.
Letting us take the reins will free up your time and allow you to continue working and being part of your children's life. We can also advise you on making the best care arrangements for your children.
Should the divorce process deteriorate, we can present your case if a dispute or disagreement cannot be amicably settled.
We are here to advise, represent you, and make the divorce process as stress-free as possible. Don't hesitate to contact our lawyers if you are considering a divorce in Singapore.