Guide to Uncontested Divorce
In Singapore, a divorce can either be contested or uncontested (also known as a simplified or amicable divorce).
This is where the two married parties cannot agree on the divorce or issues such as custody of children, maintenance and asset division. In Singapore, around 90% of contested divorce cases will be settled through court action.
The Family Court plays a prominent role in helping to settle these cases. For the remaining 10% of cases in which parties refuse to settle, a Judge will hear the arguments and then make a judgement.
Contested divorces take longer and cost more than uncontested divorces.
This where both spouses agree to the terms of a divorce and the related ancillary issues. Agreement has to be reached before filing divorce papers, to enable a lawyer to file the papers in the Family Court for a fast-track, simplified divorce hearing. An Interim Judgement will then be given after around 4 weeks.
The common areas of agreement are usually these:
The grounds for divorce
Parties must agree that the divorce is based on one party’s unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation or adultery.
Care and control of children
Parties must agree on who will get care and control of any children involved. Whoever the children live with will usually get care and control, and the right to make decision relating to the childrens’ daily lives.
The two parties also need to agree on how often the other party will get to see the children. Should the access be reasonable, supervised, or liberal?
An agreement needs to be reached on whether the parties will have ‘joint custody’ of the children, i.e. that they both agree on the major issues like their offspring’s education, medical treatment and religion. In Singapore, ‘joint custody’ is the standard arrangement, and courts encourage this outcome unless it’s obvious that it would not be in the best interest of the children.
Both spouses must agree on which party will pay the monthly maintenance for the children, and how much it will be. If the wife is unemployed or on a low wage, then husband and wife should agree on how much the husband should give the wife by way of maintenance.
Division of assets
The asset that is most obvious and important is the marital home. When it comes to dividing it between the parties, there are some common options:
- Sell it on the open market
- The wife sells it to the husband
- The husband sells it to the wife
- The property is transferred to one party.
This can be a complex area of law to navigate, especially if it involves outstanding bank loans, CPF money or HDB flat eligibility. An experience divorce lawyer (ideally who also has conveyancing expertise) will help you here.
Use a specialist divorce lawyer even if your divorce is uncontested
Even if the divorce is uncontested, parties usually require a specialist lawyer, such as those at PKWA Law, for the following reasons:
- Specialist divorce lawyers acting in uncontested divorces usually cost less than you may think, and offer fair and reasonable charges, such as the fees we charge at PKWA Law.
- In an uncontested divorce, questions relating to the matrimonial home, or the rent or sale of an HDB flat will be much easier to answer with the help of a specialist lawyer. They can also advise on how other assets should be divided, and the amount of maintenance that should be paid to the wife and any children involved.
- A lawyer will be able to tell you exactly what you are entitled to receive, as well as explain your obligations and how to agree with your spouse. They should also draft the required paperwork so it adequately captures what you and your partner have agreed on.
- Without a lawyer, you will have no specialist legal advice to help you and may spend much more money and time if the divorce order then needs to be varied once it has been obtained. Get your advice right from the start, and don’t file an uncontested divorce before getting legal representation.
- Hiring a lawyer in the first place means you immediately know what you are entitled to, to save you having to argue over something you will never realistically get. If both you and your spouse understand your rights, then the negotiating process will go much smoother and quicker.
- Hire a good lawyer for full and proper advice early on, to protect your children and property, especially if you have assets worth a lot of money.
The preparations of the Uncontested Divorce papers
If you are going through a contested divorce then your lawyer will check whether you need to attend the Mandatory Parenting Program, send the HDB Query (if you’re an owner of such a flat) and draft the Proposed Parenting Plan and Proposed Matrimonial Plan, as well as sorting other issues.
But if you’re having an uncontested divorce then the workload is simpler, although the following will still need to be prepared:
- Write for divorce
- Statement of Claim
- Statement of Particulars
- Affidavit of Evidence in Chief
- Draft Consent Order
These should be filed at the Family Justice Court, once they have been signed. The party applying for the divorce will be known as the plaintiff, and the other spouse will be the defendant.
A hearing date for an uncontested divorce should be given within about 4 weeks of the papers being filed. Uncontested divorce hearings happen in chambers, meaning no parties or their lawyers are present. No members of the public can watch either.
How long does an uncontested divorce take?
If the issues outlined above are agreed upon, then here at PKWA Law we can ordinarily get an Interim Judgement (conditional divorce) about a month after the papers have been filed.
About 3 months after this, you should get your Final Judgement, and then the divorce proceedings are concluded.