Divorce by Mutual Agreement means that parties can file for a divorce without blaming each other for the divorce. There are many advantages to such uncontested divorces. For example, it means spouses don’t have to find fault with each other and spend time and money litigating a messy divorce. Parties also don't have to show separation for 3 years before divorcing.
The new law for divorce, making changes to the Women’s Charter has been introduced. Singapore Parliament amended the Women’s Charter on January 10 2021 and introduced Divorce by Mutual Agreement (DMA) as a sixth option, allowing a couple to file for divorce if they mutually agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Before the new law came into effect, couples were only able to get a divorce if they could prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down through one of five grounds: adultery; unreasonable behaviour, desertion, three years' separation (with consent); and four years' separation (without consent).
The new divorce law allows couples to divorce without needing to prove fault or separation. According to the Divorce by Mutual Agreement law, divorcees need to show that they have been married for at least 3 years and that they have tried to reconcile.
How can a specialist divorce lawyer help you with Divorce by Mutual Agreement?
Even if a divorce will be simplified and uncontested, with decisions made on the main issues before filing for divorce, it is still a good idea to consult a specialist lawyer, particularly if children and/or properties are involved. This is because:
- A lawyer will be able to advise you on child issues, and questions regarding your matrimonial home, which after all is likely to be your most valuable asset. They can also help you navigate questions around HDB rules on sale or retention of HDB flats, and how much maintenance you need to pay to the other spouse and children.
- The lawyer can help you understand what you are entitled to, as well as any obligations you will have. They’ll help you to reach a fair agreement with the other party. The lawyer will also fill out the necessary paperwork which will state the terms of the settlement.
- Getting legal advice reduces the likelihood of having to vary the divorce order because engaging a lawyer makes it more likely that you will get it the right, based on the correct legal advice.
- Hiring a specialist lawyer means you understand from the outset what you can and cannot get in the settlement, so you will not waste time arguing over something you are not able to get. Time and money will therefore be saved.
You can see that, even in amicable divorces, with no courtroom contest, a good divorce lawyer can make things much easier, especially if your circumstances involve property and/or children.
What needs to be agreed on?
Under section 95A(6)(a), the agreement to divorce by mutual agreement must be in writing and must state:
- The reasons that led the parties to conclude that their marriage has irretrievably broken down;
- The efforts that parties have made to reconcile; and
- The consideration that parties have given to the arrangements to be made in relation to their financial affairs and any children of the marriage.
These requirements serve as a safeguard to ensure that the marriage has truly irretrievably broken down and cannot be salvaged. Further, under section 95A(6)(c) the Court may reject the parties’ agreement if it is of the view that in all the circumstances of the case, there remains a reasonable possibility that the parties might reconcile.
An agreement will need to be reached on the following matters, which your lawyer will help you to do:
- The amount of maintenance to be paid to a wife and any children involved.
- How property is to be divided.
- Who will have care and control of the children, and what access and visitation rights should be given to the other parent.