Expat Divorce in Singapore

Divorce rates are rising in Singapore, perhaps unsurprisingly given the growing number of expatriates and foreigners living here. In this article, we answer some common questions about how to divorce in Singapore if you are an expatriate.

If I didn’t marry in Singapore, can I divorce here?

Yes, even if you aren’t a Permanent Resident here or you don’t work here, you can still get divorced in Singapore, as long as:

  • You and your spouse have been married for a minimum of 3 years,
  • You have both resided in Singapore for the last 3 years, OR
  • You’re both domiciled in Singapore (meaning you want to make Singapore your permanent home).

Should I divorce in my home country or in Singapore?

If your assets and children are in Singapore, then you may find it logical to divorce here. There are many foreigners who choose to get a divorce in Singapore, rather than their home country, for a variety of reasons:

  • Efficiency: the Singapore justice system is one of the best in the world and operates very efficiently. If you are not contesting a divorce then it can be completed within around 4 months, without the need to go to court. Even if you are contesting a divorce, it can be done in around a year. The courts tightly control their schedules so there are no delays.
  • Gender equality: even though some people wrongly believe the law here favours women due to the existence of legislation such as the Women’s Charter, this is not true. Both men and women are treated equally, as shown by case law over the years. Both monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage will be considered by the courts with equal weight.
  • No ‘fault’ basis: the courts in Singapore don’t usually punish a party for being at fault and causing a marriage to break up – no blame is apportioned in decisions involving asset division, children or maintenance.
  • Proactive in mediation: Singaporean courts encourage both parties to take a constructive approach, and compel them to attend mediation sessions to try and resolve things by agreement.

My spouse has taken my child out of Singapore – what can I do?

Countries that signed the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, such as Singapore, will have a duty to return your child to Singapore. However, if the child was taken to a country that is not a signatory to this agreement, then it may be harder to get your child back to Singapore.

You may be able to apply for an injunction order if you think your child is at risk of being removed from Singapore. This would allow agencies like the ICA (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority) to stop parents subject to such an injunction from taking a child out of Singapore. Anyone defying the injunction will be stopped at exit checkpoints by the authorities.

The best way to prevent complications in a divorce is to always know where your child is and what the intentions of the other party are, wherever possible.

Can I stop my spouse leaving Singapore with my child during a divorce?

If you think this is a possibility, then you can apply for interim care and control of your child, to reduce the opportunities that your spouse has of leaving the country with your child. You could also apply to be named the parent who gets control of your child’s passport. The immigration authorities might also be able to stop the spouse leaving with the child if a court order has been granted to prevent that.

I made a prenuptial agreement with my spouse abroad – can it be enforced in Singapore?

When considering your case, the court will take into account prenuptial agreements made abroad. However, the court has the right not to follow it if they desire, so it will simply form one more factor in their decision-making process.

Do I have to leave Singapore after a divorce, if I’m the dependent spouse?

If you hold a Dependent’s Pass and are in Singapore as a dependent, then you must leave Singapore when the divorce is completed, as you will no longer be said to be dependent on your husband. Practically, you should think about looking for a job once divorce proceedings have been started, so that you may have your own right to stay in Singapore, with an employment pass.

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