There are many reasons why a couple's marriage might end, and in Singapore, divorce is available for them provided that they can show sufficient evidence of what the Women's Charter defines as the "irretrievable breakdown of marriage."
However, in cases where divorce is not yet available (as parties have not been married for 3 years) or if it is not the desired option, there are alternatives available to them.
At our divorce firm in Singapore, not only do we help our clients both through the process of divorce, we also provide sound legal advice for those who are still undecided and who may be considering alternatives in the meantime. More importantly, as far as possible, we prefer to take the therapeutic and peaceful approach to resolving conflict as we consider this to be the most beneficial to parties in the long run.
What are the Alternative Options?
Here are some alternative options to divorce that undecided couples may consider in the meantime:
Separation is one of the ways to prove the irretrievable breakdown of marriage when it comes to obtaining a divorce.
Conversely, some people may also choose to temporarily separate because they need some time apart to reflect and heal, before repairing the relationship.
In a separation, a couple simply lives apart from each other while still being legally married.
Types of Separation
Informal Separation: This type of separation allows the parties involved to live separately. In some cases, it is also possible to be separated even if the couple is still living at the same residence, so long as marital and sexual relations have been clearly stopped and parties lead separate and distinct lives from each other. Separation should also be a conscious, and not merely a matter of necessity (e.g. due to a spouse being posted overseas for work). This type of informal separation can count towards the minimum 3 years of separation prior to filing for divorce.
Deed of Separation: This is a formal, legally binding document signed by a married couple, containing the terms of their arrangement to live separately. This should include the date of separation, living arrangements and financial arrangements between the couple during the separation. Parties can rely on the Deed when filing for divorce though the Court retains discretion as to whether to abide by all the terms of the Deed particularly where it concerns the children's issues.
Judicial Separation: This type of separation allows couples to obtain a Court Order stating that parties are separated. This option is typically utilised by parties who see no reason to divorce (for religious or other personal reasons) but would like an official document to state that they are separated. In this type of separation, there is still a need to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and parties would still have to be married for at least 3 years.
Even though both divorce and annulment end a marriage, they still differ. A divorce legally terminates a marriage but acknowledges that the marriage once existed. On the other hand, an annulment legally voids or erases a marriage, such that the marriage never existed.
In order to annul a marriage, couples have to prove that their marriage is void or voidable. For a void marriage, there is a need to prove that there was an error in fulfilling the requirements of a valid marriage, such as the improper solemnisation of marriage. For a voidable marriage, you will need to prove other grounds, such as your marriage not being consummated due to incapacity or refusal of either party.
Couples who want to opt for an annulment should consult a Singapore divorce firm to have a better understanding of this option.
For couples considering a divorce in Singapore, mediation may be considered prior to filing for divorce as it allows a neutral party or a professional mediator to help both parties reach an agreement on the terms of their separation in a clear and fair manner. These terms can include the division of properties, custody arrangements, and financial matters. It will be good to have your divorce lawyer by your side to ensure that the proposal is favourable or at least reasonable to you.
Collaborative Family Practice (CFP)
A new and emerging area of practice in divorce in Singapore is a process known as CFP. This is where both parties accept that the marriage is over but commit to collaborating to achieve an amicable outcome. To this end, parties will each instruct a CFP-trained lawyer to help them through the process of discussion and negotiations. Parties agree from the outset to provide full disclosure and to work hard towards a settlement. This may include hiring other professionals for example, financial experts and/or therapists. The CFP lawyers are also required to be committed to the process and cannot act for the parties in the event CFP fails and parties resort to litigation.
For couples who are still undecided about divorce, marriage therapy may be considered. During therapy, a therapist helps couples take a step back to reassess and strengthen their relationship. Couples will be assisted in discussing past behaviours and trauma that have affected their relationship and its dynamics. A therapy session will also identify couples' emotional patterns and address conflicts that can improve their overall relationship.
The best option for you will depend on your unique situation and what you wish to achieve. Our lawyers would be happy to share their insights and advice you on the steps to move forward during this difficult period.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.