Mary's View of S'pore - Vol 9, Divorce Singapore Style

Mary's View of S'pore - Vol 9, Divorce Singapore Style

Ahhhh... the land of family values. Even this can be taken to extreme. It's a good idea but the implementation is a little questionable. First of all, if you're Muslim none of this applies to you. There are separate laws and courts dealing with the Muslims.

So let's say you got married 10 years ago and everything was OK for awhile but now things are not so good ( extramarital affair, husband hasn't talked to you for the last 5 months, etc). Divorce - right?? Easy - right?? Three months tops - right?? WRONG!!!! No matter how long you've been married, you must separate for 3 additional years before divorce proceedings can proceed. One of the parties must move out and have PROOF of a new residence. Easier said than done. Where is the wife and kids to go if the man refuses to move out? Or the man for that matter? Housing is such a complicated process here that finding a place is quite an ordeal and quite often beyond the abilities of the woman to cope with. So then what? Quite often the answer is to stay "together" and try to prove grounds for divorce.

Such as: Exceptional Hardship/Depravity

This is only dealt with on a case by case basis and very hard to PROVE. This is very rarely used as it is so hard to prove. If there is physical/mental/sexual abuse the answer is always - MOVE OUT and start counting up to 3 years.

Other grounds for divorce:

1) Adultery
must be PROVEN and co-respondent named. Only way to really PROVE this is to hire a Private Investigator. However, if you continue to live with the man for more than 6 months after the affair becomes known this can not be used must convince judge that it is intolerable/impossible to live with him.
2) Unreasonable Behavior
most often used
  • Financial irresponsibility
  • Alcohol/drug problem
  • Neglect ( not talking for 6 months, staying out late, etc.)
  • Physical/mental/sexual abuse. Again, the 6 month (or longer) living together is taken into consideration if this is really "unreasonable" behavior
3) Different lengths of time for desertion and/or separation with/without consent

Marriages can be "Nullified". Reasons being: Did not give real consent (forced by parents), No consummation (refusal to have sex), Medical evidence of impotence, "Mistaken identity" - I'm not sure what this is.

Custody/Maintenance - usually the wife is given custody of the children with some effort given to visitation rights for the father. The concept of "Joint Custody" is slowly being worked with here. Maintenance sum can either be awarded as a monthly sum or a lump sum. Division of assets is quite complicated

If you are under 16 you are not allowed to get married. Sixteen to eighteen year olds need ministerial approval. Parental approval is needed if you are 18-21. After that you are on your own.

So, it is no wonder that the women I work with have a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness - I do, too. There are no easy answers and it quite often seems insurmountable. Status quo is quite often the method of choice. However, after saying this, I must report that the divorce rate is rapidly increasing - especially among the over 50's. I don't think that the quickie divorce mentality in the U.S. is the answer but I also think the Singapore method is a little extreme.