Divorced or Separated

Getting a divorce can be complicated, emotional, stressful and sometimes confusing.

For couples with children, the dissolution of marriage does not only impact two lives but also the lives of their children -- physically and emotionally. Whether the marriage dissolution is by choice or circumstance, the decision to proceed with a divorce is a major one which would affect various aspects of your life including housing, matrimonial assets and children.

Here are some of the guides and information you may take note of if you are thinking of or going through a divorce or separation.

Before Divorce

One may ask, “Why do people divorce?”.

While reasons are varying and personal, the common reasons would be growing apart (as interests and goals change, communication is lost), arguments (over money, sex, in-laws, etc), alcohol, drug abuse or gambling, physical abuse and adultery.

If you are beginning to consider or are contemplating divorce, you may want to find out and learn more about what is involved, what the laws are, how it will affect your family, or how to get started.

We believe the more informed you are about divorce, the better you will be able to cope with the changes it can bring.

Financial considerations

Typically, parties to a divorce are impacted financially in two primary ways: the division of their matrimonial assets and the order for spouse/child maintenance payments that the Courts may make.  You may want to read articles on Financial Realities of Divorce to find out more about your rights and options when considering or go through divorce.                                               

Listed below are some of the key financial issues that you should think about before and during your divorce (Source: MSF).

Key Financial Issues

Decisions to Consider

Housing

 · Remain in the matrimonial home

 · Buy / rent a new home

 · Stay with relatives

 See: Managing Finances After Divorce
         Housing Development Board

Legal Fees

 · Settle outstanding legal fees

 · Seek alternative resolution such as mediation

 See: Legal Aid

Regular Maintenance Fees

 Turn to third party collection assistance

Basic Expenses to Meet Needs*

 Budgeting for monthly expenses

Needs of Children*

 Expenses related to children’s basic needs, education and medical needs

Medical Fees

 Use of:

 · Medisave

 · MediShield Life and other healthcare insurance

 · ElderShield and other disability insurance

 Eligibility for:

 · Medifund

 · Out-of-pocket expenses

 See: Government Agencies

Short-term Financial Planning

 For those with debt

 · Settle joint accounts, nominations, asset ownership

 · CPF payments for housing, MediShield Life premiums, education

 · Existing or new insurance coverage for life, medical and hospitalisation needs

Long-term Financial Planning

 · Plan to purchase new home

 · New insurance needs such as children’s education

 · Higher education or skills training for children

 · Remarriage and blended families (or stepfamilies)

Contribution to Other Dependents

 · Out-of-pocket expenses

 · Medisave

 · Child Development Account (CDA) top-ups

Seeking Employment and Career Paths

 · Employed

 · Unemployed

 · Self-employed

* Basic needs:

  • Food
  • Household expenses
  • Transport
  • Medical expenses
  • Utility bills
  • Educational needs of children

Getting a Divorce  

Based on the booklet “Know the Law Now” published by the Law Society of Singapore (2015 revised edition), there are several requirements which you will have to meet before the Family Justices Courts will grant a divorce:

  1. You must be married for three years;
  2. Either you or your spouse must have been residing in Singapore continuously for a period of three years at the time the petition is filed;
  3. You must show the Courts that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by proving one of the grounds of divorce;
  4. Your marriage must be recognised as valid under Singapore law.

If you are married for less than three years, you may, with permission from the Courts, proceed to file a Writ for Divorce if you can prove that you have suffered exceptional hardship or if your spouse has been exceptionally unreasonable and cruel. You are advised to consult a lawyer.

For more details on divorce proceedings filed with the Family Justice Courts, click here.

Grounds for Divorce of Civil Marriages

What is considered as “irretrievable breakdown” by the Family Justice Courts?

The applicant/plaintiff (the person filing for a divorce) must provide details and prove one or more of the following factual basis:

  1. Adultery
    Your spouse has committed adultery with another person and you find it intolerable to live with him/her.
  1. Unreasonable behaviour
    Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her.
  1. Desertion (abandonment)
    Your spouse has deserted or left you for a continuous period of two years without any intention of returning.
  1. Separation for three years (mutual consent required)
    Your spouse and you have lived apart for a continuous period of at least three years and your spouse agrees to a divorce.
  1. Separation for four years (mutual consent not required)
    Your spouse and you have lived apart for a continuous period of at least four years. No consent is required from the defendant (i.e. your spouse).

Before You File for Divorce of Civil Marriage

Here’s a reminder of the two questions posted by the Family Justice Courts:

1. Have you attended the Mandatory Parenting Programme?

From 1 December 2016, all parents with at least one child below 14 years old (below 21 years old with effect from 21 January 2018) are required under the Women’s Charter to attend the Mandatory Parenting Programme (MPP) if they do not have a signed formal agreement pertaining to a parenting plan and all other divorce matters. You will need to log in with your SingPass to apply for the MPP.

The MPP is a two-hour session free of charge by counsellors from Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs) to be attended by parents intending to file for divorce with the Family Justice Courts. It is designed to encourage divorcing couples make informed decisions that prioritise the well-being of children, and to help parents understand:

  1. the financial challenges of divorce
  2. how divorce impacts living arrangements
  3. child custody and access
  4. the importance of co-parenting and having a parenting plan

For FAQ relating to MPP, click here.

2. Do you need more information on what to expect when you embark on divorce proceedings?

Be sure to find out what to expect when you embark on divorce proceedings.  You should visit this page and watch the Divorce Information Video before filing your divorce application..

Click FAQs on divorce and type “divorce” under search function, you will be able to find answers to the following questions:

  • What is a divorce?
  • Who can apply for a divorce in the Family Justice Courts?
  • What are the legal requirements for a divorce?
  • How do I apply for a divorce?
  • What if I can't find my spouse?
  • Can I oppose a Writ for Divorce filed by my spouse?
  • Is there a way for my spouse and I to come to an agreement so that we can avoid a contested divorce?
  • Do I need a lawyer to get divorced?
  • When can I remarry?

 

Divorce For Muslim Marriages

Muslim divorces in Singapore are governed by the Administration of Muslim Law Act.

Muslim marriages would need to apply for divorce under the Syariah Court.  The Court offers counselling for Muslim couples with marital difficulties (known as Marriage Counselling Programme). It also offers mediation for divorce cases with the aim of settling child custody and other ancillary matters amicably.

From 1 January 2015, if you have children below 14 years old, you and your spouse be required to attend a parenting plan discussion at the Court's appointed agency (list provided below) and submit the parenting plan to the Court when filing for divorce.

For more information, please click here for FAQs, or visit the Syariah Court.

Pre-Divorce Information Briefing Session

If you do not know what to expect when you embark on the divorce process, you are strongly encouraged to attend Pre-Divorce Information Briefing Session which is held once a month at the Syariah Court.  This session aims to provide:

  • Information on the Court’s divorce processes and procedures
  • Clarification on the documents to submit to the Court and how/when to submit such documents
  • Information on ancillary issues that will be discussed in the Court (e.g. custody/access of children, housing, what you or your spouse can claim from each other, etc)

Day: Last Saturday of every month

Time: 10.00am (duration of 1.5 to 2 hours)

Venue: Syariah Court, Family Link @ Lengkok Bahru, 8 Lengkok Bahru, #03-01, Singapore 159052

In any case if you wish to consult someone on legal issues, you can approach one of the community centres/clubs (CCs) or community development council (CDCs) that provide legal counselling services.

Application Process for Divorce or Counselling

An overview of Syariah Court's Marriage Counselling Programme Process can be found here.

Marriage Counselling Programme: Appointed

Counselling has been part of the Syariah Court's divorce procedure since 1955. Failure to attend counselling will result in the divorce case being closed.

The Marriage Counselling Programme was first implemented in October 2004. The programme is provided through 15 appointed agencies:

  1. THK FSC @ Bedok North
  2. THK FSC @ Bukit Panjang
  3. THK FSC @ MacPherson
  4. THK FSC @ Serangoon
  5. THK FSC @ Tanjong Pagar
  6. ACOSS (APKIM Centre for Social Services)
  7. Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP)
  8. Muslim Converts Association of Singapore (Darul Arqam)
  9. Inspirasi @ AMP
  10. Inspirasi @ PPIS
  11. Jamiyah Counselling Centre
  12. As-Salaam PPIS Family Support Centre
  13. PPIS FSC (East)
  14. PPIS Family Therapy Institute
  15. PPIS Vista Sakinah Centre for Remarriages & Stepfamilies

Available Helps

Helps are available.  You can contact the following organisations for more information.

Family Support Division
Ministry of Social and Family Development
Tel: 6324 0024
Email address: dssaprogrammes@msf.gov.sg​
Address: 7 Maxwell Road, MND Building Annex B, #04-11, Singapore 069111
Do also visit MSF’s website for more details.

Syariah Court
Hotline: 6354 8371
Email address: mccy_syariah@mccy.gov.sg
Address: Family Link @ Lengkok Bahru, 8 Lengkok Bahru, #03-01, Singapore 159052

Law Society Pro Bono Services
Community Legal Clinics
Tel: 6536 0650
Email address: ProBonoServices@lawsoc.org.sg
Address: Community Justice Centre, Level 1, The State Courts of Singapore

During Divorce

If you have begun your divorce, you may realise or agree that the challenges and difficulties presented during a divorce can be like waging a war -- especially on the issues of assets division, spousal/child maintenance, and child custody (custody, care and control, and access).

More often than not, one of the biggest concerns of any parent going through a divorce or separation is child custody.

Very briefly, in matrimonial law, the relationship between parents and children is seen in terms of custody, care and control, and access:

  • Custody: Responsibility over the upbringing and education of the child, i.e. decision-making power over important aspects of the child’s life
  • Care and control: Authority and responsibility over the day-to-day matters of the child, child resides with this parent
  • Access: Regular hours of contact with the child, e.g. one day during the weekend, or partial weekday too, overnight access

Do consult a lawyer as circumstances may vary and your situation might be different from that of someone else’s.

Read also: Understanding Divorce and Custody of Child in Singapore

Emotional Considerations

The conflict between you and your spouse during divorce often raises feelings of anger, regret, remorse and depression. These feelings are normal.

We also understand that having young and dependent children may make your task even more challenging as you try to shield them from the anger, conflict and upheaval of a divorce.

In any case, try to stay calm and positive -- use the divorce as an opportunity for growth. 

Emotional stages of divorce

Although different people experience or react differently to divorce, there are however some common emotional stages when a person is going through a divorce.  It is common to have emotions moving back and forth between the stages.

Knowing and understanding the different stages you may be in can help you navigate the journey in a healthier way.  Have a read at these articles.

How to Cope Emotionally

Experiencing the emotional stages of divorce is like riding a roller coaster, but you can get through it.

We have put together some resource articles and hope they can help you maintain a positive outlook and develop new coping skills during your divorce.

As you read, you will find out one good way to cope with divorce is to talk it out. Talk about your feelings and know that it’s to ask for help.  While it is normal to feel these emotions off and on, you should consult your doctor if you are experiencing these emotions daily for a prolonged period.

Available Helps

Helps are available.

1. Support groups for women currently going through divorce

We understand divorce can be difficult, complicated, emotional, stressful and energy-draining.

If you are recently divorced or are going through divorce proceedings now; if you feel lonely or helpless, and confused about how to rebuild your life after your recent divorce, you don’t have to go through it alone.

AWARE’s support group might be able to help. You can meet and learn from other women facing similar struggles. Together, you will learn ways to cope with the emotional upheavals, adapt to changes, restructure your lives meaningfully and embrace this new stage of life with hope and positivity.

2. Single Parent Support Group

HELP Family Service Centre’s single parent support group programme encourages emotional support among single parents in a conducive environment; and facilitates recovery from loss, separation or divorce.  It aims to promote sharing among single parents so as to enhance coping as single parents.

3. Counselling

HELP Family Service Centre also offers counselling sessions (individual, joint or family) to address the different needs of individuals affected by divorce; and provides holistic care and support during and after divorce.

HELP Family Service Centre
Tel: 6457 5188 (Weekdays, 9am to 6pm)
Address: Block 570, Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, #01-3317, Singapore 560570

Joint MND-HDB Press Release: Measures to Support Housing Needs of Singaporeans

(Source: https://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/press-releases/joint-mnd-hdb-press-release-measures-to-support-housing-needs)

Supporting Vulnerable Families

To smoothen the housing transition for divorcees, divorcing parties will no longer have to wait until they have obtained the Final Judgement of divorce in order to apply for a flat.

Instead, starting from the May 2019 sales exercise, divorcing parties can apply for a new flat from HDB if they have obtained an Interim Judgement of divorce and have settled the ancillary matters on their matrimonial property, and the custody, care and control of their children.

Each party will be subject to eligibility criteria like all flat applicants.

They must also obtain the Final Judgement of divorce before key collection, and ensure that they remain eligible for the flat that they had booked. 

 For more details, please approach HDB directly.

Family Assist

When you are facing strains in your marriage, considering divorce, or beginning divorce proceedings, things can feel very overwhelming.

Explore the information, resources and tips available in Family Assist to make decisions, strengthen your marriage, manage the divorce proceedings, and mitigate the impact of divorce.

Overview of Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs) and Strengthening Families Programme@Family Service Centres

The Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs) and Strengthening Families Programme@Family Service Centres (FAM@FSCs) provide specialised services and programmes for divorcing and divorced families. These support services include counselling and case management.

DSSAs/FAM@FSCs are staffed by trained counsellors and social workers. They are equipped with specialised skills to handle divorce matters. 

There are two DSSAs and four FAM@FSCs under the Ministry of Social and Family Development that provide support and care to families through a strong child-centric approach. 

The programmes offered aim to:

  • highlight the impact divorce has on children, and
  • encourage cooperative co-parenting. 

DSSA/FAM@FSC Services 

The DSSAs/FAM@FSCs provide these services:

  • Pre-divorce Mandatory Parenting Programme;
  • Information and non-legal advice on divorce-related financial and housing issues;
  • Case management;
  • Counselling; and
  • Support groups. 

They also run evidence-based programmes to help parents and children cope with the changes in their family structure. 

Read more about the divorce support programmes available for families.

DSSAs/FAM@FSCs Locations 

There are two DSSAs:

  • HELP Family Service Centre 
  • PPIS As-Salaam Family Support Centre  

There are four FAM@FSCs:

  • Strengthening Families Programme@FSC (Care Corner - Eunos)
  • Strengthening Families Programme@FSC (Thye Hua Kwan - Commonwealth)
  • Strengthening Families Programme@FSC (AMKFSC - Ang Mo Kio)
  • Strengthening Families Programme@FSC (Fei Yue - Choa Chu Kang)
  • Strengthening Families Programme@FSC (Montfort Care - Kreta Ayer)

For more details, please see DSSA/FAM@FSC locations

How to File for Divorce

Since divorce is the legal procedure that ends a marriage, you are strongly advised to consult a lawyer to understand your legal rights and options. You will be advised on whether you are eligible to file for divorce and what you are required to do. The lawyer will then prepare the necessary legal documents on your behalf.

Words of Advice

Couples are encouraged to seek resources such as marriage counselors to see if the marriage can possibly be saved.  Therefore, before proceeding you may wish to consult a counselor to explore the impact this move will have on you and your family so that can be more emotionally prepared for the process or to explore other alternatives.

When these options have been explored and no compromise can be found; it is wise to seek legal counsel.  Hence, if you decide to proceed, you will need to see a lawyer for advice and assistance. The lawyer will advise you on whether you can file for divorce and, if so, will prepare the necessary legal documents on your behalf.

Helps are available.

Legal advice

Speak to a lawyer to know your legal rights and options.

If you do not already have a lawyer, you can consider attending AWARE’s free legal clinic to consult a lawyer about divorce proceedings and related matters, or other issues such as family violence and harassment. 

AWARE offers a free legal clinic to women twice a month (second and fourth Thursday evening of every month). For a one-time consultation, the lawyers can explain your legal rights and options in a wide range of areas at a one-time consultation.  You must make an appointment for the legal clinic in advance by calling the Helpline.

To be eligible for AWARE’s free legal clinic, you shouldn't have already engaged a lawyer and your monthly income does not exceed $4,000.

Click here for FAQs about the free legal clinic.

AWARE Free Legal Clinic
Helpline: 1800 777 5555 (Mondays to Fridays, 3pm to 9.30pm)
Email address: helpline@aware.org.sg
Address: AWARE Center, 5 Dover Crescent, #01-22, Singapore 130005

Other Free Legal Clinics
For other free legal clinics, click LegalClinics.sg. You will find contact details and eligibility there.

If you are a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident and have never sought legal advice before, and/or are unable afford a lawyer, you may call Law Society to make an appointment for free basic legal advice at their Community Legal Clinics, on a one-to-one basis for 20 minutes.  These clinics run Mondays to Thursdays (excluding public holidays and eve of public holidays). 

Take note that registration is required before an appointment can be made for consultation at the Community Legal Clinic.

To register for an appointment, you may choose to:

  • Call them at 6536 0650;
  • Send an email to Law Society Pro Bono Services; or

You may also find the LegalHelp website (www.legalhelp.com.sg) useful. LegalHelp is supported by a network of local lawyers who have volunteered to contribute their time and effort to help those in need.

In the event that you are unable to get an appointment at our Community Legal Clinics, you may wish to consult the other clinics listed here for free legal advice.

TIP: Always Call First

Most legal clinics do not cater to walk-ins (i.e. you usually need to register first). Even for clinics which permit walk-ins, call first to confirm they are available for consultation. These clinics are typically run by volunteers, and schedules are subject to change.

Counselling

If you would like to work through the emotional issues surrounding your marriage, consider speaking to a helpliner at AWARE or have a counselling session with one of their counselors.  

AWARE Counselling
Helpline: 1800 777 5555 
Email address: helpline@aware.org.sg
Address: AWARE Center, 5 Dover Crescent, #01-22, Singapore 130005

It can be distressing to experience difficulties in your marriage, your family, or with parenting. When you are feeling overwhelmed, your work, relationships, physical and emotional health may also be affected. In collaboration with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the Community Psychology Hub (CPH) has developed an online counselling service for individuals facing marital, divorce, parenting, and/or family difficulties.

 

Housing Measures to Help Divorced and Widowed Parents in Transition

For single parents who face changes in housing arrangements following a divorce or the loss of their spouse, help is available. 

Employment Leave Schemes

Unpaid Infant Care Leave (child below age of 2)

As a working parent you are entitled to 6 days of unpaid infant care leave a year, regardless of the number of children.

Eligibility:

  • Your child is below 2 years of age.
  • Your child is a Singapore Citizen.
  • You have served your employer for a continuous period of at least 3 months.

In addition to 6 days of unpaid infant care leave a year, you are also entitled to 6 days of paid childcare leave if your child is a Singapore Citizen and below the age of 7 (see below).

Paid Child Care Leave (child below age of 7)

As a working parent, you are entitled to 6 days of paid child care leave a year, regardless of the number of children.  Your youngest child must be a Singapore Citizen and below the age of 7.

Eligibility:

  • Your youngest child is below 7 years old.
  • Your child is a Singapore Citizen.
  • For employees: You must have served your current employer for a continuous period of at least 3 months.
  • For self-employed: You must be engaged in your business, trade or profession for a continuous period of at least 3 months.

Extended Child Care Leave (child age between 7 and 12)

As a working parent, you are entitled to 2 days of paid extended child care leave a year, regardless of the number of children.  Your youngest child must be a Singapore Citizen and between 7 and 12 years old.

Eligibility:

  • Your youngest child is between 7 and 12 years old, both inclusive.
  • Your child is a Singapore Citizen.
  • For employees: You must have served your current employer for a continuous period of at least 3 months.
  • For self-employed: You must be engaged in your business, trade or profession for a continuous period of at least 3 months.

What if I am not eligible?

If you are an employee covered under the Employment Act, you are entitled to 2 days of paid child care leave a year as long as your child is below 7 years old. More information can be found at Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) website.

Find out more information:

Ministry of Manpower (MOM)
Website: http://www.mom.gov.sg
Tel: 6438 5122 (Mondays to Fridays: 8.30am to 5.30pm; Saturdays: 8.30am to 1pm)
Address: MOM Services Centre, 1500 Bendemeer Road, Singapore 339946

Education And Care Schemes

Infant Care / Child Care

What is it:

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) provides 2 types of subsidies to help parents lessen the cost of infant care (for children aged 2 to 18 months) and child care (for children aged above 18 months to below 7 years old) services.

The 2 subsidies are Basic Subsidy and Additional Subsidy.  Click here for more information.

For more information (e.g. amount of subsidies, eligibility, determination of household income, application procedure, etc.), refer to this link and also FAQ for Centre-based Infant and Child Care Subsidies.

To search preschools , click here (Preschool search portal).

Find out how much subsidy you’re eligible for here.

Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)
Website: https://www.ecda.gov.sg
Address: 51 Cuppage Road, #08-01, Singapore (229469)
Tel: 6735 9213

ComCare Child Care Subsidies

What is it:

ComCare Child Care Subsidy is a further child care financial assistance given to low income families with extenuating circumstances.

Applications can be made through the child care centre if the families are unable to afford childcare fees even after the Basic and Additional Subsidies. They can also apply for a one-time grant to cover the initial start-up costs of enrolling a child in the centre.

For more information, please approach the child care centre your child is enrolled in.

Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (KiFAS)

Given Basic and Additional Subsidies are only applicable for children enrolled in ECDA-licensed child care centres, you may be wondering if there are any equivalent subsidy enhancements for kindergartens.

What is it:

The Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) helps parents defray their children's kindergarten fees and is administered by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). From January 2020, KiFAS will be extended to families with Singapore citizen children attending kindergarten programmes run by Anchor Operators or the Ministry of Education, if their gross monthly household income is $12,000 and below. Eligible low-income families may also apply for a yearly grant to cover the start-up costs of enrolling their children in the kindergarten. 

More information can be found on the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)'s website.

Eligible families may apply for KiFAS through the kindergarten. 

Start Up Grant (SUG)

What is it:

For additional financial assistance, parents whose Singapore Citizen child is enrolled in an AOP or MOE kindergarten may apply for Start Up Grant (SUG) which can be used to pay for items such as the deposit, registration fee, uniforms and insurance fee.

Application should be made through your child’s kindergarten.

ComCare Student Care Financial Assistance (SCFA)

What is it:

The ComCare Student Care Financial Assistance (SCFA) provides subsidies for parents with children enrolled in student care services. As with most subsidies, families from lower income tiers will receive higher subsidy amounts.

Find out how much subsidy you’re eligible for here.

If you need more subsidy, request for the student care operator to make an appeal to a social worker from any Family Service to obtain a Letter of Recommendation.

ComCare and Social Support Division (MSF)
Website: www.msf.gov.sg/ComCare
Tel: 1800 222 0000 (Mondays to Sundays, 7am - 12 midnight)
Address: 512 Thomson Road, #15-00 MSF Building, Singapore 298136

Financial assistance for education

Singapore Citizens in financial need can get assistance on school fees and other expenses. This applies to government, government-aided, specialised and some independent schools. 

MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (MOE FAS)

MOE FAS provides lower-income Singaporean families with financial assistance for school fees and other expenses. Click here to find out more the benefits, eligibility and application process.
 
Learn if your child is eligible using the Financial assistance eligibility checker.
 

Awards and scholarships

Click here to learn about the different merit-based awards and scholarships available. 

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