In our increasingly globalized world, it is common for a couple who got married overseas to want to settle down for either the short or long haul in another country. Unfortunately, a couple in a foreign land is not immune to the stresses of marriage and may in fact face greater strain as they find themselves miles away from their family and loved ones. As a result, there has been an uptick of foreigners who wish to file for a divorce in Singapore – if you are one of those individuals, here are some points you should consider.
Does the Singapore Court have jurisdiction?
In order to successfully file for a divorce in Singapore, the Singapore courts first need to have jurisdiction to hear your case.
According to Section 93 of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353), the Singapore courts will have jurisdiction if either you or your spouse are
- domiciled in Singapore at the time of the commencement of the proceedings; or
- habitually resident in Singapore for a period of 3 years immediately preceding the commencement of the proceedings.
Singapore citizens are presumed to have been domiciled in Singapore, unless proven otherwise, and the period of 3 years under limb (b) will not be affected if the person has travelled briefly within the time frame in question.
Aside from the above requirements, the couple must have been married for at least 3 years before divorce proceedings can be commenced in Singapore.
What if I do not satisfy the 3 years requirement as a habitual resident?
If the requirement is not satisfied, you can file for a divorce only if you are able to prove that you have the intention to be domiciled in Singapore. In other words, you must show you want to make Singapore your permanent home and have no contingency plans of moving back to your home country. Acts such as being a Singapore Permanent Resident and/or applying for Singapore Citizenship go towards proving such an intention.
What if my spouse wants to file for a divorce overseas, but I want to file for a divorce in Singapore?
In such a case, you can apply for a stay of proceedings in the other country. Thereafter, you can file for a divorce in Singapore. However, it is important to note that it is likely your spouse will file for a stay of proceedings in Singapore and you will then have to defend this application.
In deciding if a stay should be granted, the Court will assess whether Singapore is the more appropriate forum to hear the divorce. This is determined through connecting factors such as residency and domicile of the parties, convenience of hearing the matter in Singapore, etc.
What will my immigration status be after the divorce?
If you are an Employment Pass holder, your immigration status remains unchanged. However, if you are on a Dependent’s Pass, your ability to stay in Singapore is dependent on your status as a spouse and you will have to leave Singapore within 14 days after the divorce is granted.
If you are a holder of a Dependent’s Pass and wish to continue residing in Singapore, you may source for a job locally and obtain an Employment Pass in your own name.
At the end of the day, divorce proceedings are often highly stressful periods for an individual and it is recommended that sound legal advice from a Singapore divorce lawyer is attained in this process.