For anyone going through a divorce in Singapore – the team at Consilium Law answers your questions around divorce including child maintenance, alimony, custody and change in financial circumstances later on down the line.
When we separated, my husband and I signed an agreement on the manner of dividing our matrimonial assets. In the event of a divorce, will this be taken into account?
In Singapore, matrimonial assets are divided as the court thinks just and equitable. In making such an order, the court will take into consideration all the relevant circumstances of the case, including any agreement entered into between the parties for the division of matrimonial assets in contemplation of a divorce.
Am I entitled to a share of the matrimonial assets if I wasn’t working throughout the marriage?
In assessing what is a just and equitable division of the matrimonial assets, the court takes into consideration parties’ direct and indirect contributions made during the marriage, before coming to a final contribution ratio. These include:
• contributions towards acquiring and improving the asset;
• debts and liabilities incurred for the joint benefit of parties or their children;
• needs of the children;
• contributions to the welfare of the family. It’s therefore possible that the non-working party made indirect contributions and, in such an event, that party would be entitled to a portion of the matrimonial assets.
Am I entitled to claim a share of an asset that was purchased pre-marriage?
An asset acquired before marriage by either or both parties will be considered a matrimonial asset if it has been enjoyed by the parties or their children, or if it has been substantially improved during the marriage by the other or both parties.
My husband is due to receive a large inheritance. Am I entitled to a share of this?
Generally, gifts and inheritance falls outside the ambit of a matrimonial asset, unless it has been substantially improved upon by the other or both parties.
When we got divorced, my ex-husband was not ordered to pay me any maintenance. Can I apply to vary this in order that he pays me something?
The Court is only able to vary an order on maintenance if your husband was ordered to pay you at least a nominal $1 in monthly maintenance at the time of the final divorce hearing. If no order for maintenance was made in the divorce proceedings, you’re not entitled to subsequently seek maintenance after the divorce by way of a variation.
I was recently retrenched and can’t pay the maintenance to my wife that the court ordered. Can I apply to have the orders on maintenance varied?
An application for a variation can be requested at any point. In order for it to be successful, you must be able to demonstrate that there has been a material change in the circumstances (loss of job, for instance), or that the original order was based on a misrepresentation or mistake of fact.
An application for a variation is made by summons together with a supporting affidavit stating the reasons you are seeking to vary the order and including documents in support of these reasons. Your wife will also be given the opportunity to respond by way of affidavit.
Should the matter proceed for a trial, the court will take into account all the circumstances of the case and consider the reasonableness of the claim in order to decide if the circumstances have significantly changed such as to warrant variation of the original order.
What’s the difference between “custody” and “care and control”?
In Singapore, custody refers to the major decisions relating to the child’s upbringing, health, education and religion. The governing principle in this area of law and in any matter concerning a child is the best interests and welfare of the child. Generally, the court favours joint custody arrangements where both parents share in these higher-level decisions. It is only in exceptional circumstances that the court will likely depart from its inclination to make a joint custody order.
Singapore law contemplates a second category of parental rights and obligations, “care and control”, which deals with day-to-day decisions. There are numerous considerations that a judge considers in awarding care and control, and a myriad of orders that may be made in the child’s best interest, including granting one parent – the primary caregiver – sole care and control, or orders for shared care and control, where a child alternates between living with both parents.
My ex-spouse was awarded care and control of our two children. What does this mean for me and my ability to spend time with my children?
The parent without care and control is usually given access rights, including visitation, phone communication, video calls, and any such order a court might deem appropriate. Access ranges from being liberal to quite restrictive and supervised. The latter generally occurs in cases where the risk of abuse, in one form or another, is existent. Once again, the court will primarily consider the best interests and welfare of the child in determining what a proper access order would be.
Note that in orders to do with custody, care and control, and access, the courts have a fair amount of discretion in fashioning a solution that best accords with the facts at hand.
My ex-husband refuses to provide financial support for our child. How do I get him to pay? Can I prevent him from seeing our child?
Parents have a joint obligation to contribute child maintenance. Should your ex-husband refuse to do so, you may apply to the Family Justice Courts for a maintenance order that he pays a monthly allowance or lump sum if you sufficiently prove that he has neglected/refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the child.
The Court considers maintenance and parenting issues separately. So, even if he has not been paying maintenance, this does not allow you to restrict his access to the child.
My son is 21; does this mean his father no longer has to financially provide for him?
Although parents are only obliged to maintain a child up until they attain the age of 21, the obligation may extend beyond this age if the child is financially dependent on his parents; for example, if he has a disability, is undergoing full-time National Service, receiving instruction at an academic establishment, undergoing training for a trade, profession or vocation or other special circumstances.
How will the judge assess the amount of maintenance to order for my child?
The Court will have regard to all circumstances and consider whether the child has any disabilities, his financial needs, income and earning capacity (if any), the ages of the child and intended payor, standard of living the child has been brought up to expect and the manner in which the child is expected to be educated and trained.
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For more helpful tips head to our living in Singapore section.