There aren’t many of us who know all the ins and outs of the law in Singapore, so more often than not, we need some legal help – whether it’s about writing a will, adopting a child, mediation or filing for a divorce. We asked four legal professionals to break it down for us.
Filing for divorce
We asked the team from Hoh Law Corporation about the process of getting a divorce.
Step 1: Settle reasons for divorce and other issues
- Agree on the reason for the divorce and other matters such as children and matrimonial assets.
Step 2: Agree on child-related arrangements
- These include custody, care, control and visiting rights.
- You will not need to attend counselling at the Mandatory Parenting Programme (parents of children below 14 years) if you reach an agreement.
Step 3: Submission of divorce papers in court
- The defendant can choose to contest the divorce within 8 days.
- In the meantime, attend counselling and mediation at the Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC) to facilitate the agreement.
- If both give mutual consent to the reason for divorce and ancillary issues, the judge will grant an Interim Judgment and record a draft Consent Order.
- The Certificate of Making Interim Judgment Final can be ready within six to eight months.
Step 4: If there is disagreement over ancillary issues
- You can file two rounds of statements to make your claims known.
- It could also include a lengthy and costly process of going through each party’s financial documents.
- The process can span from six months to three years.
- After it is settled, the Certificate of Making Interim Judgment Final will be extracted.
Adopting a child
We hear from Jenny Lai from Jenny Lai & Co. about the process of adoption in Singapore.
Step 1: Find out if you meet adoption requirements
- In Singapore, your residency status, age, marital status and nationality affects your ability to adopt.
- Foreigners require endorsement by country of citizenship.
- Apply for a home study report if necessary, otherwise obtain a waiver from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
- Read more on the MSF website.
Step 2: Attend the pre-adoption briefing
- During the compulsory 2.5 hour session, learn about the adoption process, your rights and your responsibilities. Also, learn about your adopted child’s needs and avenues for support.
Step 3: Identifying a child
- Find a child on your own or get the help of MSF.
- Ensure no country laws are breached, the source is legal and notarised parental consent is given.
Step 4: Apply to Family Court
- Get the help of a lawyer after the child is identified.
- Family Court will direct MSF to conduct a home visit – an assessment of family and adoption circumstances.
- If all is approved, an Adoption Order is made.
- The Court will send it to the Registry of Births and Deaths and a new birth certificate (with the names of the adoptive parent or parents) will be issued for your child.
- Application to final order can take six to 12 months.
Undergoing divorce mediation
Franca Ciambella from Consilium Law tells us what to expect during the process of divorce mediation.
Step 1: Choose either court-mandated or private mediation
- Court-mandated mediation focuses mainly on child-related issues like maintenance, custody and visitation rights.
- Private mediation is not time-restricted and it addresses “soft” issues like children’s diet.
- Usually one type is sufficient, but you may try the other if one doesn’t work out.
- It’s important that you and your partner are willing to do the mediation for it to be successful.
Step 2: Attend pre-mediation
- Be clear of issues and the outcome you desire.
- You can choose to have your mediation session immediately after or have a break to think things through.
Step 3: Attend mediation
- For both sessions, prepare documents including a matrimonial asset list, expense tables and timetables for visitation. Items discussed depend on individual needs.
- For the private session, bring your ID. For the court session, bring documents such as passports, Employment Passes and marriage certificates.
- You can bring another person for emotional support, with the consent of both parties.
Step 4: Reach an agreement
- The session usually lasts one day, depending on the ability to reach a resolution.
- Sign a legally binding agreement.
- The process takes an average of two weeks, depending on the time between pre-mediation and mediation.
Writing a will
Chris Potter from Chartwell Associates explains how to go about crafting a will.
Step 1: Note down important items and people
- Reference your assets including property, bank accounts and insurance policies. Attach a detailed list for easy revision.
- Choose a person or people (executors) to carry out the instructions in your will, and include backups.
- Choose a guardian or guardians to look after your children. If they live overseas, include a temporary guardian.
- Include any assets you want to give to friends, family or charity.
- Name people that will inherit your assets and consider setting up a Trust for younger or disabled children.
- Add in funeral arrangements if you have any special requests.
Step 2: Consider adding a “Memorandum”
- If you have young children or require more details, create this document with thorough guidance for executors and guardians. Update it as you require.
Step 3: Nominate someone to look after your affairs
- Though it’s not part of will-writing, this is something you should address simultaneously.
- A Lasting Power of Attorney will give legal authority to someone (e.g. your spouse) to act on your behalf if you face physical issues that affect your judgement, including accident, old age or mental illness.
Step 4: Make your will known and keep it updated
- Tell your loved ones about your will and where you keep it.
- Review your will regularly.