In a perfect world, couples in love get married, grow old together and live happily ever after, till death do they part. In reality, more than 1 in 4 marriages end up in divorce or annulment, just in Singapore alone. It is a sobering figure, but many factors play a part in breaking up a marriage contract such as plain incompatibility. And at times, the ‘D’ word is brought out to the table during every shouting match.
There were higher-then-usual reports of domestic trouble during the COVID-19 period, and this may lead to a higher divorce rate down the road. Couples are forced to spend most of their time enclosed in a flat with little breathing space, and it is no surprise tempers may flare and plated get thrown around when the other half so much as breathe down his or her partner’s neck.
I know, because I’ve been there and was divorced after a 7-year marriage.
You may be toying with the idea of taking this irreversible step, or is simply curious for awareness sake. If you want to know more about divorce procedures and things to consider especially if you have children, read on.
First of all, a marriage is a legal contract and can only be dissolved through legal ways. According to Asia Law Network,
both parties have to be married for at least 3 years or demonstrate exceptional depravity or hardship (to be eligible for divorce). Such hardship may include extreme mental distress, physical or mental abuse or unusually cruel adultery.
In simple terms, a marriage is something you really have to take your time to consider getting into, because if you want to get out of it, you will need to wait a few years unless you are in danger, whether mentally or physically.
You must also provide valid grounds for divorce such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion for at least 2 years. So even if those angry feelings from last night’s quarrel about who washes the dishes is still fresh in your mind, you may not be eligible. And if your grounds for divorce do not fulfill the above criteria, you may have to consider separation, which brings us to the next point.
A common misconception about separation is that it is akin to a time-out. A legal separation is more than that – it needs to be a valid separation for the court to consider it as a ground for divorce. Therefore, the best way to anchor this to the ground is to draw up a Deed of Separation for both parties. This can be done via a lawyer or personally as there is no need for the Deed to be filed with any government department or court. The Deed contains information such as the agreement to live separately, living arrangements of children, if any, financial agreements or maintenance to upkeep the family and so on.
Both parties must sign the agreement, and when the Deed of Separation is invoked, both parties are free to live as if they were single – so if your spouse gets into another relationship during the separation period, he or she is free to do so, to put it bluntly.
This may be true in the olden days where the husband is the sole breadwinner. Today, more and more women are choosing to enter the workforce to earn their keep. If a woman earns and contributes to the household more than her husband, she may not be eligible for alimony.
Family courts today believe in the involvement of both father and mother even after a divorce. Therefore, it is not easy for the mother to claim sole custody of her children even if she wants to. Majority of custody cases in Singapore end up being shared custody instead. Of course, if the father was proven unfit to be a parent through actions such as physical abuse, the court may rule the custody in favour of the mother.
Well, this is a half-truth as most people get into a marriage thinking that it will last a lifetime so it can be a bitter pill to swallow. However, not all divorces are messy and painful. In fact, most divorces are resolved amicably without the need to even appear in court. This is the case for uncontested divorces. In such cases, lawyers will settle all the paperwork and all you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse need to do is to sign the papers.
Although there are pro-bono services for low- or no-income persons, divorce can rake up a pretty huge bill especially if you decide to take the contested route. Therefore, it is good to know your options and what you are getting into before you make that decision.
If staying at home with your spouse is making you stressed out, or if you are hitting the wall with where to go in terms of your marriage, consider making a call to the National CARE Hotline at 1800-202-6868.
If you are feeling stressed, anxious or alone and you need to talk to a trained professional, the National CARE Hotline is open 24/7. Over 400 psychologists, counsellors, social workers, psychiatrists and public officers have volunteered to man the hotline.
They will offer emotional support if you are feeling stressed over your job, finances, marital and family tensions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Their trained officers will also direct you to community and public resources, such as social service agencies or hospitals and polyclinics, should you require further assistance.
Other hotlines you can call include:
Marital and parenting issues
Violence or abuse