Process of Divorce for Expats in Singapore: What to Know

Process of Divorce for Expats in Singapore: What to Know
11 Sep 2021

Divorce is never an easy process but for expatriates or foreigners in Singapore, it can be even more complicated. With a number of considerations to be made during the proceedings, there is also the issue of jurisdiction to address.

This article will help you navigate the process of divorcing as an expat and what needs to be done so that your rights are protected before and after the divorce is finalised.

Can expats divorce in Singapore?

Yes, you can file for a divorce in Singapore. However, in accordance with Section 93 of the Women’s Charter, you must first meet the criteria. An expat must be:

  1. living in Singapore during the commencement of the divorce proceedings
  2. OR habitually resident in Singapore for a minimum of 3 years before the filing of the divorce.

Take note that apart from divorce, you also have the option of annulment. If successful, this will render the marriage as void or voidable - meaning the marriage never existed. To be eligible, both parties must be residing in Singapore and commence annulment proceedings within 3 years of your marriage.

Can I apply for divorce overseas instead?

As the jurisdiction of another country may offer an advantage to one party in divorce proceedings, it is a common scenario for both parties to disagree over where the divorce proceedings should commence. Should there be a conflict, you may consider applying for a “stay of proceedings” to cease legal proceedings in Singapore.

Understanding the grounds of divorce

If you have decided to seek a court divorce in Singapore, you must prove any one of the following in pursuant to Section 95(3) of the Women’s Charter:

  1. The defendant has committed adultery, making it impossible for the plaintiff to continue living with the defendant
  2. As a result of the defendant’s unreasonable behaviour, the plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with the defendant
  3. The defendant has deserted the plaintiff for at least 2 consecutive years immediately preceding the filing of the writ
  4. Both parties have lived separately for at least 3 consecutive years immediately preceding the filing of the writ and the defendant consents to a judgement being granted and/or
  5. Both parties have lived separately for at least 4 consecutive years immediately preceding the filing of the writ.

Upon establishing the ground of divorce where the marriage has irretrievably broken down, you can proceed onto the next phase of the divorce proceedings.

What the process entails

Division of matrimonial assets

Matrimonial assets overseas are also factored in as long as they fall under Section 112(10) of the Women’s Charter. This includes any asset acquired before or during the marriage by one party or both parties to the marriage.

However, it is possible for the court to decline dealing with overseas property, especially when it is of immovable nature. In this case, it must be determined by a foreign jurisdiction where the property is located.

Child custody, care and control

Also referred to as ancillary matters, the court will also determine which party shall obtain custody, care and control of the child if he or she is below the age of 21 years old. 

Once the divorce is finalised, children below 21 can continue staying in Singapore as dependents under the custodial parent.

Note that should you be granted custody and decide to relocate with your children in the near future, you must first obtain the written consent of the non-custodial parent. Furthermore, you must apply for the court’s permission before proceeding to move abroad. When done otherwise with no consent, you may be held liable for child abduction under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Get in Touch

Overall, the dissolution of marriage can be difficult enough on its own - it only gets harder for expats who are not entirely familiar with the process in Singapore. It is thus good to engage someone with the legal expertise to represent you throughout your divorce. Get in touch with our team of experienced divorce lawyers at Harry Elias today.

For more information, please contact our Business Development Manager, Ricky Soetikno, at