Differences between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Singapore

Regardless of the reasons underlying a couple’s decision to have a divorce, there are two standard procedures that a divorce settlement can follow – an uncontested divorce, and a contested divorce. Both procedures aim to achieve as much as possible of a consensus between both parties as to the terms of the divorce settlement, with the Court reviewing the reasons put forth by both parties along with other considerations. While the timeline is not the same across all divorce cases, there are certain considerations and processes which may shorten or lengthen the divorce procedure, depending on the type of divorce undertaken.

Uncontested Divorce

Also known as a ‘simplified divorce’, the parties involved in an uncontested divorce share a mutual agreement and acceptance of the major terms in the divorce settlement. Typical issues include child custody, maintenance for the child or spouse, the division of property, along with citing the reason for the divorce. This agreement is either achieved through a Singapore divorce mediator, or by the parties’ own negotiations prior to filing the divorce papers in Court.

Uncontested Divorce Procedure

Following the agreement between both parties, the relevant documents and Statements of Claims required to start the divorce proceedings will be collected on the plaintiff’s behalf by an appointed divorce lawyer. A Memorandum of Appearance will then be filed by the defendant, declaring his or her agreement with the Statement of Claims put forth by the plaintiff. Subsequently, both parties will affirm the terms agreed upon in front of a Commissioner of Oaths, and the divorce lawyer will officially file the divorce papers with the Court.

Approximately a month after the papers have been filed, an Uncontested Divorce hearing date will be assigned by the court for an Interim Divorce to be issued. Three months after the hearing has been held, the judge will then pass the Final Judgement to conclude and finalized your divorce.

Contested Divorce

Contrary to an uncontested divorce, a contested divorce occurs when both parties are unable to come to a mutual agreement on certain divorce terms, and require court intervention to resolve these differences. Contested divorce is complicated and acrimonious compared to uncontested ones.

Contested Divorce Procedure

The process begins with the plaintiff filing papers stating the reasons for divorce, which is carried out with the aid of a divorce lawyer. In response, the defendant files a Defence against the plaintiff’s basis for divorce. The plaintiff is then allowed to, but not obliged to, file a response to this defence.

After the submission of the necessary documents, a proposed Parenting Plan and proposed Matrimonial Property Plan are required to be submitted. Following this, both parties are also required to attend a Status Conference within a timeline of roughly six (6) weeks, during which a Family Law Judge will review the status of the divorce petition, ensure that all papers have been filed, and provide further instructions to relevant parties, if any, steps must be taken before an agreement can be attained between both parties.

At the stage, the parties can choose to enter divorce mediation as a means of addressing outstanding issues or take part in counselling sessions to try for reconciliation. Should all issues be successfully resolved, the case will then be carried out as an uncontested divorce.

Should an agreement fail to be reached at or following the Status Conference, another Case Conference will be scheduled by the Judge. At this juncture, the judge makes an assessment of the case proceedings and confirms that all filing requirements have been adhered to.

A contested hearing will be held should the parties still fail to reach an agreement. Attendance is mandatory for both parties, and relevant evidence if any will also be submitted at this point. An Interim Judgment will be granted following the hearing, and other ancillary matters will also be scheduled for at this point.

If an agreement still cannot be reached, the Court will set a date for a Contested Ancillary Matters Hearing. All evidence will be submitted at this hearing, and the Court will pass the “Order of the Court”. Both parties then have 14 days to file an appeal of the Order.

Three months after the Order has been given, either or both parties may submit a request for a Certificate of Final Judgment, finalising the divorce upon the certificate’s issue. Given the complexity of a contested divorce, the process usually takes place across a span of six months to a year.

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Provided by: Tan Leroy & Associates
Contributed by: Mario Khoe

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