Getting a Divorce in Singapore: Difference in Contested vs Uncontested Legal Costs, Timeline, Maintenance Fees

Getting a Divorce in Singapore Difference in Contested vs Uncontested Legal Costs, Timeline, Maintenance Fees

The divorce rate in Singapore is relatively low because the only grounds for divorce in this country has, up until recently, been the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Even so, spouses can agree to marriage dissolution.

Things are rarely pleasant in this case, either. That is why you have to understand and prepare for your divorce expenses.

How much does divorce cost in Singapore? The guide below takes you through all the fees you can expect, from start to finish, with plenty of examples to help you understand.

Read more below. 

Can I Divorce Immediately In Singapore?

You cannot divorce immediately in Singapore. If your marriage lasted for less than three years, you can:

  • Ask for an annulment instead of a divorce.
  • Prove that your marriage was ridden with exceptional hardship. Examples include violence and adultery in your presence.

If you have been married for over three years, you must meet certain conditions to obtain a divorce, proving:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion of two years
  • Desertion of three years and more with the other spouse’s consent

Note: The Singapore Parliament passed a bill for amicable divorce in January 2022. This bill allows couples to separate legally without providing exceptional circumstances.

Warning: The conditions above do not apply to Muslim people. In this case, you will have to follow the legal steps according to Sharia to obtain a divorce.

How Long Does A Divorce Take In Singapore?

Divorce proceedings are lengthy in Singapore. Your divorce will usually be finalised within six months to a year if both parties agree to the divorce. 

This is called an uncontested divorce.

Contested divorces will take over a year, though, because the spouses do not agree to the divorce conditions. And obviously, the divorce fee in Singapore for such cases is much higher.

Here is why:

Your divorce will go through two stages:

  • Dissolution of marriage: The Family Justice Court assesses the situation to evaluate if you have a strong enough reason to divorce.
  • Ancillary matters: In this second stage, the Court decides on your assets, alimony and custody. If you can agree on these issues, your divorce will be approved faster.

That brings us to the following point:

How much does divorce cost in Singapore? 

How Much Does It Cost To Get Divorce In Singapore?

The cost of divorce in Singapore depends on three factors:

  1. The type of divorce you have (i.e., contested or uncontested)
  2. Division of marital assets
  3. Alimony for spouse and existing children

We will break these down below:

1. Divorce Costs In Singapore According To Divorce Type

An uncontested divorce fee in Singapore is much lower than that for a contested divorce:

  • Uncontested: $1,500-$3,500
  • Contested: $13,000-$35,000

As you can see, the average cost for an uncontested divorce is $2,500, whereas the average cost for a contested divorce in Singapore is $24,000.

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This difference stems from the complications that arise. Each new variable in a contested divorce requires additional fees.

We will explain these below.

Uncontested Divorce 

Uncontested divorce variables include:

  • Common properties
  • Children below the age of 21
  • The required maintenance fee for spouse

As such, a couple agreeing to the divorce will apply for an uncontested divorce. The simple uncontested divorce procedures entail:

  • No shared properties
  • No underage children
  • No need for spouse alimony

In this case, the divorce lawyer fees in Singapore round up to $1,500.

A complicated uncontested divorce entails the existence of one or more variables from the list above:

  • Underage children
  • Requirement for maintenance fee
  • Shared properties

If both parties agree, the divorce fees in Singapore for a complicated uncontested divorce reach $2,500-$3,500.

Contested Divorce Singapore Cost

You will apply for a contested divorce if you and your spouse do not agree on certain terms. One common variable leading to a contested divorce is usually the custody agreement.

In this case, the divorce fee in Singapore is much higher because you will need more mediation sessions.

The more sessions you need, the more your lawyer will charge you. That is why it is in your interest to settle matters privately to decrease your divorce lawyer fee.

Contested divorce variables entail:

  • Filing of Pleading & Attending Status Conferences: $2,500-$3,500
  • Trial: $5,000-$15,000. You can pay this amount in a lump sum or installments
    • $5,000-$10,000: First two days
    • $1,500-$4,000: Subsequent days
  • Divorce lawyer fees Singapore: Divorce lawyer fees in Singapore can be grouped into two categories:
    • Divorce hourly rate (depending on the lawyer’s expertise and seniority):
  • Junior associates: $350/hour
  • Senior associates: $500/hour
  • Partners: $800/hour
  • Pre-divorce fee (the consultation price before hiring the lawyer):
  • Junior associates: $350/hour
  • Senior associates: $500/hour
  • Partners: $800/hour

Note: In uncomplicated, uncontested divorce matters, you will only have to pay the flat fee package, typically between $1,200 and $3,500. 

2. Divorce Costs In Singapore Depending on Matrimonial Assets

To understand how the division of your marital assets affects your divorce costs, it is essential to understand how these assets are divided.

But first, what assets does the Court consider? 

These assets include things that one or both spouses acquired:

  • After getting married (anything from clothes to cars or loans)
  • Before getting married, but only if they improved those things substantially during the marriage (e.g., a property that has been renovated extensively)
  • For their children (e.g., an education loan)

Remember: Gifts or inheritance are excluded from this list unless they have been improved considerably during the marriage.

The Court categorises this assets’ provenance as:

  • Direct: From a specific source, such as salary or dividends
  • Indirect: From a mediated source, such as home maintenance or family care. 

For example, one husband’s income is considered a direct contribution to the family’s well-being. But if the wife stayed home with the children and cared for the husband’s meals or clothes, her contribution to this obtained income is considered indirect.

Remember: As a rule of thumb, the proportion of direct vs indirect contributions is 60-40.

As such, a sole working husband can have 60% of the value of shared marital assets, while the stay-at-home spouse is entitled to 40%.

This is just a general rule. Your specific case may be different:

  • Courts in Singapore usually value indirect contributions more the longer the marriage has been. By comparison, direct contributions are perceived as more important in shorter marriages.
  • The parent who gets children’s custody may be granted access to more assets.
  • The Court may favour a stay-at-home spouse with an obvious disadvantage in the marketplace.
  • If one of the spouses has obtained massive wealth or multiple assets during the marriage, their direct contributions will be weightier. 
  • Not all indirect contributions are valued the same. For example, housekeeping is appreciated less if you had domestic help. By comparison, a stay-at-home spouse who renounced a stellar career to care for the family will have their indirect contributions valued higher.

Costs include:

  • Attending mediation charges: $500-$2,000/ session or hourly fee
    • Ancillary settlement: $5,000-$15,000 that you can pay in a lump sum or at each attendance ($2,500 to S$4,500 per affidavit). Alternatively, your lawyer may charge you at their hourly rate. This portion of your contested divorce includes:
      • Mediation
      • Case conference
      • Affidavits for your assets and means
      • The hearing for any contested ancillary matters
  • Contested ancillary matters’ hearing: If you challenge any assets, the Court will have to meet again and decide on these matters. Uncomplicated hearings last only half a day, while complicated ones can last up to five. Costs include:
  • Drafting and filing or written submissions:
  • Lump-sum fee: $5,000-$15,000
  • Hourly rate: $350-$800
  • Per-service basis: $3,200-$5,000
  • Preparing for and attending the hearing:
  • Lump-sum fee: $5,000-$15,000
  • Hourly rate: $350-$800
  • Per-service basis: $1,500-$2,500

3. Divorce Costs In Singapore Depending On Maintenance Fees

Maintenance fees are established for:

  • Children below the age of 21
  • Spouses with significant economic disadvantages until they pass or remarry 

The longer the marriage has lasted, the higher the spouse’s alimony. By comparison, short marriages below six years might not entail spouse maintenance fees.

These maintenance fees can be repaid in a lump sum or monthly installments.

Costs entail:

  • Attending mediation charges: $500-$2,000/ session or hourly fee
  • Drafting and filing or written submissions:
  • Lump-sum fee: $5,000-$15,000
  • Hourly rate: $350-$800
  • Per-service basis: $3,200-$5,000

Who Pays The Costs In A Divorce?

In Singapore, the divorce cost is paid by both spouses. Typically, the person who petitioned the divorce (aka petitioner) pays for filling out the documents. After that:

  • Each spouse should handle their fees for lawyers, affidavits, and mediation sessions.
  • If both parties consent to the divorce conditions, they can share the overall legal costs.

If you have trouble paying for your divorce, you should not make unwanted compromises. You also shouldn’t extend the divorce proceedings too much because your children may suffer more in this case.

Instead, you can always consider a loan from a licensed money lender in Singapore.

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