The Basis of Divorce in Singapore

The first fact – Adultery – Part I

Divorce lawyers are all too familiar with clients telling them that they want a divorce on the basis that they and their once significant others can’t get along. Whilst this is generally the case, from a legal perspective, your lawyer will require more information than mere inability to get along with your spouse.

Let’s examine first the ground for divorce. In a nutshell, there is only 1 ground and this is:

The Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage

However, that alone is insufficient. Irretrievable breakdown of marriage has to be proven and there are 5 ways to do this, also known as the 5 ‘facts’ of divorce. These are:

  • Where one party commits adultery and the other finds it intolerable to live with him or her
  • Where one party behaves in such a way that it is unreasonable for the victim to continue living with that party
  • Where one party deserts the other for a continuous period of 2 years
  • Where both parties have been living apart for 3 years and the party who is not initiating divorce proceedings consents to the divorce; and finally
  • Where both parties have been living apart for 4 years. In this case, consent is not required.

You will have to rely upon and prove any one of the above to the satisfaction of the Court if you intend to bring your marriage to an end.

Let’s look at the first fact – Adultery

  • Adultery takes place when a husband/wife of his/her own volition has sexual relations with another person.
  • It is critical for the party proving adultery to show that adultery has taken place and that the party finds it intolerable to live with that spouse.
  • If these ingredients are proven, the Court will usually hold that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
  • What kind of evidence do you need to prove adultery?
    Well, that very much depends on whether the spouse who has committed or committing adultery admits that he/she has committed adultery. If he/she admits the adultery, then the divorce will proceed on an uncontested basis and the Court will grant judgment but if that spouse denies the adultery, then it would be advisable, indeed imperative that you obtain a private investigator’s report, which can be costly.
  • The problem is, one has no idea how the other spouse is going to respond to an allegation of adultery and it would be advisable to first procure cogent proof of adultery if one is proceeding on this basis.
  • However, the lack of evidence of the adultery may not be entirely fatal. If you do have some evidence of your spouse having a relationship with another person, you could allege ‘improper association’ and commence divorce on the basis of the 2nd fact, which is generically known as ‘unreasonable behaviour’. We shall deal with this in part 2.
  • However, it is critical that once you are aware of the adultery, that you take decisive action one way or the other and by this we mean, either commence proceedings or try to save the marriage. Saving the marriage is always possible provided you and your spouse are like minded and this is to be encouraged and supported. However, in the unfortunate event that you have decided to end the marriage, the law provides that if you and your spouse continue to live together for a total of 6 months or more after learning of the adultery, you cannot rely on that act of adultery to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably as you would be deemed to have forgiven your spouse.

*In part 2, we shall deal with the second fact, unreasonable behaviour.