I want to get divorced

To get a divorce in the Family Court, you must:

  • Be a Singapore citizen / PR / have been living in Singapore for 3 continuous years immediately before the filing of a divorce application;
  • Have been married for at least 3 years;**
  • Show the court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down (find out what this means below).

*if you are married under Syariah law, you should file for a divorce under the Syariah Court instead.

**If you have been married for less than 3 years, you need special permission from the court to divorce. This special permission is only for extreme circumstances.

If you are still unsure, we encourage you to seek legal advice. You may apply for legal aid if you are unable to afford a lawyer.

The process largely depends on whether you and your spouse can agree on the divorce and ancillary matters. Ancillary matters are for example: division of assets, what to do about children under 21, and maintenance.

Divorce in the Family Courts happens in two main stages: 

  • Stage 1: to decide whether you and your spouse can divorce and the reasons for divorce (e.g., adultery, unreasonable behaviour, separation, desertion); and 
  • Stage 2: to decide on ‘ancillary matters’, which includes division of assets; custody, care and control of children; and maintenance.

Simplified track divorce
If both you and your spouse can agree on all matters (i.e., reasons for divorce and all ancillary matters) before going to court, you can file under the simplified track for a quick resolution.

This is the fastest and most cost-effective outcome. The following resources can help you:

Normal track divorce
If you do not agree about any of the parts of divorce (e.g., the reasons for divorce, the division of the matrimonial assets and house, the amount of maintenance to be paid), the divorce will proceed on the normal track, which takes about 12-18 months.

If you have children under 21, you and your spouse will also have to attend compulsory mediation and counselling to try to resolve the disagreements in a friendly way.

'Irretrievable breakdown of marriage' means the marriage is permanently broken and cannot be fixed. You can show this in one of 4 ways:

1. Unreasonable Behavior: If your spouse has done something such that you can't be reasonably expected to keep living with them, you can get divorced. Some examples of this are if your spouse: 

  • doesn't provide for you or your children financially;
  • is financially irresponsible;
  • cheats on you;
  • hurts you or your children;
  • has problems gambling; or
  • frequent and heated arguments about issues encountered in a marriage, such as child care, family finances, and the amount of household chores each spouse is doing.

It usually does not include situations where you just have small arguments, get bored with each other, or realize that you're just not a good match.

2. Separation:

  • For three years* with spouse’s agreement. You can get divorced if you and your spouse have lived apart for three years and you both agree to the divorce. 
  • For four years* without spouse's agreement. You can get divorced if you and your spouse have lived apart for at least four years. In this case, it does not matter whether or not the both of you agree to the divorce.

*If there is a break in separation (i.e., you come back together), you can count the period before and after the break only if the break lasted for less than 6 months.

3. Desertion. This generally refers to the abandonment of one spouse by the other. You can get divorced if your spouse:

  • has left you for at least two continuous years when you didn't want them to, and
  • has completely rejected the marital relationship.

4. Adultery. You can get divorced if your spouse has committed adultery (meaning, they have had voluntary sexual intercourse with someone other than you). You need evidence, for example: photos / videos / text messages. If you don't have enough evidence to prove adultery, it is still possible for relationships outside marriage to be mentioned under 'improper association'.

You should consult a lawyer to discuss your options and determine which of the above grounds to rely on. You can also apply for Pro Bono SG’s legal clinics for free one-off legal guidance here.

Living apart means that you have separate lives and households.

Examples of having separate lives may include: not sleeping together, not doing housework for each other, and not sharing things like meals, and finances. 

It is possible to 'live apart' while physically in the same house.

The spouse who committed adultery cannot start divorce proceedings based only on their own adultery.

You'll need to determine if any of the conditions for divorce (see above) apply to your situation. For example, if you're not living together, you might be able to rely on separation or desertion. If your spouse does not contribute financially, this may also be 'unreasonable behaviour' (depending on what the situation is). 

Yes, if you are a PR or have stayed in Singapore for the past 3 years.

Find out more: 

Legal guidance and representation:

  • Legal Aid: check what legal aid you can apply for here (Note: legal aid is for individuals unable to afford a lawyer, and the application process will likely involve means-testing).
  • Find a Lawyer: If you do not qualify for legal aid, you may find a lawyer using the following directories: 

Social assistance:

What happens to my children and finances?

If you have children under 21 years old, you will need to consider what arrangements you want to make regarding their custody, care and control, and access.

Custody refers to who has the right to make decisions regarding important aspects of the child's life, e.g., religion, education, medical matters, and other major welfare decisions. 

The court may award joint custody (i.e., you and your spouse make decisions together) or sole custody (i.e., one of you makes all the decisions). In Singapore, joint custody is the most common. Sole custody is granted in rare circumstances, such as when it is proven that a child would not be safe with one parent due to abuse.

Care and Control has to do with who the children will live with and who gets to make decisions about their daily lives. This is not the same thing as custody. For example, the court might say that the kids will live with you, which gives you care and control, but you and your ex-spouse will share custody, which means you have to make the important decisions about the children's lives together with your ex-spouse, even if they live with you most of the time.

Care and control does not always go to one parent; for example, both parents might share care and control if they can work together and be flexible about the children's needs.

Access. When parents divorce, the court usually allows the parent who doesn't live with the child (the one who doesn't have "care and control") to see the child. This is called "access". It's extremely difficult for a court to say that a parent can't see their child, unless there is clear evidence that it's not good for the child or it might really harm the child. Sometimes, the court may say that the visits need to happen with the support of a Divorce Support Specialist Agency where a counsellor can watch over the visit to make sure everyone is safe. This is called "supervised access".

When a judge is trying to decide which parent should have custody and/or care and control of the child, they are mainly focused on what would be in the child’s best interests. The judge may also consider what you and the other parent want, as well as what your child wants (if your child is old enough to express their opinion). Sometimes, the court might ask for reports from a professional such as a counsellor, social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist to help them make a decision about what is best for your child.

Division of Assets: You will generally receive a share of assets (e.g., money, property) acquired during the marriage when the court divides them.

The Legal Aid Bureau's Divorce AIDE can help you in understanding how your home and other assets may be divided between you and your spouse in the event of a divorce.

Maintenance: The court can order maintenance payments (financial support) for your children and yourself, even after divorce.

When making an order (whether you get it and how much), the court will consider your current financial circumstances, including:

  • the financial needs of you or the children on whose behalf you/your spouse is applying;
  • your earning capacity, financial resources, or other sources of income;
  • your spouse's current income, earning capacity, or other sources of income;
  • any mental or physical disabilities suffered by either of you;
  • any other dependents or financial obligations borne by either of you; and
  • the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the neglect of responsibilities by your spouse or during your marriage (if any).

You can get a maintenance order when you are married or during ongoing divorce proceedings. Before the divorce is finalised, the court's objective is to provide modest maintenance to help you address your immediate financial needs.

On the other hand, when the court makes the final orders for maintenance during a divorce, the court will aim to maintain the same standard of living you would have enjoyed if the marriage had not broken down, subject to practicality and reasonableness.

Maintenance does not have to be given forever. The court can order maintenance for a fixed period of time, after which the spouses are expected to support themselves.

Visit MSF's Family Assist website for more information on financial matters in a divorce.

You may apply for maintenance while you are married or as part of your divorce proceedings if there is a failure to maintain a wife and/or children of the marriage, or an incapacitated husband.

If you are undergoing a divorce and do not apply for maintenance during the proceedings or if the court denies your maintenance application at the conclusion of the proceedings, you cannot reapply for maintenance afterward. Therefore, it is important to apply for maintenance early if you intend to do so.

By law, both parents are responsible for contributing to their children's maintenance. Biological parents and adoptive parents have an obligation to contribute to the child's maintenance. Where there is no parent who can be responsible, individuals who have accepted a child as a member of their family also have this responsibility.

Child maintenance applications can be made by:

  • the child (if turned 21 years old); 
  • the parents/guardians or persons with actual custody of the child;
  • siblings (if turned 21); or
  • any person appointed by the Minister.

The court's decision on the amount of child maintenance depends on various factors. The court will consider the child's basic financial needs, such as education, financial, and living expenses. Any physical or mental disability of your child will also impact the maintenance amount. The court will then balance this against what either or both parents can afford.

While Singapore's maintenance laws primarily focus on supporting wives and ex-wives, husbands and ex-husbands can now apply for maintenance if they were incapacitated or ill before or during the marriage, rendering them unable to earn a living and support themselves.

Usually, custody or maintenance orders expire or become ineffective once your child reaches 21 or becomes financially independent.

After your child turns 21, they can apply for maintenance themselves if they meet the requirements. 

If you're concerned about your spouse not paying maintenance, you can request a lump sum settlement.

The court can order for maintenance to be:

  • a monthly allowance; or
  • a lump sum payment.

Lump sum payment orders are more common for wife maintenance. Periodic payments are more common for child maintenance.

However, a lump sum may not be appropriate if it involves a huge dose of speculation regarding the amount, or if it gives the impression that the parent-child relationship is in some way ‘terminated’. Periodic payments are more flexible for adjusting the allowance based on changing circumstances and are more appropriate when the payer lacks the funds for a lump sum.

If your husband refuses or neglects to pay court-ordered maintenance, you can file an enforcement application with the Family Court to recover arrears (owed maintenance).

For more information about filing an enforcement of maintenance application:

This process can be complex, so consult a lawyer or seek assistance at the Family Justice Courts. 

You can only recover maintenance owed up to three years before filing the enforcement application, so act as fast as you can if you don't receive your payments.

Yes, you can apply in court to change custody or maintenance orders based on your and your child's best interests if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the order was made. Examples include big changes in either parent's salary, health conditions, or the birth of a new child.

Similarly, if you have made an agreement for custody, care and control, access, or maintenance, the court may change the agreement if doing so is in the best interests of all parties.

Find out more: 

Legal guidance and representation:

  • Legal Aid: check what legal aid you can apply for here (Note: legal aid is for individuals unable to afford a lawyer, and the application process will likely involve means-testing).
  • Find a Lawyer: If you do not qualify for legal aid, you may find a lawyer using the following directories: 

Social assistance:

Protection from family violence

Protection from family violence

Abuse can include verbal aggression if it causes fear of physical harm or amounts to harassment. Domestic violence can be psychological as well as physical, often characterized by controlling behavior—abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and threats to maintain control.

In Singapore, family violence occurs when a person:

  • Intentionally instills fear of being hurt in a family member, with "hurt" meaning bodily pain, disease, or infirmity; 
  • Inflicts hurt on a family member, knowing that their actions would cause harm;
  • Restrains or confines a family member against their will; or
  • Causes anguish to a family member through continuous harassment, such as verbal, psychological, or emotional abuse.

Family members include spouses, former spouses, children (including adopted and step-children), parents, in-laws, siblings, and any other relatives the court considers as family members.

Examples of family violence include:

  • Physical harm, such as slapping, hitting, or pushing;
  • Unwanted sexual acts;
  • Insults or humiliation through words or actions;
  • Threats using blackmail, property destruction, or emotional manipulation;
  • Unreasonable control over someone's behavior, activities, or relationships; and
  • Preventing someone from leaving a confined area or their home.

Family violence does not include force lawfully used in self-defense or discipline of a child under 21 unless the force is excessive.

Both men and women of all ages can experience domestic violence.

If you are a victim or know or suspect someone else is a victim of domestic violence, you can get help:

  1. Get medical attention — See a doctor at your nearest hospital or clinic and ensure that your physical injuries are recorded. This will give you evidence of the abuse;
  2. Make a police report  — Call the police in case of emergencies (999 / 1800 255 0000) or SMS 71999 if it is not safe for you to talk. You can also go to your nearest police station (search by postal code) or make a police report online.
  3. Make a report with the National Anti-Violence and Sexual Harassment Helpline (NAVH) at 1800-777-0000 (24-hour hotline) or make an online report.
  4. Seek temporary shelter — If you need to leave your home urgently to escape from family violence and you do not have any trusted friends or relatives that you can stay with, go to a Family Service Centre (FSC), or ask the police to help you find a crisis centre that could take you in. You may use the FSC E-Locator to find your nearest centre.
  5. Apply for legal protection from your family member — You may be able to get a Personal Protection Order, an Expedited Order or a Domestic Exclusion Order under the Women's Charter to protect you from your abuser. You can make the application yourself at Level 1 of the Family Justice Courts (3 Havelock Square, Singapore 059725), at one of the Family Violence Service Centres. The following organisations can also help you with filing a protection order:
  6. Other protections — The law may not count certain individuals as your family even though you may live with them (e.g., a partner you are not married to). However, this does not mean you are without legal protection. You may be able to obtain a Protection Order or an Enhanced Protection Order under the Protection from Harassment Act. A guide on filing a protection order can also be found on Solid Ground's website.
  7. Get legal advice - if you are unable to afford a lawyer, find out what legal aid you might be eligible for here.

If you are a victim of family violence and it is necessary, you can apply to the Family Justice Courts for a Personal Protection Order (PPO) against the offending family member. A PPO is a court order that requires the family member to stop being violent toward you and also does not allow them to get someone else to harm you.

  • You will need to undergo a trial before the court grants a Personal Protection Order (PPO), unless the offender voluntarily agrees, which is uncommon.
  • However, if you can demonstrate an imminent threat of danger, the court may grant an Expedited Order (EO), a temporary PPO without a trial.

Additionally, the court may issue a Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO), restricting the abuser's access to the home or specific rooms. Under a DEO, the court may order the violent family member: 

  • to leave the home; or
  • to not enter the home or specific parts of it.

The DEO does not change the offender's home ownership but restricts their right to occupy or move freely within it.

Present any medical or police reports to the court as evidence of violence. These reports can significantly aid in obtaining a PPO. In addition to showing violence, you will also need to show that a PPO is necessary.

If you fear confronting the offender in court, inform a counselor or Protection Order Services Unit staff, who can arrange for you to provide evidence via video-link. The Magistrate or District Judge will issue the necessary orders following the hearing, and you may appeal to the High Court if dissatisfied with the outcome.

Help with applying for a PPO:

  • Family Protection Centre:
    Level 1 of the Family Justice Courts 3 Havelock Square Singapore 059725 (Tel:6435 5077)
  • Family Violence Specialist Centres, which include:
    • Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVE) Blk 211 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 #01-1446, Singapore 560211 (Tel: 6555 0390)
    • TRANS SAFE Centre Blk 410 Bedok North Avenue 2 #01-58, Singapore 460410 (Tel: 6449 9088)
    • Care Corner Project StART Blk 7A Commonwealth Avenue #01-672, Singapore 141007 (Tel: 6476 1482)

The court can also issue a Mandatory Counselling Order (MCO) for both victims and offenders (separately) to protect victims, provide support, and help the abuser end the violence.

You can apply to the court for an Expedited Order (EO) when urgent protection is needed and you cannot wait for the Personal Protection Order (PPO) trial. An Expedited Order (EO) is a temporary Personal Protection Order (PPO) for victims in immediate danger, providing protection while awaiting a PPO trial. 

To obtain an EO, you must prove imminent, immediate danger of physical injury. EOs are valid for 28 days but can be extended if necessary. You can ask the judge to extend the EO during mentions before trial (whenever you are asked to come to court).

The EO expires when the PPO trial begins. In such situations, seek help from the police and a lawyer.

If your abuser breaches a PPO, EO or DEO by ignoring it or attempting to hurt you again, you should make a police report immediately:

  • Any person who intentionally or knowingly breaches a PPO or EO can be imprisoned for up to six months and/or fined up to $2,000; and
  • A repeat offender can be jailed for up to a year and/or fined up to $5,000.

If the offender has assaulted you and caused you physical harm, they can be also be charged for criminal offences which carry longer, heavier sentences:

  • Causing hurt — imprisonment for up to three years and/or fines up to $5,000; and
  • Causing grievous hurt — imprisonment for up to ten years as well as either a fine or caning

If you are in immediate danger, please contact the police:

To make a police report:

Find out more:

Legal guidance and representation:

  • Legal Aid: check what legal aid you can apply for here (Note: legal aid is for individuals unable to afford a lawyer, and the application process will likely involve means-testing).
  • Find a Lawyer: If you do not qualify for legal aid, you may find a lawyer using the following directories: