Expat loses his fight to divorce in Singapore

Where to divorce?

An interesting article in the Straits Times in Singapore highlights the importance of carefully considering the appropriate place to divorce as an expat. The article considers a recent case within the Australian courts involving an expat couple living in Singapore; the husband was British and the wife Australian. The husband, who earned $1m a year, wished to divorce in Singapore whilst the wife wished to divorce in Australia. The couple lived in Singapore as expats, and had three children.

Wife at a disadvantage in Singapore

The Australian Judge determined that that it would be more advantageous for the wife to divorce in Australia, than in Singapore. In Australia, the court would take in to account assets that accrued during the parties’ period of unmarried cohabitation, whereas in Singapore, the court would not. The Judge also considered that Australia would award the wife litigation funding to support her during the divorce whereas this would not happen in Singapore.

The Judge stated: “The (Singapore) legislation is not that clear. The authority relied upon is so qualified that I could only conclude that a Singaporean court has a discretion but it would be inappropriate to speculate how that might be exercised,” said Australian Family Court Justice Paul Cronin in judgment grounds released last month.”On balance, I am satisfied that there is a juridical advantage to the wife in being able to litigate in Australia,” he added.

What to ask your divorce lawyer

This highlights the importance for expats of taking clear and full advice, not only in the country in which they reside, but also their home country and that of their spouse. Important questions to consider with your lawyer are:

  1. How are assets divided on divorce?
  2. What assets are included? e.g Are business or inherited assets excluded?
  3. Does length of marriage make a difference to outcome and are periods of cohabitation included?
  4. Can I obtain interim financial support during the divorce?
  5. Can I obtain help with my legal fees from my spouse?
  6. How long is child and spousal maintenance likely to be awarded for?
  7. Are the awards needs based?
  8. What is the disclosure process?
  9. How can orders be enforced? Can foreign orders be enforced?