Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce14.02.2023
Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences of a person’s life. It can become increasingly difficult when both parties disagree on the terms of the divorce, which is classed as a contested divorce.
We have a foundation of experience in assisting people going through a divorce and we can attest to the benefit of proceeding with an uncontested divorce whereby all required terms are mutually agreed.
This approach is not something specific to us, the judicial system of Singapore also encourages uncontested divorces. It allows parties to dispense with court proceedings and to file the required papers to court only.
The preliminary considerations of a divorce
As briefly mentioned above, there are two types of divorce in Singapore:
- Contested divorce. This is where parties cannot agree to some or all the divorce terms. This is the more stressful, costly, and time-consuming type of divorce.
- Uncontested divorce. This is where parties agree to all terms of the divorce. It is less stressful, cheaper, and the quickest type of divorce.
No matter the type of divorce, the eligibility conditions are the same. If you wish to file a contested or uncontested divorce, you must:
- Have been married for at least three years; and
- One party must have strong ties with Singapore by either being a citizen, domiciled, or residing in Singapore for a minimum of three years.
No matter the type of divorce you find yourself in, several decisions must be agreed on by both parties (or the court in a contested divorce). These are:
The grounds of divorce
You must satisfy the court that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. There are four grounds in which to plead this:
- Adultery. This is where one party has had an ex-martial affair with another person, and the other (innocent) party now finds it intolerable to live with their spouse.
- Unreasonable behaviour. Where one party behaves in such a way that their spouse cannot be reasonably expected to live with them. For example, if there is domestic violence.
- Desertion. This is where one party has deserted their spouse for a minimum of two years.
- Separation. This is where a married couple has been separated for at least four years in a contested divorce or three years in an uncontested divorce.
Who has the children?
Both parties will need to agree on who the children will live with. This will result in the person having care and control over the children, allowing them to make day-to-day decisions on their behalf.
The parties will then need to agree on how often the other parent will have access to the children. Access could be either reasonable, supervised, or liberal.
The parents would also decide whether they will have joint custody of their children. This means both parents will have a joint decision on matters such as education, health, and choice of religion. Joint custody is the preferred choice of most parents.
Division of assets
This is often a challenging task for both parties to agree on what is fair, reasonable, and best for the children. This is where an experienced divorce specialist like us would provide great value.
We would analyse the finances of each party, together with projected earning capacities, their responsibilities (e.g., if they are to be the primary carer of the children), and any other information which would allow us to produce an agreement to divide assets fairly, reasonably, and within the best interests of all those affected.
There are two main forms of maintenance: for children under the age of 21 and the spouse. The parties may agree on the form and the amount of maintenance paid.
Again, this can be a challenging task to get it right. Our divorce specialists could help by assessing the earning capacity and income of each party, which will determine whether any maintenance should be payable, and, if so, how much.
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested or simplified divorce is a divorce whereby both parties agree to the divorce, and all ancillary matters (as discussed above) relevant to the dissolution of the divorce are agreed upon mutually.
An uncontested divorce is a recommended type of divorce. It is the most beneficial method of divorce, saving time, money, and stress in comparison to a contested divorce.
It is referred to as the simplified divorce because it is a smoother, easier, and less intensive process.
The parties would file the divorce papers to the court. These are:
- Writ for Divorce
- Statement of Claim
- Statement of Particulars
- Affidavit of Evidence in Chief
- Draft Consent Order
Once filed, the court would hear the case of the divorce application and would produce an Interim Judgement for Divorce. This process usually takes one month from filing papers to the Interim Judgement being produced.
Then, the following steps are required to be conducted:
- File affidavits.
- Discovery (or disclosure) of Assets and any other important aspect of the ancillaries.
- Ancillary hearing on material matters following divorce.
- A Final Judgement to divorce.
The Final Judgement is made after three months from the date of the Interim Judgement so that the entire length of an uncontested divorce can be as quick as four months from start to finish.
What is a contested divorce?
A divorce is contested when parties cannot agree to all terms and issues amicably. Therefore, a court’s involvement is required, as a judge will decide on the matters to which the parties cannot agree.
Each party’s lawyer requires more involvement due to the contentious nature of a contested divorce. This is because there would be more documents to draft, negotiations may span over an uncertain period, the court procedure must be used, and in cases where there are children involved, the lawyer would attend mediation sessions with each party.
Accordingly, the process is much longer – up to a year or more from the beginning of the matter until the Final Judgement is produced.
Uncontested divorce vs. contested divorce – which is better?
As more involvement is required from lawyers, the costs for a contested divorce are much more expensive as it is more time-consuming.
Not only is a contested divorce more time-consuming and expensive, but it is also much more mentally straining. The process is rarely amicable.
Leaving the final decision to a court in a contested divorce is not favourable as there is a high probability that neither party gets what they want. It is an incredibly stressful process to go through just to allow someone else to make life-changing decisions for you and your children. It also heightens the risk of non-compliance with the court order which would cause further problems and expense for both parties.
It is, therefore, ideal to agree to all terms possible to prevent disappointment in being ordered by the judge to comply with terms you are not satisfied with. We recommend you consider making concessions when you and your spouse cannot agree on specific terms. It would make them more receptive and open to concessions to you on other terms.
Not only is there more time, money, and stress incurred with a contested divorce, but there is also no privacy with contested proceedings. This is because the proceedings of a contested divorce are conducted in an open court. Members of the public can attend and listen in. Therefore, your private and family life will be aired in the public domain.
However, uncontested proceedings are conducted in the judge’s Chambers, which is a private domain and not open to members of the public.
Considering divorce? Here’s how we can provide you with value
You may be wondering – why would you instruct our lawyers if you have already reached mutually agreeable terms and are proceeding down the uncontested divorce route?
There are countless advantages to using our services, even in an uncontested divorce, mainly because a divorce will have a long-term impact on your life, so it is better to ensure that it is done right.
Here are some reasons why you would benefit from using our services rather than going through this process unsupported:
- We would be able to prepare the necessary documents to reflect both parties’ true intentions and agreement. It is a challenging task to articulate clearly and concisely what you and your spouse have agreed to. You run the risk of preparing documents which do not best reflect your intentions, which could have the unintended effect of leaving you worse off. To address this potential issue would cost even more time and considerable expense to rectify (if it can be done!)
- Our expertise ensures you get the best results. You may not appreciate the entitlements you may have, or you may agree to terms which are, in fact, much more detrimental to you than you first realise. We are experienced in dealing with these matters and have the knowledge which will help to negotiate the most favourable terms.
- It alleviates the stress you will encounter. This process will undoubtedly be a stressful and upsetting period in your life. Your emotions will be under a lot of strain, so it makes sense to allow us to implement your intentions rather than muddling through this process yourself, unsupported.
- We take an amicable approach to your matter with the intention of maintaining an uncontested divorce. Initially, you may not be able to agree on specific terms. Our role is to help steer the process to prevent matters from becoming contested, avoiding the need to incur further time and expense by engaging in a costly divorce.