While divorce rate in Singapore has steadily declined from its peak of 7.8% in 2003 to just 6.5-6.9% in 2017, getting divorced is still an emotionally and financially daunting task for couples who are going through it. It can be especially difficult to handle the financial side of it since it's not something people typically deal with more than 1 time in their life. To help people going through a divorce plan their budgets better, we've prepared this brief summary of how much a divorce can cost in Singapore.
Table of Contents
- Legal Cost of a Divorce
- How Matrimonial Assets Are Divided
- Maintenance Fee for Spouse & Child
Legal Cost of a Divorce in Singapore
On average, going through the legal procedures of a divorce in Singapore can cost about S$2,500 when it's uncontested, and about S$24,000 when it's contested. While this cost can be rather simple for uncontested divorces, it can vary dramatically for contested divorces because it highly depends on how complicated and prolonged the process becomes. Not only that, there are other costs involved in a divorce, such as division of matrimonial assets and maintenance fee for the spouse and children, if any. These costs can vary heavily depending on each couple's unique circumstances.
Uncontested Divorce: Typically Charged a Fixed Fee
An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties have already agreed to the terms of divorce. Therefore, most law firms offer a fixed-cost package because the workload is relatively predictable. In this situation, the legal cost depends mainly on whether the couple has assets to be divided, whether they have children under the age of 21, and whether one of the spouses needs to receive maintenance fee. When none of the above conditions apply, the legal procedures can cost as low as S$1,500. In more complicated cases where all three conditions apply, the cost can rise up to S$3,500, though there are some law firms that charge just S$2,500 for the service. While some law firms will charge S$500 for the first consultation before filing for the divorce, this fee is typically waived and included in the S$1,500-S$3,500 fixed cost.
|Children Under 21
|Assets/Property to be Deivided
|Maintenance Fee Required
The Cost of a Contested Divorce Can Vary Dramatically
A contested divorce occurs when couples have not come to terms on matters like who gets custody of the children. Therefore, this proceeding can cost materially more than an uncontested one mostly because it requires several more rounds of mediation. For such a divorce, you would be paying your lawyer on a per session basis, meaning that your cost can increase almost indefinitely the longer your divorce proceeds last. In this sense, it could be in both parties interest to settle things outside of court as much as possible to minimise this cost. Below is a summary of how different cost components typically work for a contested divorce.
|Dissolution of Marriage
|Filing of Pleading & Attending Status Conferences
|S$2,500-S$3,500 lump sum
|Mediation at the Family Justice Courts to assist the couple in settling the reason for divorce (and as many ancillary matters as possible) without going to trial
|S$500-S$2,000 per session
|Preparing for trial & representing client at trial
|S$5,000 to S$10,000 for first 2 days of trial, S$1,500 to S$4,000 for each subsequent day, or S$5,000 to S$15,000 lump sum
|Mediation, Case Conference, Exchange of Affidavits of Assets and Means, Contested Ancillary Matters Hearing
|$5,000 to $15,000 lump sum, but could be broken down to per session, per attendance and per document cost ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars
|S$13,000-S$35,000 or more
How Matrimonial Assets Are Divided
A legal case known as "ANJ vs ANK" set a precedence in terms of how matrimonial assets are divided. Essentially, the court calculates an average "contribution ratio" for each spouse in regards to "direct" (i.e. financial, salary, etc.) and "indirect" (i.e. take care of family's wellbeing, looking after the home, etc.) contributions.
|Example Calculation of Division
However, the weighting of direct vs indirect contributions may change slightly depending on the court's judgement:
- Indirect contributions are generally favored in longer marriages, while shorter marriages focus on direct contributions.
- Child's needs can also impact how the ratio can shift towards a parent who will retain control and care over the child.
- Financial independence of each party after divorce can impact the ratio; if one party is at a significant disadvantage in the job market place after the divorce, the court will favor that person.
- A very large matrimonial assets that had been accumulated by one person will shift the weight towards direct contributions.
- Some indirect contributions are given less weight, i.e. the couple employed a domestic helper to help.
- A homemaker who has taken great sacrifice (i.e. promising career) and pain to raise children will shift weight towards indirect contributions.
For those who want to know the exact definition of matrimonial assets, below is a simple description. Assets like home, after netting out debt like mortgage, will also be taken into account, especially if the purchase and/or renovation occurred after the marriage.
- Assets acquired by one or both parties during the marriage
- Assets used by one or both parties or their children for various purposes
- Assets acquired before the marriage but substantially improved in quality during the marriage
- Excludes assets received as gifts or inheritance, and gifts or inheritance that has not been substantially improved during the marriage
Maintenance Fee for Spouse & Child
In case that one of the spouses is at a significant economic disadvantage after the divorce, the other party will have to pay a maintenance fee to support the said spouse. If that said spouse also holds custody of their children, the maintenance fee will increase to account for the added cost of child upbringing, until their children reaches the age of 21. Maintenance fee tends to increase with the length of the marriage, where short marriages (6 years or less) could even result in zero maintenance fee.
Maintenance fee can be paid in a lump sum or periodically; if the payer is able to, the court may order a lump sum fee, while the court may prefer a periodic one if the payer has difficulty making a large payment upfront. To calculate how much fee is owed, the court will multiply the number of years the court determines is fair (i.e. how long the spouse will need support) and the amount per year that the spouse will need to continue his or her lifestyle, as judged by the court. The duration will typically reflect when the recipient passes or remarries.
While nobody gets married while expecting a divorce, divorce is also a necessary evil when the marriage no longer has any hope of working out at all. Still, it is a very costly process and those who are considering separating with their spouses can benefit from being conscious about their demands and negotiations. Rather than dragging out the process (which will hurt both your wallet and feelings of everyone involved, like your children), engaging in out of court discussions while being accommodating and fair to both parties can help quicken the process, reduce emotional and financial pain and let everyone move on to their next steps in life.