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Is Filing For Separation Really The Answer?

There might come a time for some married couples when they feel that they are no longer blissfully happy. They find faults with each other and these might be some over petty issues. What they find to be endearing in the beginning, is now just annoyance. 

So they decided to part ways for a certain period of time. No, they are not divorcing just yet. They are just merely spending some time apart to figure out what their heads and hearts are telling them. What do you need to know about separation?

An annoyance which is mounting and comes to a point of unbearable. They felt that some time apart might do each party good to figure out what exactly they want individually or as a couple.

Is Mutual Separation Legal In Singapore?

In Singapore, troubled couples may separate whenever they feel the need to. But do bear in mind, that one of the ground rules for divorce in Singapore is separation for a period of time. There are three ways to bring about separation:

  • Informal (without any written documentation)

Couples in distress can separate at their own will at any time by living apart as and when they wish or feel the need to. But for separation to count as a valid reason for divorce, the separation  must be valid.

Should the couple intend to head towards divorce, a separation need to be valid, otherwise for an informal separation, physical separation is required. Physical separation means staying in separate homes.

  • Separation Agreement

A document known as Deed of Separation states the clauses of the relationship during the period of separation. There are two main clauses in Deed of Separation;

  • First clause containing terms relating to separation itself. Include the date when the couple separated, how they live and the mutual agreement that both parties will live separately from one another.
  • Second clause containing terms on financial arrangements. Should there be any division of matrimonial assets and the children’s living arrangements. This is similar to a divorce proceeding, and can be invoked with both parties’ consent. This agreement need not be registered with any government body or the court. A lawyer is usually engaged to draft out the Deed of Separation and this deed does not change the legal state of the marriage as both parties are still considered to be legally married despite them having the Deed of Separation. Should either party plans to remarry, a divorce from their current partner is necessary.

Some of the terms in the agreement are;

  • When do you want to proceed with divorce proceedings
  • Who will initiate the divorce
  • Reason for divorce
  • Custodial agreement
  • Matrimonial assets division
  • Any interim arrangements
  • Any other maintenance for spouse and children

Both parties need to sign the agreement in order for the agreement to be considered in effect. This agreement is private and not registered with any government department or court.

The Family Court has the power to put aside any terms which they consider as unjust to either party to make it fair for all parties involved.

When Is A Deed of Separation Suitable?

If you’ve ever thought about divorce, there could be possibly many reasons for you not  to go through with it. Some of the factors to consider include;

  • If you are unsure whether you really want a divorce or you just want time away from each other.
  • You do want a divorce, but you have young offspring and you are unsure how it will affect them.
  • If you face any financial issues and the time of divorce is just not right.
Judgment of Judicial Separation

For this situation, the couple can choose to file pursuant to Section 101(1) of the Women’s Charter, if they believe that your partner may not comply with the terms in the Deed of Separation. As failure to comply with a court order is an offence.

This is only applicable for couples who need to prove irreversible breakdown of their marriage on the basis of adultery, unreasonable behavior or abuse. This option is more expensive and complex as parties involved has to provide reasons for adultery and their unreasonable behavior.

A limitation to this option, is that it only provides temporary relief from your difficult marriage and you or your spouse must still apply for a divorce if both parties are unable to reconcile during the separation period.

Comparing a divorce and separation, it is easier for couples to start on separation proceedings while still being legally married. This kind of arrangement might be more suitable for couples who want to avoid the stigma of a divorce.

A three years separation period is required with the consent of both parties in order for a divorce to take place and four years of separation for without consent of one or both parties.

Is Physical Separation Necessary?

It is rather subjective. Some may find it a helpful tool to stay together. By employing careful and skillful manner, this tool can be highly effective in bringing two people closer.

There are some guidelines to have a fruitful separation;

  • Have a third party support

You may choose to do this on your own, but it is highly recommended to have a neutral third party to assist in the process. It can be therapist, mediator or lawyer.

  • Set clear and reasonable expectations

In order to maintain trust, ground rules need to be laid. Do you expect to communicate regularly with each other and basic expectations need to be addressed. Should one party expects regular communication but the other does not, this might cause tension and hurting of feelings.

  • What are your goals?

What is your intention to be separated? Both your goals might not be similar and do not assume that both your end goals are the same. By having the same goal, it will make this temporary separation be a successful exercise.

  • Regular communication is maintained

If you have no contact at all during the entire separation period, this may cause more harm than good as the whole point of the separation is to try and work things out rather than totally deserting the other party.

Is Separation Really Good For You?

The Court looks at several issues which include, as per s 69(4) of the Women’s Charter:

The Court, when ordering maintenance for a wife, an incapacitated husband OR a child under this section, shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the following matters:

(a)       the financial needs of the wife, incapacitated husband or child;

(b)       the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the wife, incapacitated husband or child;

(c)       any physical or mental disability of the wife, incapacitated husband or child;

(d)       the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;

(e)       the contributions made by each of the parties to the marriage to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;

(f)        the standard of living enjoyed —

(i)        by the wife before her husband neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for her;

(ii)       by the incapacitated husband before his wife neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for him; or

(iii)      by the child before a parent neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the child;

(g)       in the case of a child, the manner in which he was being, and in which the parties to the marriage expected him to be, educated or trained; and

(h)       the conduct of each of the parties to the marriage, if the conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it.

As such, it is important for one to put together their expenses down clearly and take note of these factors before rushing to apply for one.

It is very easy and simple to apply for maintenance. All that one needs to do is to go to the Family Court to file a complaint form.

However, it is important to do your homework and strategise properly. if you fail to plan, you may actually be planning to fail.

Both Parties Must Really Be Honest With Each Other

However, this is not a suitable way to go for every troubled couple. It is vital that each party is honest with themselves and each other as to why they are proceeding with the separation.

If you have no intention at all of staying together, playing along with this separation method is not advisable and the worst thing to do to your partner. Not to mention that you’ll be lying to yourself and depriving you of having a cheerful future.

For those who have repeatedly breach of trust or those who have a hard time trusting others, should not embark on this separation method.

What kind of activities do you engage in during your separation? Is there any support group that you can turn to when you faced with such situations?

Conclusion

Remember that separation is not for everyone. Some might benefit from it and reconcile and have stronger bond with their partner. Or it can be a temporary resolute before they actually finalize on their divorce.

We are here to assist those whom wish to proceed with a divorce or are in the midst of divorce proceedings. Engaging a lawyer is not compulsory but it is definitely helpful especially when there is a lot at stake.

As lawyers, our professional duty is to represent our clients through their divorce proceedings and we will not advise on whether it is better for you to divorce or not. That is a decision that you will have to make on your own.

We do give out FREE Consultations with us, so that you may be in a better position to make the right decisions for yourself.

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