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MacDivorce 2011: An Update

Introduction

I wrote a MacDivorce article in April 2008 where I explained the term as something I coined to describe what I regarded as a fuss-free way to divorce. This article is an updated version as there are new rules put in place to make the process even easier now.

I added an important disclaimer in my last article and I think it bears repeating. So word for word, I will say again: Nothing in this article is meant to ridicule, belittle or undermine the seriousness of marriage vows. This article is written in the hope of helping anyone contemplating divorce understand a little bit of what is often a heart wrenching and painful process. The matter sets out here is strictly from my experience in the course of my practice and is not meant to reflect anyone else’s opinion/experience/practice.

Criteria Required

Before your case can qualify for MacDivorce:-

  1. you must have been married for at least 3 years;
  2. you must have been separated for at least 3 years;
  3. your spouse must consent to the divorce;
  4. there must be no matrimonial property like a HDB flat;
  5. there must be no child/children to the marriage;
  6. both parties are Singapore citizens and are residing in Singapore;
  7. both parties are of age and of sound mind;
  8. the marriage was contracted in Singapore;
  9. parties have worked out all the terms relating to maintenance, assets and legal costs;
  10. there is full co-operation and prompt response time by both parties.

If you satisfy all that, it is likely that your divorce can be done in the shortest time possible at the lowest cost to you. It will also be a very easy process as you are required only to meet the lawyer twice, once to give instructions and another time to sign the necessary documents. You will not be required to attend court at all.

If your marriage satisfies only conditions a,b,c,d, and i but both parties are able to give full co-operation and prompt response time to the lawyer, your divorce process will still be largely the same as the other one which satisfies all the condition. The difference is a 2- to 4- week delay as the lawyer will need to send a standard query form to the HDB to which HDB has up till 1 month to reply. The HDB reply is one of the documents required when you commence your divorce action.

Procedure, Time and Resource

This part of the article is largely a reproduction of my last article except for the note on Step 2 and Step 6 & 7.

Note: The time listed is an estimate only of the shortest possible time required and is only as good as parties’ full co-operation and prompt response. This includes the Court’s response time.

If your case satisfies all the above, then this is how your matter is likely to proceed if you engage a lawyer:

Step 1: Set up an appointment with a lawyer to brief him/her of your case (1-2 hours)

Step 2:[ref]Step 2 is optional. Often, when parties are striving for an amicable divorce and are able to discuss the matters with each other, letters like that are in fact not necessary.[/ref] The lawyer will write to your spouse informing him/her that you intend to commence divorce proceedings based on 3- or 4-year separation. The letter (“the Letter”) also sets out the terms of settlement where issues like maintenance, assets and legal costs (i.e. who bears how much) are concerned. The Letter will seek your spouse’s consent to the divorce and the settlement terms by asking your spouse to sign the enclosed Consent and the Letter and then returning both documents to the lawyer (7-14 working days depending on the dateline you wish to give to your spouse).

Step 3: Preparation of the court documents will commence and drafts will be sent to you for your approval or confirmation (1-5 working days).

Step 4: Upon receipt of the Letter, duly signed by your spouse and after all the drafts have been approved by you, the papers will be filed with the Family Court through the Electronic Filing System (1 working day).

Step 5: When the Court returns with the suit number of your writ and the filing date, your spouse will attend at the lawyer’s office to accept service of the documents and to sign the Draft Consent Order (setting out the terms of  settlement stated in the Letter) (3-5 working days depending on spouse’s schedule).

Step 6: You will then attend at the lawyer’s office to sign the requisite documents so that you can apply for a hearing date for uncontested divorce. The hearing date given is usually about 3-6 weeks from the date of application. Draft Consent Order will be filed at the same time. You will also apply for dispensation of attendance at the hearing.

Step 7: On the hearing date, the court will give interim judgement for your divorce and orders in the terms as set out in the Draft Consent Order. Both you and your spouse will not be required to attend the hearing if your  dispensation application is approved. It will be approved if all the conditions are met.

Step 8: Your lawyer will extract the Interim Judgment (3-5 days after the divorce hearing).

Step 9: 3 months later, your lawyer will apply for the Interim Judgment to be made final and the divorce is officially completed.

Conclusion

Most law firms will be prepared to fix their costs and disbursements for divorce matter of this nature. In my practice, the cost range for this kind of divorce matter is my firm’s lowest for divorce matter.

Total time taken from the day you are ready to meet your lawyer (all ingredients met) to Final Judgment is about 4 ½ – 5 months (see proviso above).