Court Order In Singapore: 6 Different Ways To Enforce It

by 24 June 2024Knowledge & Insights

A common misconception about court orders in Singapore is that they automatically ensure compliance from the parties involved. However, obtaining a court order is often the first step in the legal process.

In reality, a court order is a formal directive issued by the Court that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved in a legal dispute. These orders range from monetary judgements and injunctions to specific performance directives and custody arrangements.

Typically, the court order does not specify how it will be enforced. Instead, the successful party (judgement creditor) is responsible for initiating enforcement actions if the losing party (the debtor) fails to comply.

Therefore, once a court order is issued, the creditor should enforce it to obtain monetary compensation, property delivery, or contract completion. The order will not take effect if the judgement creditor fails to enforce it.

This article will discuss how judgement creditors can enforce court orders in Singapore.

6 Different Ways To Enforce Court Orders In Singapore

Failure to comply with court orders in Singapore can lead to further legal actions. The judgement creditor has several options to enforce it according to the Singaporean law, including:

1. Letter Of Demand

A creditor in Singapore can issue a letter of demand to request payment from a debtor before pursuing legal action or obtaining a court order.

Before legal action, the letter serves as a final warning, detailing the debt and setting a payment deadline. After a court order, it reinforces the Court’s decision and reminds the debtor of their obligations.

The letter typically includes the debt details, payment demand, and consequences of non-payment. While not legally required, it demonstrates the creditor’s efforts to resolve the issue amicably.

This documented attempt can prompt payment or open negotiation channels, potentially avoiding further legal enforcement.

2. Writ Of Seizure And Sale (WSS)

The most common enforcement method adopted is applying for a writ of seizure and sale. This instructs court bailiffs to seize the judgement debtor’s movable or immovable property (with some exceptions like HDB flats) and sell it at auction to recover the debt.

The judgement debtor is given seven days to pay before the property is sold. The creditor must file an ex parte summons with an affidavit to apply for the writ.

3. Garnishee Proceedings

If the judgement creditor knows a third party owes money to the judgement debtor, they can apply for a garnishee order to instruct the third party (garnishee) to pay the creditor instead of the debtor.

The creditor first applies for a provisional garnishee order, then the garnishee certifies the debts owed, and the Court grants a final order. The garnishee proceedings are a separate enforcement method from the writ of seizure and sale.

In the case of child support, garnishment of wages can be applied where the employer will deduct child support payments from the non-compliant party’s salary.

4. Examination Of Judgement Debtor

The Court has the authority to require the judgement debtor to appear in Court and question them about their property and its location.

This establishes which assets can be used to settle the judgement debt. To request the examination order, the judgement creditor must submit an ex parte summons and a supporting affidavit.

5. Committal Proceedings

If the judgement debtor refuses to comply with an order to do or abstain from doing something, the Court can punish them for non-compliance to maintain its authority.

The Court has the discretion to impose a fine or jail sentence. The creditor should have an ex parte summons supported by an affidavit to apply for committal proceedings.

6. Bankruptcy / Winding-Up Proceedings

As a last resort, the creditor can seek to enforce the court judgement as a judgement debt and apply for the judgement debtor to be made bankrupt (if an individual) or have their company wound up.

This allows the Official Assignee or Liquidator to arrange repayment of creditors. Separate bankruptcy or winding-up proceedings must be commenced to enforce the judgement debt.


Variation Of Court Order In Singapore

A variation of a court order is allowed in Singapore under certain circumstances. The court has the discretion to vary orders, particularly in family law matters such as maintenance orders, child custody arrangements, and other similar orders.

To obtain a variation, the party seeking the change must demonstrate that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order was made. This might include changes in financial status, employment, or the needs of the children involved.

Maintenance And Custody Orders

Maintenance orders and custody orders relating to children can be varied if there is a material change in circumstances. For example, if the judgement debtor’s financial circumstances have improved or worsened or if the child’s living arrangements need to change. The child’s welfare is the paramount consideration.

Consent Variation

If both parties consent to vary the order, the Court will usually grant the variation as long as it is in the child’s best interests. However, consent alone is not enough – there must still be a sound basis for the variation.

Formal Application Required

A formal application to vary a court order must be made to the Court, either by way of summons or originating summons. The applicant must show a material change in circumstances since the original order was made. Documentary evidence supporting the change in circumstances should be provided.

Legal Representation

Parties seeking to vary a court order relating to children usually require legal representation. The Court will want to protect the child’s welfare and that the variation is in their best interests. Self-represented litigants may need help with the legal requirements.


Conclusion About Enforcing Court Orders In Singapore

Non-compliance with a court order in Singapore can lead to further legal actions, from seizing assets to committal proceedings. The most suitable method depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

Seeking legal advice from expert lawyers is recommended to navigate the enforcement process effectively, especially when applying to vary the terms of a court order.

This is where our experienced attorneys at Tembusu Law come in. We can guide you through the process, from filing and enforcing a case to amending court orders.

Schedule a consultation with us today!


Frequently Asked Questions About Enforcing Court Orders In Singapore

What Should Be Considered Before Applying For Enforcement Actions?

Before enforcing a court order in Singapore, the judgement creditor should consider the debtor’s willingness and ability to pay, the assets’ location, and whether it is advantageous to give the debtor time to pay or to move quickly to prevent the dissipation of assets.

How Does A Creditor Apply For Enforcement Actions?

To apply for enforcement actions, the creditor must file the necessary applications with the Court, provide supporting documentation, and follow the prescribed legal procedures. Legal advice and representation can help ensure the process is conducted correctly.

What Is The Role Of The Bailiff In Enforcement?

The bailiff plays a crucial role in enforcing court orders, particularly in executing writs of seizure and sale. The bailiff is responsible for seizing the debtor’s assets and arranging their sale at public auction.

Are There Any Defences A Debtor Can Use Against Enforcement?

Yes, a debtor can raise defences against enforcement, such as claiming the exemption of certain assets, filing for bankruptcy protection, or proving that they have already satisfied the debt. Legal advice may be necessary to navigate these defences.

About the author

About the author

Tembusu Law


We'll always make time for you. Tell us what's on your mind and we'll find a way to help.