The COVID-19 circuit breaker in Singapore has transformed our personal lives in ways we could never have imagined. While some have enjoyed spending more time with their partner and immediate families, others are struggling with relationship problems that have arisen during or been made worse by the pandemic. For those who don’t live with their partner, it’s the lack of intimacy that can be a challenge: things like virtual dates and regular video calls are needed to keep the spark alive. Others experience the opposite, where existing problems are amplified in claustrophobic lockdown conditions without the usual distractions of the workplace, social events, sport and travel. Arguments over something as simple as the groceries can turn into a bitter row.
The Straits Times reports domestic violence has increased in Singapore during the circuit breaker while some divorce lawyers have seen enquiries rise by as much as 20%. But while life in lockdown has presented many of us with new challenges in our relationships, divorce isn’t the only option. It’s crucial to ask yourself these key questions before making a realistic decision without emotion clouding your judgement.
1. What problems do you face in your marriage?
It’s always important to consider what is causing any feelings of unhappiness in your marriage. Before assuming the worst, take the time to identify not just if you feel a certain way, but why. Whether it be commitment issues, a lack of communication, lifestyle differences or anything in between, understanding the problem is the first step.
2. Have you tried fixing those problems?
Once you have an idea of what the underlying issue may be, ask yourself: how have you and your spouse tried to overcome those issues? Is your partner aware of how you feel? Have you found any success while trying to resolve it, or do you feel like you keep coming back to the same problems?
3. What is your role in the breakdown of the marriage?
Sometimes, the marital issues can be very one-sided – for example, if your partner has an affair. But as the saying goes, it takes two hands to clap: many relationship problems involve contribution from both parties, and external factors such as work-related stress and mental health can have an unseen impact. Without shouldering unnecessary blame, consider if and how you played a part in any breakdown in the relationship.
4. Do you feel happier alone?
5. What are the grounds for divorce in Singapore?
Getting a divorce in Singapore is not as simple as calling the best lawyer, paying a fee and signing a piece of paper. You will need to fulfil a range of legal requirements which include:
- Married at least three years unless there is proof of exceptional depravity or hardship
- There is an irreparable breakdown of the marriage
- At least one of the following has occurred:
- Unreasonable behaviour (e.g. violence, neglect, verbal abuse, drug or alcohol addiction)
- Separation for three years (consent from both parties)
- Separation for four years (without mutual consent)
You will then need to go through the legal procedures of divorce, which can take months to complete even if things remain amicable between you and your spouse. If the divorce is contested or child custody is involved, the process will inevitably be further prolonged.
Divorce isn’t always the answer, but sometimes it is. Tembusu Law’s experienced and compassionate divorce lawyers are based in Singapore and can help you.