Matrimonial law of Singapore
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The matrimonial law of Singapore categorizes marriages contracted in Singapore into two categories: civil marriages and Muslim marriages. The Registry of Marriage (ROM) administers civil marriages in accordance to the Women's Charter, while the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM) administers Muslim marriages in accordance to the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA). All marriages performed in Singapore must be registered with the relevant registry in order to be legally valid.
Civil marriages are for couples where one or both partners are non-Muslim. Polygamy is prohibited.
The two parties have to register a date either at the Registry of Marriage (ROM) or on the ROM website. The chosen date will be at least 21 days after the date of registration and within three months of the date of registration. A marriage licence can only be issued on proof of a number of conditions (see below) by statutory declaration. Both parties must appear in person at the registrar to declare that their intended marriage adheres to the following:
- a) for couples where at least one party is not a Singapore citizen or Singapore permanent resident, one of the parties to the intended marriage must have been physically present in Singapore for at least 15 days preceding the date of the notice, not including the day of arrival in Singapore;
- b) each of the parties is 21 years of age or above, or if not, is divorced or is a widower or widow or has had his or her previous marriage declared null and void;
- c) if either party is a minor who has not been previously married, the consent of the appropriate person mentioned in the Second Schedule (click here) must have been given in writing or consent of the High Court has been given;
- d) neither party is below the age of 18 years (by the date of solemnization);
- e) there is no lawful impediment to the marriage; and
- f) neither of the parties to the intended marriage is married under any law, religion, custom or usage to any person other than the person with whom such marriage is proposed to be contracted.
- g) where one of the parties to the proposed marriage has been previously married but is divorced, the party must also state whether he/she owes any arrears in respect of any maintenance which is payable under a maintenance order.
They must then bring their approval to a Licensed Solemniser, which can be religious leaders (order of the church, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Sikh), judge, Justice of Peace, and grassroots leaders. Marriage counselling are also offered by family service centres endorsed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Inter-faith marriage is allowed as civil marriages. A Muslim may marry a non-Muslim partner civilly (including marriages that are not permitted under sharia law).
In a mixed Muslim and non-Muslim pairing, it is more common for the non-Muslim partner to convert to Islam. A non-Muslim bride must go for conversion course. Rigorous interviews are made to the groom to ensure that he is fit to guide the new convert as a wife and as a fellow Muslim. Non-Muslim groom marriages are allowed only after one year of proper conversion courses.
Singaporean Citizens, Permanent Residents (PR's) to Non Singaporeans
Singaporean Citizens or Permanent Residents seeking to solemnise their marriage in Singapore our outside of Singapore to a non Singaporean are required to seek prior approval from Ministry of Manpower if the intended spouce / groom was holding a Work Permit or used to work in Singapore on a Work Permit which has since been cancelled.
However, you do not have to apply for prior approval from the Ministry of Manpower if the intended spouse / groom:
Does not hold a Work Permit (e.g. you are an S Pass or Employment Pass holder) or Are a former Work Permit holder whose last held work pass was upgraded to Employment Pass or S Pass or Are a former Work Permit holder who is now a Singapore Citizen or Singapore PR.
If you are required to seek prior approval from the Ministry of Manpower but fail to do, the privilege to work in Singapore for the Non Singaporean Citizen could be withdrawn by the Ministry Of Manpower. You may also be prevented from entering Singapore by the Immigration Department for a period of time.
The prior approval is believed to screen for amongst other criteria applicants who previously worked in Singapore without a Work Permit and has illegal employment records with the Work Pass Division, Ministry of Manpower; or for applicants who have not been issued with a MOM Notification on “Waiver of Marriage Restriction Policy” at the point of Work Permit application/renewal/cancellation.
The prior approval application lead time is about 4 weeks where by the applicants are notified of the outcome by post by the Ministry Of Manpower.
For couples who are not Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents, at least one of the parties to the intended marriage must be physically present in Singapore for at least 15 days preceding the date of the notice.
Same-sex marriages are not allowed in Singapore. Under the category of civil marriages, the gender of a person is the one stated in his/her National Registration Identity Card. Therefore, a recognized transgender person may marry a person who is of the opposite sex from his/her sex as stated in the NRIC. On the other hand, in the context of Muslim marriages, a transgender person is not allowed to marry regardless of sex change done. This is waived if the person is born with both genital organs (hermaphrodite or pseudohermaphroditism) and makes a change.
Marriage among Armed Forces members
Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) rules state that any marriages among MINDEF or Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) members must be approved by the personnel's Commanding Officer or G3 branch army. Personnel are encouraged to consult their Chief Clerks (Branch Administration Officer / Executive) for the latest ruling regarding this.
Marriage outside the MINDEF/SAF to civilians is allowed and the SAF awards benefits such as time off and gratuity payments to personnel for getting married.
The Official Secrets Act discourages marriages to foreign nationals, and excludes marriages to foreign government employees, whether employed in the civilian, diplomatic or military service.
Staffs (mostly civilians) from the Defence Science and Technology Agency and other military agencies have different sets of rules, in accordance to relevant orders and directives concerning Defence Executive Officers (DXO, formerly NUSAF - Non-Uniformed SAF). These civilian staffs are partially under Singapore Armed Forces Act (a civilian act since Singapore does not formally have military laws), mostly concerning secrecy, informations, professionalism, and conflict of interest while excluding military discipline that are normally applied to military uniformed staffs.
DXO have more terms imposed compared to DSTA staffs.
Information regarding marriage of military and MINDEF staff is classified as restricted and is not released to the public.
Divorce procedures are different for civil marriages and Muslim marriages. Divorce proceedings of civil marriages are carried out in the Family Court, while divorce proceedings of Muslim marriages are carried out in the Syariah Court.
One can obtain a divorce in Singapore's Family Court if one or both spouses is a Singapore Citizen, has lived in Singapore for at least three years, or is domiciled in Singapore. It is suggested that those hoping to divorce first seek legal advice as there are a number of regulations that must be followed. For example, you cannot apply for a divorce if you have been married less than three years unless you have the Court’s permission to do so. Likewise, those salvaging marriages can too seek counselling.
To prove that the marriage has ended, the spouse seeking divorce must show the Court that one or more of the following facts is true:
- that your spouse has committed adultery, and you find it intolerable to live with him or her
- that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her
- that your spouse has deserted you for at least two years
- if your spouse agrees to the divorce, that you and your spouse have been separated for at least three years
- if your spouse does not agree to the divorce, that you and your spouse have been separated for at least four years.
Typically to start the divorce proceedings, a 3-step process is required. First, one needs to file a write for divorce, then a statement of particulars and finally a statement of claim.
Singaporeans marrying overseas
The law does not require Singaporean or Permanent Resident couples who married overseas to re-register (includes "converting" or "endorsing" a foreign marriage certificate) with the Singapore ROM. The marriage certificate issued by the competent authority of the foreign country may be accepted as prima facie evidence of a marriage between the parties named in the certificate.
All marriages contracted or solemnised outside Singapore ─
(a) which have been registered in accordance with and are valid under the law of the place in which the marriages were contracted or celebrated; and
(b) to which both parties possess the capacity to marry under the law of their respective countries of domicile, are valid in Singapore.
The final arbiter of any dispute as to the validity of such marriages in Singapore is the Court of Law.
- "Getting Married In Singapore". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- "Marriage Counselling". Government of Singapore. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- Wong, Siew Ying. "Singapore not ready for same-sex marriage as society is still conservative: PM Lee". Straits Times. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- Women’s Charter (CHAPTER 353). p. PART X. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- "Muslim Divorce in Singapore". First World Problems Pte Ltd. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- "How to save your marriage if your husband commits adultery". Tickled Media Pte Ltd. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- Tan, Theresa. "Cheating brings pain but many don't split up". Retrieved 1 December 2015.