Divorce On Grounds Of Adultery: 9 Things You’ll Want To Know Before Taking Action

Wedding Ring

Infidelity is a common cause of divorce in Singapore. Yet, many neither understand, nor are realistic in their expectations when they seek a divorce based on the grounds of adultery.

Here are 9 pointers to consider before filing based on adultery for divorce proceedings.

In practice, the person that is alleging adultery is the plaintiff; and the person that is being alleged of the act is known as the defendant, and will be mentioned accordingly in this article for clearer understanding.

  1. There are 2 elements that must be established in court:

    i) The plaintiff has to prove that the defendant has committed adultery and,
    ii) Prove that the infidelity has made it intolerable for the plaintiff to live with the defendant.

  2. Sexual intercourse must have taken place

    sexual affair
    In practice, sexual intercourse (penetration) must have taken place between the defendant and a third party. It is therefore insufficient when you provide proof of your spouse communicating intimately through text messages and emails, or other intimate activities such as hands-holding or kissing, with the alleged third party.

    Proving adultery is often rather difficult as the courts in Singapore have adopted such a high standard of proof. The plaintiff may need to hire a Private Investigator (PI), and fees for hiring a PI can be high.

    Evidence gathered by the PI may not always guarantee a successful divorce based on adultery. If the evidence obtained is not sufficient, a better solution may be to engage an experienced divorce lawyer to help identify an alternative fact to support the divorce instead, for example, using the fact of unreasonable behavior.

  3. Third party has to be of opposite gender

    homosexual relationship
    In Singapore, adultery can only be committed between the defendant and a third party of the opposite sex. Thus, if your spouse has engaged in an intimate relationship with another party of the same gender, it is advised that you consider  other grounds for divorce.

  4. Prove it’s intolerable to continue living with your spouse as a result of adultery

    troubled relationship
    The plaintiff will have to prove that living with the defendant has been intolerable since adultery has been committed.

    The courts will consider whether a reasonable person in the position of the plaintiff would find it intolerable to live with the defendant. Circumstances and personalities of both parties will also be assessed. However, establishing this element for divorce is not as demanding as that of providing proof of adultery.

  5. You have only 6 months to file for divorce

    hour glass
    When confronted in the face of evidence that a spouse is cheating, most individuals would first make efforts to safe the marriage before considering divorce as an ultimatum.

    Should you be in this position, note that you will not be allowed to divorce your spouse based on adultery, if you continue to live with your spouse for six months and longer upon finding out about the adulterous relationship.

    Furthermore, it may also be argued that you have acknowledged the actions, and forgiven the grievance caused by your spouse’s infidelity, and therefore have found it tolerable to continue living with him/her.

    Thus, it is advised that a plaintiff commence divorce proceedings as soon as he/she has confirmed the suspicions of the spouse being unfaithful to the marriage, if he/she wishes for it to be based on the grounds of adultery.

  6. Must have been married for at least 3 years

    number 3
    A plaintiff can only commence divorce proceedings if he/she has been married for three years or more.

    This would mean that even if the plaintiff has knowledge that his/her partner is involved in an adulterous relationship a few months into the marriage, he/she will be unable to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

    It is only in very exceptional circumstances that the court will grant divorces for cases involving marriages that are less than three years in duration. If you want to file a divorce within 3 years of your marriage, you should engage an experienced divorce lawyer to obtain advice as to what these exceptions are and whether your marriage falls into this category.

  7. Pointing out the third party serves no tangible benefit

    silhouette of couple near the sea

    The plaintiff may decide to identify the third party in court. However, naming or shaming the third party does not lead to plaintiff being given a better settlement at the divorce suit.  In fact, the plaintiff who files a divorce based on adultery typically spends more legal fees on the divorce as compared to filing a divorce based on separation or unreasonable behavior.

  8. Adultery in itself does not affect maintenance, division of matrimonial assets nor custody of children

    personal assets division in divorce

    Adultery is not a crime in Singapore.  Neither the third party nor the Defendant would be punished with a jail sentence or be fined.

    The adulterous defendant does not get automatically get penalised or “punished” by the Court when issues of division of assets, maintenance and child custody are being considered.

    However, if the defendant is proved to be a serial adulterer, or has been proven to lead a lifestyle that appears to be grossly immoral, it could nevertheless, impact the court’s decision in awarding custody of children.  The court’s decision is always made on a case by case basis.

  9. Paying party for divorce proceedings

    cheque
    When adultery has been established, the court may order that the defendant pays for the divorce proceedings to the plaintiff.

    The defendant may also be ordered to reimburse the plaintiff for the private investigator’s fees, if the plaintiff had engaged one to provide the proof of adultery.

    The actual amount ordered is left entirely to the court’s discretion.

gravel held by a judge
Filing for divorce based on reason of adultery can be time-consuming, stressful and costly.

A veteran divorce lawyer can advise you accordingly for the best outcome, and guide you through the divorce procedure. Should you need more advice on divorcing based on adultery, feel free to leave us a message.

Images from Unsplash and Freepik.

Pui Khim Ng

Ng Pui Khim is a senior lawyer with over 20 years of private practice experience focusing on divorces (family and matrimonial law), real estate (conveyancing practice), wills and succession law.
Pui Khim Ng
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