Question: Can you file for divorce in Singapore if you are a Singapore permanent resident?

ANSWER: According to s 93(1) of the Women’s Charter, the court only has the jurisdiction to hear proceedings for divorce only if either party is:

(a) domiciled in Singapore at the time proceedings have commenced; or

(b) habitually resident in Singapore for a period of 3 years immediately before commencement of the proceedings.

To prove that one is domiciled in Singapore, it is heavily fact dependent. In Cai Xiao Mei v Zhang ShaoJi [2014] SGDC 132 at paragraph 21, many factors can be used as evidence to prove domicile. Plaintiff’s counsel in that instance used facts such as the fact that the plaintiff intends to apply for Singapore citizenship, her children attending schools in Singapore, and the fact that she spend majority of her time in Singapore.

To prove that one is “habitually resident” in Singapore, the High Court in Lee Mei-Chih v Chang Kuo-Yuan [2012] 4 SLR 1115 at paragraph 6 stated that the residence had to be adopted voluntarily and for settled purposes. One does not need to be permanently rooted in Singapore for 3 years as brief absences are allowed. At paragraph 8, the High Court said that they had to consider not just the reason for being away, but also the length of time spent away. This is also a largely factual inquiry.

In short, if you are domiciled in Singapore or you are habitually resident in Singapore for 3 years, you will be eligible to file for divorce in Singapore. The decision will largely turn on the facts and you should consult a lawyer for a proper assessment on the strength of your case.