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Introduction
This section is an overview of the divorce process at the Syariah Court.

The information provided is general in nature, and is not intended as legal advice. The staff of the Syariah Court cannot provide legal advice, or assist with drafting the contents of any document. Only a lawyer can give legal advice on the merits of your case.

References to legislation
The Administration of Muslim Law Act ("AMLA") is the primary legislation making provision for regulating Muslim affairs and by which the Syariah Court is constituted. (Click here)

The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Rules is the set of rules prescribing the practice and procedure of the Syariah Court. (Click here)
 

Overview of the Divorce process

Overview of the Divorce process
Registration and Marriage Counselling Programme

Registration and Marriage Counselling Programme
Process
Registration

You may apply for divorce at the Syariah Court if you and your spouse are Muslims or married under the Muslim law. In addition, either party must:

  1. be a Singapore citizen; or
  2. have lived in Singapore for at least 3 continuous years before applying for a divorce; or
  3. be domiciled in Singapore*

If neither you nor your spouse is a Singapore citizen, please provide proof your residence in Singapore for the past 3 years, immediately preceding the date of submitting your registration form. For example, employment pass indicating length of stay, employment agreement or tenancy agreement.

*Domicile is the country which a person treats as his/her permanent home, or to which he/she has a substantial connection with.

If you are suffering from a critical illness or terminal illness, or have a physical disability or infirmity, that renders it impractical or impossible for you to attend the Marriage Counselling Programme, please provide proof of your medical condition. For example, a letter from a registered medical practitioner, which must not be dated earlier than 1 (one) month from the date of submitting your registration form.

Marriage Counselling Programme

If you wish to apply for divorce, you must register your application at the Syariah Court. If your registration is complete, you will receive a referral letter from the Syariah Court to attend the Marriage Counselling Programme. The Marriage Counselling Programme is compulsory. It aims to provide you and your spouse with a safe and neutral platform to discuss your marriage and understand the impact of divorce. The counsellor will also facilitate a Parenting Programme if you have at least one child below 21 years old. If you require additional support, the counsellor may refer you to other relevant agencies.

Parenting Programme

If you decide to proceed with divorce and have at least one child below 21 years old, your counsellor will facilitate a Parenting Programme with you and your spouse. The Parenting Programme focuses on co-parenting skills and your children's care arrangements after the divorce.

If there is mutual agreement on the parenting plan, both of you must complete and *sign the Agreed Parenting Plan Form. *Please note that the Defendant must affirm his signature before a Commissioner for Oaths.

If there is no mutual agreement on the Parenting Plan, the Plaintiff will then complete and submit the Proposed Parenting Plan Form instead when filing the Originating Summons.

If you decide not to proceed with divorce, you may close your case.

You can download the Agreed / Proposed Parenting Plan forms from our website here.
 
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Who can apply for divorce at the Syariah Court Singapore?
A: You can apply for divorce at the Syariah Court if you and your spouse are Muslims or married under the Muslim law. In addition, either party must:
  1. be a Singapore citizen; or
  2. have lived in Singapore for at least 3 continuous years before applying for a divorce; or
  3. be domiciled in Singapore*

If neither you nor your spouse is a Singapore citizen, please provide proof your residence in Singapore for the past 3 years, immediately preceding the date of submitting your registration form. For example, employment pass indicating length of stay, employment agreement or tenancy agreement.

* Domicile is the country which a person treats as his/her permanent home, or to which he/she has a substantial connection with.
Q: What if I do not attend the Marriage Counselling Programme?
A: If you (the applicant) do not attend the Marriage Counselling Programme your case will be closed. You may file the Originating Summons to commence the divorce proceedings only after you have attended the Marriage Counselling Programme.
Q: What are the documents required for filing the Originating Summons for divorce?
A: Please ensure that you submit the following documents:
  1. Photocopy of applicant's NRIC or valid passport
  2. Photocopy of marriage certificate* (ROMM)
  3. Photocopy of birth certificates of minor children (below 21 years old) from the current marriage

*For marriages registered outside Singapore:
Please provide the original foreign marriage certificate with attestation. A foreign marriage certificate without attestation** will not be accepted.

** Attestation is a statement or endorsement by the relevant foreign authority validating a document and should contain an official stamp/seal and signature. Attestation can be done at the following locations:
  1. In the country of marriage
  2. In Singapore, at the embassy of the country you were married in

If your marriage certificate is not in the English or Malay language, you are required to provide a certified true translation of your marriage certificate in the English language.

If you have misplaced your original marriage certificate, please obtain an extract copy from the country you were married in or enquire with its embassy in Singapore.
Q: When can I proceed with my divorce application?
A: You may proceed with the divorce application after you have completed the Marriage Counselling Programme. On your last counselling date, your counselling agency will issue you a letter containing information on the filing process ("Letter for filing of Originating Summons"). Filing of the Originating Summons for divorce must be done within 6 months from the last counselling date. If you decide to proceed with your divorce application after 6 months, you are required to register and attend the Marriage Counselling Programme again.
Q: Is there any payment required for the Marriage Counselling Programme?
A: No. There is no fee payable for registration or attendance at the Marriage Counselling Programme.

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Filing of the Originating Summons

Filing of the Originating Summons

 
Process
After attending the Marriage Counselling Programme, you may proceed to file the Originating Summons for divorce to commence the divorce proceedings. If you are the party who files the divorce application, you are known as the Plaintiff and your spouse is known as the Defendant.

The "Letter for filing of Originating Summons" is a letter containing instructions on the requirements for filing the divorce application. Please complete all the required forms and documents before coming to Syariah Court for filing as the time allocated at the counter for this transaction is only 30 minutes. You should state "N.A" on the items in the forms that are not applicable to you. If your forms or documents are incomplete, you will not be able to file the divorce application. If your filing is successful, you will be given an appointment date to attend mediation or pre-trial conference. It is thus crucial for you to comply with the instructions to avoid unsuccessful attempts to file the divorce application at the Syariah Court.

The Originating Summons for divorce together with the relevant documents must be served on the Defendant. Service may be effected by personal service, registered post or a substituted mode of service, and has to be effected within 12 months from the date of filing of the Originating Summons.

As a Defendant, if you have been served with the Originating Summons, you are required to acknowledge receipt of the Originating Summons and file your Memorandum of Defence within 21 days.

The staff at Syariah Court is unable to dispense any legal advice or assist to draft the contents of any document. If you require legal advice, it would be in your best interests to consult a lawyer. You may refer to the list of lawyers on the website of the Law Society of Singapore
http://www.lawsociety.org.sg

You can download the relevant forms required for filing from our website here.

Please click here for the estimated filing fees.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can I file my Originating Summons if I don't have a complete set of documents?
A: No. You are required to have a complete set of the required documents when filing your Originating Summons.
Q: What is service of the Originating Summons to the Defendant?
A: The divorce proceedings must be served i.e., brought to the Defendant's notice, within 12 months from the date of filing of the Originating Summons for divorce. Service can be effected in one of the following ways:
  1. Personal service
  2. Service via registered post
  3. Substituted service

If service is not effected within this time, the validity of the Originating Summons for service will expire and your case will be closed.
Q: Can I file the Originating Summons for divorce if my spouse is missing?
A: Yes, however, you (the Plaintiff) will be required to file an application for substituted service and obtain a court order allowing the substituted service. Service must then be effected in accordance with the court order.

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Service of the Originating Summons via Personal service

Service of the Originating Summons via Personal service

 
Process
If as the Plaintiff you have chosen and paid to have the Originating Summons served by personal service, you must provide the Court with your spouse's (the Defendant's) last known local residential address so that the Court can send a letter to your spouse to accept the service of the documents at the Syariah Court. If your spouse (the Defendant) does not collect the Originating Summons in person at the Syariah Court, the court process server will make ONE attempt to serve the Originating Summons at the address you provided.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is Personal Service?
A: Personal service is one of the ways in which the Originating Summons for divorce is served on the Defendant. It may only be effected by a process server of the Court or by a solicitor or an authorised solicitor's clerk.
Q: Can I proceed with my divorce application if the Originating Summons is not personally served on the Defendant?
A: If the Originating Summons is not personally served on the Defendant, it may be served via registered post, or via substituted service provided you (the Plaintiff) have obtained a Court order allowing the substituted service.

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Service of the Originating Summons via Registered Post (RP)

Service of the Originating Summons via Registered Post (RP)
Process
If, as the Plaintiff, you have chosen to have the Originating Summons served by registered post, you must send the complete set of filed documents, together with the blank Acknowledgement of Service Form and the blank Memorandum of Defence Form, to your spouse via registered post. Your spouse (the Defendant) will be required to sign and return the Acknowledgement of Service to you. When you receive the signed Acknowledgement of Service Form from your spouse, you must file it in Court.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is service by registered post?
A: Service by registered post means sending the Originating Summons to the Defendant by pre-paid registered post. For the service to be successful, the Defendant must return the signed Acknowledgement of Service Form to the Plaintiff to acknowledge receipt. When you (the Plaintiff) receive the signed Acknowledgement of Service Form from the Defendant, you (the Plaintiff) must file it in the Syariah Court. If the Acknowledgement of Service is not filed, the service is considered not to have been effected.
Q: Can I proceed with my divorce application if the Originating Summons is not personally served or not effectively served by registered post on the Defendant?
A: The divorce proceedings must still be brought to the Defendant's notice. As such, before the case can proceed, you (the Plaintiff) will be required to file an application for substituted service and obtain a Court order allowing the substituted service. Service must then be effected in accordance with the Court order.
Q: If I have not opted for personal service, can I make a change request for personal service subsequently?
A: Yes. However, the cut-off date to make the request for change is 2 weeks from the date of the filing of the Originating Summons. You (the Plaintiff) are required to attend at the Syariah Court counters to provide the Court with the Defendant's local residential address and return to the Court the service copy of the complete set of filed documents. A fee of $29 is payable for service by the court process server.

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Service of the Originating Summons via Substituted Service

Service of the Originating Summons via Substituted Service
Process
If personal service, or service by registered post, of the Originating Summons is unsuccessful or impossible (such as because your spouse's (Defendant's) whereabouts are unknown), the divorce proceedings must be brought to your spouse's (Defendant's) notice by alternative methods such as newspaper advertisement, registered post (without the need for Defendant to return the Acknowledgement of Service) or electronic mail. You (Plaintiff) may apply to the Court for an order for substituted service. The application is made by filing a summons with a supporting affidavit.

You may refer to the filing instruction from our website here.

Please click here for the estimated filing fees.

You will know the outcome of your application after 3 working days. If your application is granted, you (Plaintiff) will be required to make payment for the Order of Court that would specify the selected mode of service. You will then have to serve the Originating Summons according to the method stated in the Order of Court. Thereafter you must file the Affidavit of Service.

Important: you should not carry out the substituted service until you have obtained the Order of Court.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is substituted service?
A: Substituted service is an alternative mode of service when personal service or service by registered post cannot be effected. Substituted service can only be done with the Court's permission. There are 3 usual ways in which substituted service can be effected:
  1. Newspaper advertisement (in Singapore or the Defendant's last known country of residence)
  2. Electronic mail
  3. Registered Post by court order
Q: What if my missing spouse (the Defendant), turns up at the next Court appointment?
A: Your spouse will be asked to file his documents in Court for his case to be heard.
Q: What if my spouse (the Defendant) remains missing throughout the proceedings?
A: The Court will fix a date for the Hearing of your case after you have complied with all directions of the Court, including directions on the filing of affidavits. You may be required to produce 2 adult male Muslim witnesses to give evidence on your behalf.

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Mediation

Mediation

 
Process
The mediator will discuss with you and your spouse to see if an agreement can be reached on the divorce as well as all the ancillary matters such as nafkah iddah, mutaah, custody of children and the matrimonial property.

If you have engaged a lawyer, you are required to attend this session with your lawyer.

If there is an agreement and all the necessary documents have been filed in Court, and the Court accepts the agreement, the divorce application may be heard and determined on the same day.

If there is no agreement, the matter will be referred for pre-trial conference on a later date.

A Pre-Trial Conference may also be scheduled when parties are proposing that the child/children's care and control be shared between them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is the purpose of mediation?
A: The purpose of mediation is to assist parties to reach an amicable settlement on the divorce and all the ancillary matters such as nafkah iddah, mutaah, custody of children and division of matrimonial property. The divorce can be heard on the same day if there is mutual agreement on the divorce and all the ancillary matters, provided the agreement is acceptable to the Court. If there is no agreement, your case will be referred for a Pre-Trial Conference at a later date. This will prolong your divorce process. You are thus highly encouraged to work towards an amicable settlement at the mediation stage.
Q: What if I am absent from mediation?
A: Both you and your spouse must attend the mediation session even if both of you have engaged a lawyer each. If you are the Plaintiff and you are absent without a valid reason, the Court may close your case. If the Defendant is absent, the Court may refer the case for a Pre-Trial Conference at a later date. If you and your spouse wish to postpone the mediation session for any reason, the next available date may be up to 3 months later.

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Pre-trial Conference

Pre-trial Conference

 
Process
A Pre-trial Conference is conducted by the Registrar or the Deputy Registrar who will give appropriate directions to file the necessary documents such as affidavits and other documents in Court to prepare for the Hearing of your case. You can download the relevant forms required for filing from our website here.

If there is a possibility of settlement, your case will be referred back to mediation on another date.

You will only be given a Hearing date after you and your spouse have complied with all directions of the Court. In some cases, the Court may order or advise parties to appoint hakam (arbitrators).

Family Support Programmes and Activities

The Court may order or advise parties and/or their children to attend counselling or participate in a family support programme or activity to address or resolve any relationship issues between the parties and their children.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is the purpose of a Pre-Trial Conference?
A: The purpose of a Pre-Trial Conference is to prepare the divorce case for Hearing. The Court will give directions to parties on the affidavits required to be filed for Hearing.
Q: How many Pre-Trial Conference sessions am I required to attend?
A: There is no fixed number of sessions as it depends on the readiness of your case for Hearing. Your case will not proceed for Hearing unless the Court is satisfied that the necessary affidavits have been filed and all its directions have been complied with. You are not required to attend Pre-Trial Conferences if you have engaged a lawyer.
Q: What if I am absent from Pre-Trial Conference?
A: Both you and your spouse are not required to attend the Pre-Trial Conference if both of you have engaged a lawyer each. If you (the Plaintiff) have not engaged a lawyer and you are absent, the Syariah Court may close your case. If your spouse (the Defendant) has not engaged a lawyer and is absent, and provided you (Plaintiff) have complied with Court's directions, including the filing of necessary affidavits, the Court may fix the case for Hearing.
Q: How do I prepare my affidavits?
A: If you are legally represented, please check with your lawyer. If you are not legally represented, you may refer to the existing guidelines in the sample affidavits that you can download from our website. The sample affidavits are merely illustrative in nature and are not intended as legal advice.

If you require legal advice, it would be in your best interests to consult a lawyer. You may refer to the list of lawyers on the website of the Law Society of Singapore http://www.lawsociety.org.sg

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Hearing/Hearing with Hakam

Hearing/Hearing with Hakam

 
Process
At the Hearing, the Court will decide on your case based on the evidence that you have submitted in your affidavits. If there is a dispute on custody, care and control and access of your child, and the child is aged between 7 and 21 years old, the child may be required to attend Court.

In some cases, the Court may require 2 adult male Muslims witnesses to give evidence on your behalf.

In some cases, the Court may order or advise parties to appoint hakam (arbitrators). The Court will schedule a hakam session, where parties will have to pay $150 each for the hakam fee, and $22 for the Order of Court.

The hakam will endeavour to effect reconciliation where possible, or to facilitate an amicable divorce if reconciliation is not possible. After the hakam session (arbitration), the arbitrators will provide a report to the Court on whether the parties should be divorced.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How is the Hearing conducted?
A: The Hearing is conducted by a President of the Syariah Court. At the end of the Hearing, the President will make the necessary orders on the divorce, and ancillary matters (custody/access of your children, housing and others).
Q: What if I am absent?
A: Both you and your spouse are required to attend the Hearing even if both of you have engaged a lawyer each. If you are the Plaintiff and are absent for the Hearing, the Court may close your case. If your spouse is the Defendant and is absent, the Hearing may still proceed provided you the Plaintiff have filed the necessary affidavits and complied with all the Court's directions.
Q: Am I required to bring any documents for hearing?
A: Yes, parties are required to bring along all the documents that were filed by both parties in Court. Parties are also required to bring the documents stated in the (Notice to Attend Court).
Q: Can I bring along my family member/friend to witness the proceedings?
A: No, the Hearing is not open to the public, and only parties to the proceedings are permitted to enter the courtroom during the proceedings.
Q: What is the purpose of the hakam session (arbitration)?
A: The purpose of the hakam session (arbitration) is to effect reconciliation where possible, or to facilitate an amicable divorce if reconciliation is not possible. After the arbitration session, the arbitrators will provide a report to the Court on whether the divorce can or should be ordered.

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Variation application (Summons)

Variation application (Summons)

 
Process
Parties may make a variation application (summons) to vary the order of court upon certain events such as a material change in circumstances. After you (the Applicant) have filed the summons, you are required to serve the summons (together with relevant documents) on your spouse (the Respondent). Service may be effected by personal service, registered post or a substituted mode of service.

The process is similar to that of service of Originating Summonses. Please refer to service of Originating Summons workflow.

Upon filing the application, the Court will fix a date for mediation or Pre-Trial Conference for both parties to attend.

If you were previously represented by solicitors and your solicitors remain on record, but you wish to represent yourself in the proceedings, you are required to file a Notice of Intention to Act in Person at the time of filing the summons.

If the nature of your summons is to rescind your previous consented Order of Court not to have the ancillary matters determined on the grounds that you and your spouse wished to reconcile (rujuk) or reconcile and remarry (revocation of divorce), you are required to return the Divorce Certificate (if it has been issued) to the Court, and to file the Parenting Plan and Matrimonial Property Plan as applicable.

If you are the applicant, please click here for information on filing the summons.

If you are the respondent, please click here for important information on the documents which need to be brought on your appointment date.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Who can apply for a variation of court order?
A: If you are a party to the divorce proceedings and the Court has issued a Decree / Order of Court, you may apply to vary the order of court if there has been a material change of circumstances or you can show good cause to the satisfaction of the Court.
Q: Can I proceed to apply for a variation of court order if I am unable to provide the court with my ex-spouse's address?
A: Yes, you can. However, before the case can proceed, you (the Applicant) will be required to file an application for substituted service and obtain a court order allowing the substituted service. Service of the variation application must then be effected in accordance with the court order.
Q: Can I proceed with my variation application if the Summons is not personally served or not served by Registered Post on the Respondent (Ex-spouse)?
A: The proceedings must still be brought to the Defendant's notice. As such, before the case can proceed, you (the Applicant) will be required to file an application for substituted service and obtain a court order allowing the substituted service. Service of the variation application must then be effected in accordance with the court order before your variation application can be proceeded with.

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Enforcement of Syariah Court order

The enforcement of Syariah Court orders on maintenance (iddah or mutaah), or custody issues is made in the Family Justice Courts. Parties may lodge a Magistrate's Complaint for any such breaches of the Syariah Court order under Section 53 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act. Please click here for more information.

You may click here for the relevant forms and information on the enforcement of Syariah Court orders on matrimonial property.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What can I do if the other party does not comply with the orders on nafkah iddah or mutaah, or on access to the children?
A: You may lodge a Magistrate's Complaint at the Family Justice Courts.
Q: What can I do if the other party does not cooperate and sign on the documents to sell or transfer the matrimonial property, as ordered by the Syariah Court?
A: If your Court Order contains a proxy power clause allowing the Court to sign on behalf of a defaulting party, you may make an application with the necessary supporting documents to enforce the Order of Court at Syariah Court. For more information on the necessary steps to be taken, click here for the applicable forms.

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Last updated: 1st October 2018