How Much Does A Contested and Uncontested Divorce Cost In Singapore?

Yen Joon
Last updated Jun 20, 2022
divorce singapore cost: average cost for a contested and uncontested divorce

Divorce cases are often riddled with questions such as how matrimonial assets are divided and who gets custody of the children. However, one of the biggest concerns is the uncertainty around how much a divorce can cost. 

Divorce cases make the headlines for the wrong reasons. 

Often, it’s because of all the bitter (but juicy) details of the divorce (like the much-publicised defamation trial of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp), but it could also be because the divorce involves a lot of money. 

Case in point: this recent story of a Singapore couple who fought over a S$1 million wedding red packet during their divorce.

Whatever the reason, going through a divorce is usually hard emotionally and financially. To help you understand what to expect and the costs involved in a divorce, here’s what you need to know. 

Grounds for divorce

In order to divorce in Singapore, the marriage needs to be more than three years. You and your spouse must also must be domiciled in Singapore or have resided in Singapore for at least three years before applying for the divorce.

If the marriage is less than three years, then you may consider applying for an annulment instead.

You can still get a divorce if your marriage is less than three years, but you must prove that you have suffered exceptional hardship, or your spouse has committed exceptional depravity, such as committing adultery while both of you are in the same house. 

In Singapore, the only ground for divorce is the ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’. You’ll also need to prove to the court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and there are five facts to demonstrate this:

1. Adultery

2. Unreasonable behaviour

3. Desertion of two years

4. Desertion of three years with spouse’s consent

5. Desertion of four years

However, in January 2022, the parliament passed a bill to allow a sixth factor where parties can divorce by mutual agreement. This aims to allow parties to divorce amicably, so that they can focus on more important matters, such as the co-parenting of their children. 

For Muslims, the above doesn’t apply and you must file for divorce under the Sharia Law instead. You may refer to the Shariah Court’s website for the full divorce process.

Divorce proceedings

There are two stages of a divorce: dissolution of the marriage, and ancillary matters. 

In the first stage (dissolution of marriage), the Family Justice Courts will decide if there is sufficient ground for a divorce. The Court will grant Interim Judgement once it is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and should be dissolved. 

In the second stage, the Court will make a decision on ancillary matters regarding the division of matrimonial assets, spousal maintenance, child(ren) maintenance, and child(ren) custody matters. The Final Judgement will be granted once the ancillary matters have been resolved. This marks the end of the divorce.

Depending on how both parties can come into agreement (or contest) on the issues, the divorce process could be as short as a few months or stretch over a few years.

However, the process also depends on whether it’s a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce

In an uncontested divorce, both parties are able to come to an agreement on all matters of the divorce, including the reason for divorce and all the ancillary matters. This process is generally quicker and less expensive.

On the other hand, a contested divorce is when both spouses are unable to agree on at least one matter of the divorce (e.g. custody of the children). This will take more time as each party will need to submit their evidence and make their arguments in court, which costs more time and money.

How much does a divorce cost in Singapore?

Divorce fees can vary depending on whether it’s a contested divorce or uncontested divorce, as well as the grounds of divorce. 

Generally, it can range from S$1,500 to S$3,500 for uncontested divorces, and S$10,000 to S$35,000 for contested divorces. 

Uncontested divorces are more straightforward, quicker, and easier. Both parties are also not required to attend court, so it’s less expensive compared to contested divorces. Furthermore, both parties can end their marriage in an amicable manner without nasty conflicts. 

For contested divorce cases, the cost can vary dramatically depending on how complicated or prolonged the case is. This may require several rounds of mediation and counselling sessions, as well as a trial. 

The fees in a divorce case include:

  • Your lawyer’s professional fees
  • Disbursements
  • GST

Lawyer’s professional fees

A lawyer may charge based on an hourly rate, a flat fee for the entire divorce case, a lump-sum fee for each stage of the divorce, or a separate fee for each service provided during the divorce. 

Hourly rate

Your lawyer will charge you on a per-hour basis. The hourly rates are based on the size of the law firm, the number of years of legal experience of the lawyer, and the lawyer’s seniority in the law firm.

For Junior Associates, the rate is S$350 per hour, for Senior Associates it’s S$500 per hour, and S$800 per hour for partners. 

Flat fee for entire divorce

Some law firms also charge a flat fee for the entire divorce case, though this is more common for uncontested divorces. 

The fee depends on the grounds for divorce, division of matrimonial assets, matters regarding children, and maintenance arrangements. This can range from S$1,200 to S$3,500. 

The fee is lower if there are no children, property, or maintenance involved. 

Lump-sum fee for each stage of the divorce

Your lawyer breaks down the divorce case into stages and charges a lump sum for each stage. The fee will depend on whether the dissolution of marriage and ancillary matters are contested or uncontested. The fee ranges from S$500 to S$15,000 per stage. 

Separate fee for each service provided in the divorce

Your lawyer charges you according to the service provided, such as filing of pleadings, attending mediation, attending trial, or counselling on contested ancillary matters. Depending on the service type, the charges can be from S$350 to S$10,000. 

Fee typeFactorsFee
Hourly rateBased on factors such as the size of the law firm, the number of years of legal experience of the lawyer, and the lawyer’s seniority in the law firmS$350 per hour (junior associates), S$500 per hour (senior associates), S$800 per hour (partners) 
Flat feeFlat fee package for entire divorce case, usually for uncontested divorces. Fee depends on the grounds for divorce, division of matrimonial assets, matters regarding child(ren), and maintenance arrangements S$1,200 to S$3,500
Lump sum fee for each stage of divorceYour lawyer breaks down the divorce case into stages and charges a lump sum for each stage (e.g. whether the dissolution of marriage and ancillary matters are contested or uncontested)S$500 to S$15,000 per stage 
Separate fee for each service providedYour lawyer charges you according to the service provided, such as filing of pleadings, attending mediation, attending trial, or counselling on contested ancillary mattersS$350 to S$10,000 depending on service type

Disbursement fees

On top of your lawyer’s professional fees, there will also be disbursement charges. These are expenses incurred by your lawyer such as court filing fees, court hearing fees, drafting of court documents, hearing before Family Court judge, transport expenses, etc.

GST

If the law firm is GST-registered, then GST will also be charged on top of, or included as part of the lawyer’s work.

Divorce fees in stages

The actual fees quoted and charged may vary based on the circumstances of your case such as:

  • Your lawyer’s reputation in handling divorce cases
  • The duration of your case
  • The number of lawyers working on your case
  • The number of mediation appearances your lawyer needs to make
  • The number of negotiations, meetings, or correspondences your lawyer needs to attend
  • The level of service your lawyer provides
  • The number of court applications that your lawyer needs to take out or defend against

Pre-divorce fees

Before filing for a divorce, there’s usually the first consultation with the lawyer to discuss your situation. Some lawyers will not charge you for the consultation if you decide to engage him/her. You will also need to attend a Mandatory Parenting Programme if you have children under the age of 21 years old.  

Service providedFirst consultation
Per-service basisFree or up to S$500
Lump-sum fee for this stageFree or up to S$500
Hourly rateS$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)

Fees for an uncontested divorce

As mentioned, lawyers will typically charge a flat fee for uncontested divorce cases, which is generally from S$1,500 to S$3,500. The fee will typically cover:

  • The drafting of divorce documents
  • Filing fees
  • Extraction of the Interim Judgement and Final Judgement

However, if either party wants to contest the terms of the divorce, then the divorce can change from uncontested divorce to contested divorce. This would also mean that your lawyer will charge you according to their contested divorce rates.

Fees for a contested divorce

Contested divorceService providedCost
Dissolution of marriage Filing of pleadings + letters of correspondence + attending Status ConferencesHourly rate: S$350 to S$800 (depending on seniority)
Lump-sum: S$2,500 to S$3,500

On-service basis: from S$200 to S$1,500 (depending on service)
Mediation Mediation (and/or counselling) at Family Justice Courts to settle the reason for divorce (and as many ancillary matters as possible) without going to trialHourly rate: S$350 to S$800 (depending on seniority)

On-service basis/ lum-sump: S$500 to S$2,000 per session
TrialPreparing and representing you for trialHourly rate: S$350 to S$800 (depending on seniority)

Lump-sum: S$5,000 to S$15,000
Per-service: S$5,000 to S$10,000 for the first two days of trial; S$1,500 to S$4,000 for each subsequent day
Ancillary mattersMediation and/or counselling at the Family Justice Courts, exchange of Affidavits of Assets and Means, drafting of filing Affidavits of Assets and Means, and contested ancillary matters hearingHourly rate: S$350 to S$800 (depending on seniority)

Lump-sum: S$500 to S$2,000 per mediation session; S$5,000 to S$15,000 for the entire ancillary matters stage

Per-service: S$500 to S$5,000 per mediation session; S$350 for attending each status conference, S$2,500 to S$4,500 per affidavit   

Stage 1: Dissolution of the marriage

Filing of pleadings and attending status conferences

If you are the party filing for divorce, your lawyer will need to file your pleadings. Pleadings are formal documents containing a party’s claims/allegations, or defence. 

On the other hand, your spouse’s lawyer may also file his/her own pleadings in response.

Aside from pleadings, your lawyer may also need to prepare letters of correspondence to your spouse’s lawyer, in which the lawyers will try to negotiate for any settlement or ask for important documents. 

If both parties are able to reach an agreement on the reason for the divorce, then it can be changed to an uncontested divorce and The Court will then grant Interim Judgement. Once Interim Judgement is granted, you can then proceed to the ancillary matters stage of the divorce. 

The Court may also call for a status conference for both parties to update the Court on an update on the divorce or if the case is not set down. Your lawyer will need to attend the status conferences on your behalf. 

Service providedHourly rateOn per-service basisLump-sum charge for this stage
Drafting and filing of pleadingsS$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)

S$1,500S$2,500 to S$3,500
Personal service of pleadingsS$500
Letters of correspondence S$200 to S$300 per letter
Attending status conferencesS$350 per attendance

Divorce mediation and counselling

The Court may also fix a date for mediation and counselling sessions so that you and your spouse can settle the reason for divorce without going to trial. Because let’s face it, things can really turn ugly during trial. 

So, rather than trying to score points or hurt one another, mediation and counselling may help both of you to compromise and work toward the best outcome.  

Also, this is a compulsory step if you have at least one child who is below the age of 21 years old.

Mediation session charges

On a per-service chargeLump-sum fee for this stagePer hour rate
S$500 to S$2,000 per sessionS$500 to S$2,000 per sessionS$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)

If you and your spouse can compromise and agree on the reason for divorce, the case can change to an uncontested divorce. Interim Judgement will also be granted after the hearing and you and your spouse can proceed to the ancillary matters stage of the divorce process.

But if both parties are still unable to agree on the reason for divorce after mediation and counselling, then it will go to trial.  

Trial

Before the case goes to trial, however, the Court will call for a Case Conference to prepare for trial and also to determine whether there’s still a chance for both parties to settle on the divorce. The case will go uncontested divorce if both parties can agree on the reason for divorce. 

If you’re still unable to compromise, then the Court will ask for the Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief (AEIC) of the witnesses of both spouses to be filed, signed, and exchanged with each other. The AEIC is a signed statement by the witnesses made under oath and will be used as evidence in court. 

During trial, the Court will determine whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down based on the evidence presented. The trial may take several days depending on the number of witnesses and how complex the case is.

Once the trial ends, the Court will grant an Interim Judgement if it decides that the marriage should be dissolved, and both parties will proceed to the ancillary matters of the divorce.

Attendance at trial charges

On a per-service chargeLump-sum fee for this stagePer hour rate
S$5,000 to S$10,000 for first two days of trial; S$1,500 to S$4,000 for each subsequent dayS$5,000 to S$15,000S$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)

Stage 2: ancillary matters 

During this stage, the Court will deal with ancillary matters, including how the assets will be divided, the custody of your children, and spousal or child maintenance. The Court will direct both parties to attend mediation and counselling sessions to settle as many contested ancillary matters as possible before the ancillary matters hearing.  

If mediation is successful and both parties manage to reach an agreement on all the contested ancillary matters, then one of you can apply for Final Judgement if three months have passed since the grant of Interim Judgement. This will mark the end of your divorce. 

However, if you can’t agree on all the ancillary matters, then both of you will be called for an ancillary case conference hearing. 

The mediation charges will be similar to the above.

Attending mediation charges

On a per-service chargeLump-sum fee for this stagePer hour rate
S$500 to S$2,000 per sessionS$500 to S$2,000 per sessionS$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)

Ancillary matters case conference

During the ancillary matters case conference hearing, the Assistant Registrar will attempt to settle all contested matters and achieve a fair result for the contested assets. 

Again, if you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all the contested ancillary matters, then one of you can proceed to apply for Final Judgement if three months have elapsed since the grant of Interim Judgement. 

But if you still can’t agree on all the contested ancillary matters, then you’re required to file and exchange your Affidavits of Assets and Means. 

If your lawyer charges you a lump-sum fee for this stage, the fee will range from S$5,000 to S$15,000 for the entire ancillary matters stage. 

Attending status conferences charges

On a per-service chargeLump-sum fee for this stagePer hour rate
S$350 per attendanceS$5,000 to S$15,000 for entire ancillary matters stageS$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)

Exchange of Affidavits of Assets and Means

During this stage, both parties will need to fully disclose all assets, expenses, and liabilities that are solely and jointly owned. These include assets that are acquired prior to your marriage. 

Drafting of filing Affidavits of Assets of Means

On a per-service chargeLump-sum fee for this stagePer hour rate
S$2,500 to S$4,500 per affidavitS$5,000 to S$15,000 for entire ancillary matters stageS$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)

Contested ancillary matters hearing

Any contested ancillary matters will be set down for a contested ancillary matters hearing. During the hearing, the Court will decide on the contested ancillary matters based on the evidence presented and arguments by the lawyers.

This usually takes half a day to conclude and the lawyers will be given a date to return to court to receive judgement. Complex cases may take two to five days. 

Service providedLump-sum fee for this stageHourly ratePer-service basis
Drafting and filing or written submissionsS$5,000 to S$15,000 for entire ancillary matters stageS$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)S$3,200 to S$5,000
Preparing for and attending the contested ancillary matters hearingS$5,000 to S$15,000 for entire ancillary matters stageS$350 (Junior Associate), S$500 (Senior Associate), S$800 (Partner)S$1,500 to S$2,500 per half-day of hearing

After the hearing and the Court gives the final verdict, either you or your spouse can proceed to apply for the Final Judgement if three months have passed since the grant of Interim Judgement. This will conclude the divorce case. 

What are considered matrimonial assets?

According to the Women’s Charter Act, matrimonial assets include the following:

  • All assets bought by both parties during the course of the marriage
  • Assets used by one or both parties or their children for various purposes
  • Assets acquired before the marriage but subsequently improved in quality during the marriage

Some examples of matrimonial assets include matrimonial home, family car, shares, endowment plans and insurance policies, CPF savings, cash savings, businesses, jewellery, and even lottery winnings. Gifts between spouses during the marriage by one party or both parties may also be considered matrimony assets. 

On the other hand, assets that are exempted from matrimonial assets include assets received as gifts or inheritance and gifts and inheritance that have not been substantially improved by one or both parties during the marriage.

How are matrimonial assets divided?

The Court will decide how the assets will be divided based on various factors:

  • The extent of financial contributions made by each party towards obtaining, maintaining, and improving the asset
  • The extent of non-financial contributions towards the family’s welfare including maintaining the home, caring for the family, or any elderly family members
  • Any debt owed or taken for the benefit of both parties, for individual benefit, or for the child’s benefit
  • Care or control over a child’s needs
  • Any agreements made by both parties on the division of the assets which include pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements
  • Financial needs of both parties after the divorce, which include the working abilities and qualifications of both parties
  • The needs of both parties after the divorce

Related read: HDB Ownership After Divorce: What Happens Next?

Bottom line: divorce can be a long and costly process

While it can be costly and long to divorce, it doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive. By working together and compromising, you can help to keep costs from ballooning out of control while also helping to preserve some dignity in the marriage and reducing any emotional and financial blows. 

Read these next:
HDB Ownership After Divorce: What Happens Next?
Prenuptial Agreement in Singapore – What Is A Prenup And Should You Consider It?
Handling Finances As A Couple: Here’s How We Do It
How To Talk About Money With Your Partner
4 Signs You and Your Partner are a Bad Money Match


By Yen Joon
Before joining SingSaver, I had poor financial literacy. These days, I publish a few personal finance posts every week* to help you manage your money better.

*I mean, I’ll try


Yen Joon June 20, 2022 91583