It is not necessary to use a lawyer for divorce in Singapore. You can always do-it-yourself in completing the papers, or even represent yourself in hearings. This is what is called litigant-in-person.
However, the court papers and process are not that easy to understand, especially if you do not have any legal experience or training. Being a litigant-in-person is no excuse from the required legal procedures and documents. Hence, you might be disadvantaged if the party you are going against, in this case, your soon-to-be ex-spouse, is using a lawyer or is more knowledgeable than you in law. There are a few key considerations that can help you decide if you would need a lawyer:
Divorce is costly. Depending on the complexity (can be reflected by the amount of time spent by the lawyers), it is at least in the thousands. The seniority and experience of the lawyers used also affect the costs (since lawyers have different hourly rates based on seniority and experience).
While most of the times, lawyers charge by the hour, sometimes, for simple uncontested cases, some law firms offer a flat fee ranging from S$2,000 to S$4,000. For contested cases, fees may be broken down into fixed amounts corresponding with different stages in the divorce process. Contested divorce usually costs at least 5 figures.
Costs may add up if there are more complications, e.g. cross-border, procedural irregularities and advanced litigation tactics. A general rule of the thumb: time, (especially your lawyer’s time), is (costing you) money.
Hence, if you have limited means to afford a lawyer, you might have no choice but to DIY or get help from social organizations and pro bono legal clinics.
Whether you have the fortune (or misfortune) of some legal experience or knowledge, you might still be able to do your own research, preparation and work to divorce.
However, it is not an easy job and you will have to be detailed and diligent, and also spend significant time at learning about divorce. As the saying goes, devil is in the details. Without the experience and training of a seasoned family lawyer, your knowledge might not be sufficient to carry you through the process and give yourself justice.
Complexity of the Case
Complexity of the case will be strongly related to whether it is contest or uncontested (see next point). However, that is not all. Complexity can arise in the Ground of Divorce (e.g. proving adultery), in the Ancillary Matters (where parties have to arrange for everything shared in the marriage, from assets to kids). Cross-border cases can be more complicated as well.
Contested versus Uncontested Divorce
Generally speaking, if the divorce is uncontested, i.e. both parties have agreed on the divorce, the arrangement and terms, then it is relatively easier and more manageable by a litigant-in-person. You might still have to do some work to understand the rights and get the paperwork done correctly, including filing the divorce papers, including agreed plans.
If the divorce is contested, it is a difficult war. Fighting it alone is going to be really tough. This is really not recommended unless you really cannot get professional help. You may still try to get help from social organizations and pro bono legal clinics. ReSET is here to help too. Do check out all our informational resources and communities for support.
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