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Adultery and Divorce & The Role of a Family Lawyer!

Updated: Jan 16

By Sharanjit Kaur


I shall use the terms 'Adultery' and 'Infidelity' interchangeably in this assertion.

From a legal standpoint, let me remind readers that legal proceedings in Singapore are never rigid nor firmly fixed but instead are dynamic and vary depending on situation and circumstance. The insights I offer in this writing prevail from my experiences as a family lawyer in Singapore for the past 28 years since my start of practice.


Adultery

A spouse commits adultery only once he or she has sexual intercourse with another.

It is of no substance what the martial status of the other party is. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that infidelity in the legal realm takes place between two married couples.


However, what remains a question to which I continue to seek understanding of is the gender type. It's not clear if Adultery is confined to heterosexual exchange only or does it extend to include homosexuality.


In other words, does my spouse commit adultery if his or her partner is of the same sex? I shall revisit this doubt once I read relevant cases within Singapore's jurisdiction.


It is important to note that the notion of intercourse is a crucial factor in determining infidelity. Thus, other forms of intimacy even though physical in nature do not bear the same weight as sexual intercourse in determining adulterous behaviour. With this, one may expel any claim of adultery that is derived from evidence such as text messages or photographs of association in public places such as dining or dancing, etc.


Very often such suggestive evidence is useful to investigate further, often using a private investigator or direct confrontation to establish the extent of the alleged adulterous relationship.


Is Adultery a Crime?

In Singapore, it is not a criminal offence to commit adultery. It is well established that no report can be lodged by a spouse against another for infidelity. Thus, there are no instruments, not even under the Women's Charter, to expel your spouse from the home if he or she is caught having an extra marital affair that includes sexual intercourse (even in cases leading to impregnation of another). While we understand that the pain of having a cheating spouse can be unbearable and devastating, it is not uncommon for a spouse to be encouraged to forgive another so as to save their marriage, which may not be worth culminating.


The Role of a Family Lawyer

It is a challenge in itself to arrive at a clear picture that your spouse has actually committed adultery because sexual intercourse is often a private and confined dealing. Private Investigators are often helpful in tracing and tracking couple movements and activities, but cease beyond the closed doors of hotels and homes. Again, evidence gathered is useful in putting pressure when obtaining a confession by a spouse, but often the cheating spouse deny until the last possible juncture or in what we term as "getting caught red handed".


It is crucial to note that there is a time bar by which a divorce petition is to be filed. In Singapore, a spouse cannot and shall not wait beyond 6 months to file for a divorce upon discovering or establishing that his or her spouse has had an adulterous relationship. The reason for this is that the Court views the time period of having stayed together without objection as impetus to healing and recovery.

Lawyers like myself have full handed knowledge on such provisions and shall thus advise you and set you on your marks time fully. Next, we are able to guide you on how you need to express your pain and suffering from an adulterous spouse by highlighting how it is impossible to even live with the person any longer.


Clients have ever asked me if they would obtain full custody of their children once they can exhibit to the Court that their spouse was a cheating spouse? The answer is “No “. There is actually no minimal bearing on children’s custodial matters because one party in a marriage has had an extra marital affair.


However, if there is evidence that the parent is "colourful" and a frequent adulterous being, we can attempt to showcase to the Court that such character is potentially inappropriate for childcare and support, therefore, the cheating spouse be restricted from custodial rights. Again, this has to be balanced with what is best in for the child’s welfare as the alleged parent and children may already have a very strong and positive bond, independent on private behaviour outside of the matrimonial home.

In October 2023 itself, there is news of how a cheating spouse upon divorce had been imposed with his spouse’s bill for legal action and engagement of private detective services. Again, it is not a given that the spouse be made to pay in all such cases, but it depends on the facts of the case and how it was proceeded with in Court.


There are many reasons why Divorces happen owing to changing circumstances in marriages and family life. Very often, especially when a couple is blessed with children, Lawyers do our best to hope that the spouses can reconcile their differences and think of long term good.


However, reality often presents a different tune and twist such that it is for the best that two people part. Adultery creates intense pain that can be dangerous and lead to extreme levels of hate and desire to punish or seek revenge .When we speak with our clients, our experience allows us to detect the levels of pain and hate or on the flipside, forgiveness and hope in them. We thus offer our best opinion and redressive action, so as to fulfil our roles as family lawyers.


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