The marital vows taken by a husband and wife are often embodied in the ideals: “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us apart”. Marriage starts with an emotional connection between a man and woman and evolves into a serious commitment between them. It carries vastly different and greater responsibilities than prior stages in the relationship that lead up to marriage. Inevitably, disagreements and differences of opinion over decisions in the marriage can and do arise. |
Decision and time to divorce is a matter of personal choice
Divorce has become an increasingly common and acceptable outcome in society today. it seems that the ideals of marriage vows are fast being recognised by many as an unrealistic standard of perfection. Statistically, one in two marriages in the United States end in divorce. In Singapore, divorce rates have remained relatively constant over the past 5-year period. From 2012 to 2017 the average crude divorce rate was 1.9% per 1,000 residents of the population (Key Indicators of Marriages and Divorces, 2012 – 2018 (Singapore, Department of Statistics, 2017)).
In a good divorce law firm, the key question the lawyers usually ask their clients who are considering divorce in any situation is – "Has your marriage broken down? This is the main focus of commencing divorce proceedings. In making this understandably difficult decision, it would be useful to reflect on the following further questions:
- Has your marital relationship with your wife broken down?
- Is your marriage loveless and just a broken shell?
- Is reconciliation an impossibility?
Where the answer to the above questions is yes, the next question is – If not now, then when? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It is a highly personal decision which is in the hands of the person contemplating divorce. Hence, it is ultimately your call whether your marriage has come to a point where seeking relief from the relationship by divorce is necessary.
Breakdown of marriage is the paramount consideration
One of the spouses in a marriage being diagnosed with a serious illness is likely to place great strain on the marital relationship especially because the healthy spouse would need to take on the responsibility of being both the primary caregiver and the sole breadwinner of the household. However, the approach of family law in Singapore is to promote reconciliation. There are various social service agencies as well as the family justice courts in Singapore that provide counselling and mediation services where a marriage relationship is under threat.
The law of divorce only intervenes when a marriage has broken down beyond the point of any prospect of reconciliation. Notwithstanding a spouse’s medical ailment, the overarching consideration in a divorce remains the state of the marital relationship. The illness in and of itself is unlikely to have any bearing on the outcome of divorce, as long as the ill spouse is well enough to participate in the proceedings. That being said, the illness and costs of treatment could be considered by the courts in deciding on the quantum of maintenance to be awarded, if any.
In addressing some of the discomfort surrounding this issue, an experienced divorce lawyer in Singapore has shares some anecdotes of matters she has worked on in the past. In one matter, despite a husband and wife being more than 80 years of age, the wife nevertheless intended to file for divorce. She did not eventually proceed because her husband unexpectedly passed on from a fatal fall. In another matter, a husband filed for divorce against his wife who was being treated for 4th stage cancer. Unfortunately, she passed on before the divorce could be finalised, and the matter had to be abated.
Furthermore, as a point of assurance, divorce proceedings are conducted on a strictly private and confidential basis between husband and wife, their lawyers and the Court. Circumstances of the divorce such as its timing, the spouse’s medical conditions and any other matters surrounding the marital relationship are not made known to the public unless disclosed by either party.
The decision to divorce is a difficult one to make and will likely be made in emotionally charged circumstances. An already difficult situation is inevitably made even tougher where one of the spouses to the marriage is suffering from a serious illness. There can be no fixed answer to the question – If my spouse is suffering from cancer (or any other serious illness), when is the right time for divorce, if at all?
While the decision to decide the right time is in your hands, a good divorce lawyer will give you some measure of peace and clarity in making this tough decision. They recommend taking some time to digest the information shared here and reflecting on the various considerations we have highlighted.
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