When you file for divorce, a writ for divorce will be issued by the court for your spouse, who will be the Defendant. The usual process is done by personal service. A copy of your Writ with your Divorce Case Number will be made with other relevant legal documents and personally sent to the Defendant by an authorised or registered service clerk.

However in some cases, the Defendant might either refuse to open the door, or is no longer living there and therefore, unable to receive the writ. Depending on the situation, there are two things you can do:

  • An order of substituted service – a way of summons with a supporting affidavit

But if that fails,

  • Service to be dispensed with – only allowed by the court if you can prove that you have attempted every other possible substituted service but still could not reach your spouse.

What is a Substituted Service?

If you are able to find your spouse’s (other) residential or email address, either by yourself or by asking others who may know, then you may apply for service to be made effected by:

  • Registered Post: if you have their residential address, you must explain why you believe that your spouse is currently at that address. You may also use this service if your spouse is living overseas and is not permanently based in Singapore.
  • Electronic Means: you can send it via email if you can show that the email account belongs to your spouse and is currently active.

What if I Cannot Reach My Spouse Even if I Have Their Details?

There are another 2 substituted services available should either of these fail but the requirements are more stringent. 

  • Posting on the front door at your spouse’s last known residential address in Singapore: If personal service was attempted but unsuccessful, then you will need to provide the court with the dates, times and outcome of each attempted personal service while also providing reasons to believe the person resides in that address, including evidence such as household bills or official government documents where both your spouse’s name and address are visible.

    You will also be required to reveal the date of your last contact with your spouse, as well as the mode and contents of the conversation; the names and addresses of your spouse’s relatives and friends; details of your attempts to contact them; the name and address of your spouse’s last known employer, if any, and details of your spouse’s nationality.

    After which, you will need to make another two attempts at personal service and only with evidence that your spouse is overseas and may, or may not have a return date, or just being told that the person has ‘moved out’ without indicating where, only then will you be able to effect this form of service. 
  • Newspaper Advertisement: If nobody seems to know where your spouse is, and all other available methods have been exhausted, then you may apply for an advertisement. You will need to provide information such as your spouse’s language(s) spoken and level of literacy. This is applicable if you are placing an advertisement in both an English, as well as a non-English language publication in Singapore, or a newspaper overseas in the country your spouse is believed to be at.

What if Every Possible Method has Failed and I Still Can’t Reach my Spouse?

In the event that you just cannot reach your spouse, the court will allow for a Dispensation of Service if they are satisfied that all your possible attempts at contacting your spouse has failed. This can be proven if you can show the court that you have no idea where, or which country your spouse is currently at, making advertising ineffective. There may be a higher chance this is allowed if there are no ancillary issues between Parties – such as matrimonial assets and/or children. It is on the merits of each case.

If you are in this situation, it is best for you to speak to a divorce lawyer.

Getting a Divorce Lawyer in Singapore

Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Practice has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from domestic violence, spousal and child maintenance; family disputes to high-profile divorce; care and control and custody issues, relocation and child abduction. There is a Team of 4 experienced lawyers in the Firm. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

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