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Why Were There A Record High Number Of Divorces In Singapore In 2015?

The 3 rings of marriage: engagement ring, marriage ring, and suffering.

Fewer people tied the knot in Singapore in 2015 compared to the year before, but more couples got divorced. What’s going on?

A report by the Department of Statistics (SingStat) released on 13 July 2016 showed that 28,322 couples wed last year, slightly down from a five-decade high of 28,407 in 2014.

However, there were 7,522 divorces and annulments, a 2.9 per cent rise from 2014 and the third highest annual figure on record. 

While there were fewer Muslim divorces and fewer non-Muslim annulments, overall marital dissolutions rose because of more non-Muslim divorces – 5,450 last year, a 5.4 per cent increase from 2014.

The top reasons among non-Muslims for splitting up were unreasonable behaviour (53.7 per cent), and having lived apart or separated for three years or more (42.6 per cent).

However, lawyers say that official data may not reflect reality and that between a third and half of the divorces they handle involve a cheating spouse. Few couples cite adultery as grounds for divorce as that requires evidence of an affair, which is why many cite unreasonable behaviour instead.

SingStat also said that between 2005 and last year, there was a “significant shift” towards older couples divorcing.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said this is probably a natural result of people marrying later – the median age at marriage is 30.3 for first-time grooms, 28.2 for first-time brides. She added that the rise in divorces is “no cause for alarm” as the general divorce rate – the number of divorces and annulments for every 1,000 married residents aged 20 and above – has been stable in the past decade.

“But the larger numbers should still raise the alert that single parents will need help,” she said.

About 3,460 couples who divorced last year had at least one dependent child under the age of 18.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin wrote in his ministry’s MSF Conversations blog yesterday that a mandatory parenting programme for divorcing couples with young children will be launched at the end of the year. This programme give them time and space to think deeply about issues they will face, both during and after divorce, and how they can protect their children’s interests.

He also encouraged couples to stay committed in their marriages. “All married couples will have challenges along the way,” he wrote. “But… we owe it to each other and to our families to work through those difficult moments.”

Bankers Goh Yuxian and Goh Jiale, both 31, tied the knot last year. Ms Goh said: “We took about two to three years to be sure about our commitment to each other before we got married. It’s also important to keep the relationship alive and we’ve continued good habits, like being open with each other.”


Key marriage and divorce statistics

• Marriages registered: 28,322. This is 0.3 per cent lower than in 2014.

• Median age at marriage: 30.3 for first-time grooms, 28.2 for first-time brides.

• Inter-ethnic marriages: 21.5 per cent of total marriages, up from 14.9 per cent in 2005.

• Divorces and annulments: 7,522, a 2.9 per cent rise from 2014.

• Median age at divorce: 42.9 for men, 38.8 for women.

• Proportion of divorcees aged 45 and above: 42.4 per cent for men and 27.5 per cent for women, up from 30 per cent and 20.1 per cent respectively in 2005.

• Median duration of marriages that ended in divorce: 10 years.

• Number of couples who divorced last year and had at least one dependent child under 18: 3,456


By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 14 July 2016


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