Marriage laws in Singapore
Image credit: @jellified
Wedding bells are ringing and you’ve been eyeing that white gown for months. But before you walk down the aisle, know that marriage doesn’t always play out like a Hollywood romcom. From prenups to shared parental leave, here are 7 lesser-known laws that every Singaporean couple should know before sealing the deal:
1. Destination weddings come with a ton of paperwork
A destination wedding somewhere far, far away works perfectly for you and your wedding entourage since it’s like a holiday/honeymoon/retreat all in one. But no matter how picture-perfect a Bali beach wedding is, a ceremony alone doesn’t mean you’re legally married.
Once you’ve hired a celebrant and gathered your dearly beloved around - you’ll still need to file for an Overseas Marriage Certificate. Depending on the country you’re getting married in, this ranges from doable with neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Thailand to ridiculously complex with far-flung countries like Spain and France.
In this case, it might be best to solemnise your marriage in Singapore then have the wedding ceremony overseas.
2. Women need a deed poll to change their maiden name
If you want to take your husband’s name, you’ll need a deed poll - a legal document that formalises any name changes. Unlike most Western countries, plenty of Singaporean women will stick with their maiden names. They might take on the title of “Ms” instead of “Miss” or use their husband’s name socially, but it isn’t common practice to go through a legal name change.
After all, a deed poll’s just the start: it’ll be a hassle to get brand new NRICs, passports, driver’s license - you get the drift.
3. Muslim marriages can’t be registered as a civil marriage
If you’re Muslim and looking to tie the knot, first things first: Muslims cannot get married under civil law. Instead, you’re governed under Muslim law and the Syariah Court. It’s an entirely different process that involves plenty of cultural traditions, so marriage prep starts early.
As part of the marriage bond, you’ll need a Wali (legal guardian to the bride), Mahar (gift given to the bride), and Walimah (feast after the marriage).
4. Joint taxes get you $2,000 in spouse relief
As usual, we’re dreading filing our tax returns.
Another financial year, another tax return lodged. It’s hard not to heave a sigh when you’re paying taxes but once you’re married, see if it’s beneficial to file your taxes jointly. You might even be eligible for Spouse Relief - a tax relief that gives you back $2,000.
Of course, this means you’re the main breadwinner since you’re only eligible if your spouse’s annual income was less than $4,000. Your spouse would also have to be living with/supported by you in the previous year.
5. Prenups will protect your assets
“Prenup” is a word often carelessly thrown around when we’re watching soap dramas, but it makes good financial sense for some couples. It’s not that you don’t trust your partner - it’s just that you want to set clear and distinct barriers. In Singapore, we often go with “what’s mine, is yours”, but a prenup will help divide your assets accordingly.
You’ll need an experienced family lawyer to help draft up a prenup before signing - look for one who knows family law inside-and-out but also one who’s empathetic in considering your wishes.
6. Medical or financial decisions can’t be made on each other’s behalf
Despite what most of us think - we can’t make medical decisions on our partner’s behalf. Knock on wood, but it’s always good to be prepared since car accidents and health concerns happen more frequently than we think.
If you err on the side of caution, it might be best to apply for a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) - a legal document to appoint a particular person to make decisions and act on the donor’s behalf.
There are 2 types of LPAs: a Property and Affairs LPA to handle financial affairs and a Personal Welfare LPA to handle health issues. Either will give you the right to take over your spouse’s responsibilities.
7. Parental leave can be shared
You might’ve just started your happily ever after journey, but you’re already more than ready for kids. There’s no shortage of parenthood benefits, in terms of government grants and subsidies but baby steps first: you’ll need to decide who’s taking on the role of primary caretaker.
This is a convo topic that needs to be hashed out between you and your partner to make sure you’re both on the same page. But honestly, if you can’t make up your mind right there and then, the law’s on your side for this.
Fathers are also entitled to 2 weeks of paid paternity leave funded by the government. Fathers can also apply for Shared Parental Leave to share up to 4 weeks of their wives’ 16 weeks - but yes, that means she’ll be left with just 12 weeks.
Yeo & Associates LLC - family and divorce lawyer
Even if you’re ready to walk down the aisle, it’s best to consult a family lawyer that’ll tell you the ins-and-outs of marriage. While we think of it as a grand romantic gesture, marriage is recognised as an institution of the state - one that comes with binding legalities.
With law firms like Yeo & Associates LLC specialising in matrimonial, divorce and family law, they’ve got an answer to all your questions. Whether you’re wondering about prenups or overseas solemnisations, the team over at Yeo & Associates LLC will share their advice - even if you’re messaging them at 2AM the night before your wedding.
While we often presume that lawyers charge us a hefty rate for every 6-minute block, Yeo & Associates LLC believe in a fixed fee structure - this means you’ll just be paying a once-off fee that you agreed to beforehand.
So whether you’re keen on changing your name or applying for a Lasting Power of attorney, check in with lawyer Beatrice Yeo Poh Tiang of Yeo & Associates LLC. She’s not just an expert in divorce and family law; she also handles all family-related matters with genuine empathy. For instance, she has handled many divorce cases be it in Singapore or overseas, and has extensive experience when it comes to advising clients on matrimonial issues such as deed of separation, asset division and even custody.
Yeo & Associates LLC Main Office
Address: 101A Upper Cross Street, #12-13 People’s Park Centre, Singapore 058358
Telephone: 6220 3400
Strictly by appointment only. View the full list of branch offices here.
This post was brought to you by Yeo & Associates LLC.