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     FrontPage Edition: Sat 24 July 2004

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Statistics on Divorces 2003

Marital dissolutions increased from 2,313 in 1993 to a peak of 6,561 in 2003. The crude rate of marital dissolution, which refers to the total number of divorces and annulments per thousand residents reached a peak of 1.91 cases per thousand residents in 2003.

Younger married persons aged 20 - 24 years registered the highest divorce rate in 2003. Their divorce rate also showed the largest increase over the past decade. The divorce rate among older persons showed smaller increases between 1993 and 2003.

Among male divorcees in 2003, those aged 35 - 44 years formed the largest proportion. For female divorcees, the largest group was aged 25 - 34 years. For both males and females, there were large increases in the proportion of divorcees aged 45 years and over in the last decade.

The mean ages at divorce for non-Muslim and Muslim male divorcees were 41 years and 39 years respectively. For female divorcees, they were 38 and 35 for non-Muslims and Muslims respectively. The mean age for divorce increased for both non-Muslim and Muslim divorces between 1993 and 2003.

In 2003, non-Muslim divorcing couples were predominantly Chinese. They accounted for 82 per cent of divorces, down from 88 per cent a decade ago. For Muslim divorces, Malay couples accounted for 78 per cent in 2003. This was a decline from 81 per cent in 1993. Divorces among inter-ethnic group couples increased. They formed 7 per cent of non-Muslim divorces and 18 per cent of Muslim divorces, up from 4 and 15 per cent respectively a decade ago.

In 2003, of the 3,635 non-Muslim divorces where the male and female divorcees' previous marital status was stated, 88 per cent were among bachelor grooms and spinster brides. In comparison, a lower proportion of 66 per cent of Muslim divorces was among first marriages. Between 1993 and 2003, the proportion of divorce among couples in their first marriage declined for both non-Muslim and Muslim divorces.

Divorcing Muslims have a shorter mean duration of marriage as compared with non-Muslims. In 2003, it was 10 years for Muslims and 13 years for non-Muslims.

About half of non-Muslim marriages dissolved in 2003 had lasted less than 10 years. A large proportion (34 per cent) of the couples divorced within 5 - 9 years. In contrast, the largest proportion (35 per cent) of Muslim divorces was among couples who were married for less than 5 years.

Unreasonable behaviour of spouse was the most common reason cited for non-Muslim divorces, increasing from 29 per cent in 1993 to 49 per cent in 2003. Having lived apart or separated for three years or more was the next most common reason.

The wife instituted the majority (64 per cent) of non-Muslim divorces in 2003. Unreasonable behaviour of spouse was cited as the main reason by 56 per cent of the females while living apart or separated was the main reason for 59 per cent of the males.

Among Muslims, personality difference was the main reason cited for 43 per cent of divorces in 2003, followed by infidelity (16 per cent). The proportion who cited neglect and irresponsibility increased considerably from 1 per cent in 1993 to 13 per cent in 2003. The proportion due to inadequate maintenance decreased significantly from 16 per cent in 1993 to 3 per cent in 2003.

About 3 out of every 5 Muslim divorces in 2003 were instituted by the wife (59 per cent). Proportionately more males (50 per cent) than females (32 per cent) petitioned on the grounds of personality differences. More females (18 per cent) than males (11 per cent) petitioned on grounds of neglect and irresponsibility.

The number of annulments under the Women's Charter increased from 244 in 1983 and peaked at 606 in 1991. Thereafter, it fell to an all-time low of 140 in 1993, before rising to 268 in 2003. The lower numbers in recent years could be attributed to stricter rules being applied by the Family Court in granting annulments to "marriages not consummated".

Most (264 cases or 99 per cent) of the annulments in 2003 were made on the ground that the marriage was not consummated. The mean duration of marriage was 2.8 years in 2003.  

Annulments - granted under the Women's Charter refer to invalidation of a marriage. Parties whose marriages have been annulled are conferred the status of never having married to each other.

Source: Statistics Singapore Media Release 17 Jun 2004

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