New initiatives aimed at transnational marriages may help couples learn the truth about each other early.
Under changes that take effect in January next year, couples can apply for a long-term visit pass for the foreigner to stay in Singapore before registering the marriage, instead of after marriage as is the practice now.
Both partners must provide key information about themselves, such as income, marital history, number of children from previous marriages, as well as any criminal or bankruptcy records. Each will be shown the other's details.
This is to help couples be more aware of their partner's backgrounds before they marry.
Social workers say many transnational couples marry after brief courtships of between just a few meetings and a few months, and many foreign wives are ignorant about their husbands' income.
When they discover that the men are struggling to make ends meet, money often becomes a source of tension.
Social worker Lee Yean Wun said: "One of the women's key reasons for marrying a foreigner is for a better life and to help their families back home. When the reality is different from their expectations, when the marriage is built on little love foundation, this really shakes them."
Social workers also said having the couples declare their criminal records, medical history and bankruptcy will be useful as some people hide the nasty truth.
A woman from China, in her 30s, who married a Singaporean cook 10 years older did not know he was divorced with two children and had been in jail a few times.
She found out only when her application for permanent residence was rejected and his criminal record was a factor.
Some of the foreign women hold back the truth too.
A businessman in his 40s married a woman from China 20 years younger and learnt only after the wedding that she had a five-year-old daughter from a first marriage. It became one of the problems that led to their marriage breaking up eventually.
This article was first published on Nov 2, 2014.
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