A High Court judge has refused a woman's bid to file for divorce before completing the mandatory three-year minimum period of marriage, saying it is not an arrangement people "can sign in and out as they fancy".
Justice Choo Han Teck, who overruled a district court's decision to allow 25-year-old Kyna Tan's request, said he was not convinced she had sufficient grounds for divorce.
Madam Tan, who got married in 2012, had sought the court's permission to file for divorce on grounds of "exceptional hardship", as provided under the Women's Charter.
Her husband, Mr Terence Chan, 26, had opposed the move. The couple have no children but were seeing each other for seven years before getting married.
To support her case, Madam Tan submitted a psychiatrist's report that said she was suffering from "major depressive disorder" and cited her husband's physical and verbal aggression as the main cause.
She also produced a police report regarding two incidents in the past year where she alleged that her spouse punched her feet and face. The judge said the account of the incidents was disputed and ruled that it should be considered at a full trial.
But the judge ruled that even if Madam Tan's version of the alleged assaults is accepted, it is not enough to justify the court's assent for her to file for divorce before the three-year wait is up.
"The statutory moratorium is to impress upon married couples that marriage is not an event one can sign in and out as they fancy," said Justice Choo in judgment grounds released yesterday.
He said Madam Tan could have chosen other options in cases of abuse, such as seeking a personal protection order or leaving the husband, as she had done.
"The moratorium is intended to hold out the hope of reconciliation, and who is to say that even in extreme cases of abuse, the abuser may not see the error of his or her ways and reconcile with the other?" the judge said.
Madam Tan was represented by lawyer Ng Pui Khim while lawyer Judy Ang defended Mr Chan.
Lawyers The Straits Times spoke to said the case reaffirmed the "high bar" the courts set before allowing permission for a disaffected spouse to file for divorce within three years of marriage.
In 2006, a woman was allowed a similar application before the three-year period was up, on grounds of exceptional depravity on the part of her husband.
"Having extramarital affairs with one or two women is not exceptional nor particularly depraved. Being involved with 16 different women in the space of two years makes the case exceptional," said District Judge Regina Ow-Chang regarding the case.
She added that the woman's husband had also filmed his sexual exploits.
This article was first published on October 8, 2014.
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