More expat spouses left in lurch in divorce cases

Ending a marriage is never easy, especially in a foreign country, and this is the case for a growing group of expatriate spouses here.

While dealing with divorce, some find themselves stripped of their Dependant’s Pass (DP) and are forced to leave the country or fight a lengthy legal battle. They can even be forced to leave behind young children.

Under the law, a parent cannot leave Singapore with his or her children without the consent of the other parent, even if they are legally divorced. Those who do so can be hauled back to Singapore on charges of child abduction.

Once the DP is cancelled, he or she is given a social visit pass or tourist visa to stay in Singapore, which could be 30 to 90 days. He or she is not allowed to work during this period.

This method of “getting rid” of expat spouses is becoming more common, according to lawyers.

When an expat moves here, his or her company sponsors the Employment Pass (EP). The employer of the expat, who is typically male, then sponsors his wife and children as dependants on his pass, which he can ask to cancel any time.

Ms Catherine Rose Yates, a British permanent resident who set up a support group for expats going through a divorce, said she has come across 11 such cases.

“The spouse with the EP is legally entitled to request to cancel the DPs of his family members and, in these cases, by cancelling only the mother’s DP, he is trying to separate her from the child,” she said.

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