Friday 12 July 2013

More marriages, fewer divorces registered in 2012

By Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia, 10 Jul 2013

More couples tied the knot and fewer married couples called it quits last year, according to the latest report "Statistics on Marriages and Divorces" released by the Department of Statistics.

The total number of marriages registered in 2012 was 27,936.

The total number of marriages comprises both civil and Muslim marriages. This was 2.5 per cent higher than the 27,258 marriages registered in 2011.

Assoc Prof Paulin Tay Straughan, Deputy Head of the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore, said: "To be fair to the Singapore government, our country has some of the strongest pro-family stance ideologically, when it comes to policy and so forth. Compounded over time, I'm hopeful that it has sent the right message. That this is a society that will support marriage." 

Men and women are marrying later in life.

For men, the median age at first marriage rose from 28.9 years in 2002 to 30.1 years in 2012. For women, it rose from 26.3 years to 28.0 years.

Experts attribute this to many young people wanting to establish a career before they get married.

Assoc Prof Paulin Tay Straughan added: "I think it'll be very hard to get Singaporeans married at an earlier age. Nonetheless, something that we should try. The second more immediate concern of course is, the implications of older mothers at child birth. This has implications on complications and neo-natal care and so forth. So I think in terms of medical expertise, we have to build up sufficient care for this."

The median age at remarriage also rose. The median age of grooms who were remarrying rose from 40.1 years in 2002 to 42.1 years in 2012. For brides, it increased from 34.1 years to 36.4 years.

Among first marriages for couples in 2012, 68 per cent of grooms married younger brides. This was lower than the 73 per cent in 2002.

In terms of educational qualification, the median age at first marriage in 2012 was higher among grooms and brides of all educational groups.

The median age at first marriage for grooms with primary or lower education was 42.1 years in 2012, compared to 30.9 years in 2002.

Over the past decade, more grooms with primary or lower education married brides with at least secondary qualification.

In 2012, the proportion was 73 per cent, compared to 52 per cent in 2002 for grooms in civil marriages.

For grooms in Muslim marriages, the proportion jumped from 45 per cent in 2002 to 70 per cent in 2012.

Last year, more people married outside their ethnic groups. In 2012, 21 per cent of total marriages were inter-ethnic marriages, up from 12 per cent in 2002.

Inter-ethnic marriages were more prevalent among Muslim marriages (34 per cent) than among civil marriages (18 per cent).

The total number of marriages dissolved (comprising divorces and annulments) was 7,241 in 2012.

In 2011, there were 7,604 divorces and annulments which was a peak.

Assoc Prof Paulin Tay Straughan said: "There could be many many factors. But I do think that you know, when we marry later, probably it contributes to more stable marriages. Because one of the difficulties when you marry very young, you jump into a marriage and then subsequently five, ten years down the road, you start to regret, "have I missed out on life? Why did I get married and tied down so early?"" 

Compared to 2002, persons aged 45 years and over accounted for a larger share of divorcees in 2012.

The proportion aged 45 years and over rose from 26 per cent in 2002 to 39 per cent in 2012 for male divorcees.

The proportion for female divorcees aged 45 years and over rose from 17 per cent in 2002 and 25 per cent in 2012.

The median age at divorce rose in the last 10 years.

The median age for male divorcees was 41.6 years and 38.0 years for female divorcees last year. In 2002, it was 38.7 years for male divorcees and 35.6 years for female divorcees.

Couples who were married for five to nine years accounted for the largest group at 31 per cent of civil divorces in 2012.

The next largest group was those who had been married for 20 years or longer at 22 per cent.

Among Muslim divorces, couples who were married for under five years and five to nine years formed the largest groups at 28 per cent each.

Among the civil divorces, the top two main reasons for divorce were "unreasonable behaviour" and "having lived apart or separated for three years or more".

Among Muslim divorces, the top two main reasons for divorce were "infidelity or extra-marital affair" and "financial problems".

There were a total of 344 annulments under the Women's Charter in 2012, a decrease from 370 annulments in 2011.

Statistics also showed that more men are marrying older women. Some 32 per cent of grooms married older women last year, compared to 27 per cent in 2002.

Commenting on the figures released by the Department of Statistics, the National Family Council said it is encouraged by last year's trend in marriages in Singapore.

In a statement, the Council said it noted an increase of 2.5 per cent from the 27,258 marriages registered in 2011 to 27,936 in 2012, and a fall in divorces and annulments for the same period.

It encouraged all to embrace the notion of having a good family as part of definitions of success.

It said the National Conversation should go beyond material concerns to focus on the emotional rewards of parenting.

Baby boom unlikely despite more marriages
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2013

MARRIAGES in Singapore hit a 50-year high last year, but will this result in a "baby boom"?

Unlikely, sociologists and experts told The Straits Times, though they remain hopeful that there could be a slight increase in the number of babies in the future.

There were 27,936 marriages last year, the most since records began in 1961.

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser, referring to the figures released by the Department of Statistics on Wednesday, said more people are marrying later, "a fact which may not be helpful to enhancing fertility rates".

Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) last year was 1.29 births per woman, far below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Other experts agreed with Associate Professor Tan, but added that Singapore may still see a few more babies.

Said Mr Jonathan Siew, centre manager at Care Corner Counselling Centre: "I don't think the percentage rise in number of babies would match that of marriages, but there may still be a slight increase."

But to see a more significant increase in the birth rate here, more should be done to encourage singles below the age of 30 to tie the knot, said sociologist Paulin Straughan.

Why more older couples split up
Focused on kids and careers, they grow apart after children leave home
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2013

AFTER years focused on parenting, some couples lose the romance in their marriage. When their children leave home, they struggle to relate to each other and split up.

Sociologists and experts whom The Straits Times spoke to said this is one key reason why people aged 45 and above accounted for a larger share of marital break-ups last year - despite an overall decline in the number of divorces.

But the statistics also revealed that more people aged 60 and above are getting hitched, and this may be down to people remarrying, said experts.

Figures from the Department of Statistics, released on Wednesday, showed that the number of divorces and annulments fell by 4.8 per cent to 7,241 last year, the first drop in seven years.

But 38.8 per cent of divorced men last year were aged 45 and above, up from 26.3 per cent in 2002. The figure was 25.3 per cent last year for females in the same age group, compared to 17.3 per cent 10 years before.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said older couples may split up after their kids leave home, as they did not spend enough time building their relationship as a couple. Instead, they invested the time in their careers and children. "Much of the marriage is tied to the couple's roles as parents, rather than their roles as husband and wife. So when the children leave, the parents don't know what to do with each other," she said.

Mr Jonathan Siew, centre manager at Care Corner Counselling Centre, said: "The wife may initially choose not to divorce when her children are still young.

"But when the children have grown up and can support themselves, if the marital situation hasn't improved, the wife may choose to opt for divorce."

For marriages to work, Institute of Policy Studies sociologist Mathew Mathews suggested that couples work on developing their relationship from the start. "People should be more open to marriage preparation and marriage enrichment programmes. When you know that you've been through good times previously, there's something that you can look back to, and you'd feel more committed when going through crises."

The statistics also suggested that more people are rediscovering love later in life.

Some 420 men and 77 women aged 60 and above got married last year, compared to 145 men and 19 women in 2002.

Remarriages also made up 25.1per cent of total marriages last year. A decade ago, the figure was 18.9 per cent. Mr Siew drew a link between the two sets of figures, explaining that those getting hitched older may be tying the knot for the second time.

Harry Elias Partnership family lawyer Koh Tien Hua said people, even after a divorce or a spouse's death, are not afraid of recommitting themselves because "marriage is still something that's greatly valued".

Out-of-court legal scheme to ease pain of divorce
Specially trained lawyers to help couples settle matters amicably
By Ian Poh, The Straits Times, 11 Jul 2013

DIVORCING couples can now avoid a bruising court battle by using a new service to help them settle matters relating to their break-up amicably.

The Collaborative Family Practice assigns specially trained lawyers to help couples negotiate post-divorce issues such as who gets the assets and how much maintenance should be paid.

Its aim is to save them time and money and help avoid more heartbreaks.

The service - launched yesterday by the Singapore Mediation Centre - has already won the support of the Subordinate Courts and the Law Society of Singapore.

Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye said families required all necessary assistance to help properly manage the "painful transitions" that follow a divorce. Speaking at the launch event at the Singapore Cricket Club, he said the courts should be the "last option".

Under the pilot scheme, divorcing couples will pay a discounted $300 an hour for assigned family lawyers who will be specially trained to work in this area.

They will help clients withdraw from the table if they become too emotional, and counsel them if they try to negotiate in bad faith.

Couples can also get advice from specialists such as financial advisers and child experts. And if an agreement to settle is reached, the Family Court will prioritise closing the case.

But if the dispute eventually ends up in court, the couple's assigned lawyers are not allowed to represent them.

The new service makes use of collaborative law, where all parties work together to resolve divorce issues amicably.

This approach can improve client awareness of the issues and keep costs low. Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon had called for it to be used in March at the Subordinate Courts workplan seminar.

Family lawyers Helen Chia and Rajan Chettiar are the first two on board - with 17 more expected in the coming days.

The two lawyers have already settled their first case.

Ms Chia said: "With the service, family lawyers can help divorcees create a better platform for the next stage of their lives."

The Singapore Mediation Centre also provides a Neutral Evaluation service, where an impartial third party called a "neutral" will deliver a legally binding decision based on the merits of the case, in a confidential process. Announced last year, it targets couples who are unable to settle a dispute amicably but are also unwilling to foot the significant costs of court proceedings.

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