One of the principal barriers to engaging a lawyer is the perceived cost involved. However, remember that sometimes not using one could end up costing you more. Here we answer a few of the most frequently asked questions.
Hourly Consultation Rates
Service Consultation Rates
|Power of Attorney||From $500|
|Deed of Separation||From $1,250|
|Personal Injury Enquiries||Free of charge (first half hour)|
|Other Enquiries||$250 per half hour block|
Note: GST & disbursements not included. For general enquiries, a rate of $250 per half hour block will apply. Free half an hour consultation applies to personal injury cases only.
Yes you do. However, our first consultation for personal injury claims is free of charge. Generally, all consultations are fee based, but do enquire with each respective lawyer on the expectation of fees as exceptions do apply.
We usually charge between $300 and $600 per hour. However, your total legal costs will depend on the complexity of your case and many times we do not charge on an hourly basis.
Yes we do, but on a case-by-case basis and at our complete discretion.
We usually require a deposit before we start a case. The amount depends on the facts and complexity of your case. However, we may be prepared to make exceptions a case-by-case basis and at our complete discretion.
You must sign a Warrant to Act and/or Letter of Engagement to authorise us to act on your behalf.
Yes you do. You will also have the pay the legal costs of the winning party. However, exceptions do apply. It is best to discuss all the possible scenarios with your lawyer.
Yes you can. However, you must first notify the other firm of your intention and settle any outstanding legal costs owed to the other firm. Our lawyers can explain the steps to be taken to you.
How does one end up losing everything? We provide some enlightenment on the topic that evokes the greatest financial fear.
It’s common for you to be left feeling as if your rights have been curtailed and that obligations have been levied on you, but with the right advice and explanation of the processes involved, these feelings can be better managed.
Although all your assets will vest in the Official Assignee, you can still own a HDB flat. Travel is restricted and permission is required from the OA (you can be jailed and/or fined if you do not get permission).
It is not illegal to eat at restaurants or shop for quality products.
An appearance in Court is essential if you want to be heard or want to defend yourself. In the event the creditor has difficulty locating you for the service of the necessary Court papers, the creditor will take out what is called an application for substituted service, such as by serving the petition on the debtor by advertisement in the newspaper.
There are restrictions imposed on where bankrupts can work, such as jobs that require licences to be renewed, for instance, remisiers, insurance agents and financial advisors. Some employment contracts require an employee to resign if he is declared a bankrupt.
When someone is declared a bankrupt, they are made insolvent. This essentially means that they are declared as being unable to meet their financial obligations.
A bankrupt will discover the numerous restrictions placed on them as a result of the bankruptcy. Some primary examples are the imposition of the need to report and work with the Official Assignee (OA) from the Insolvency and Public Trustees Office in the administration of their personal estate (i.e. filing a Statement of Affairs), which may include reporting their asset holdings and liabilities, travel restrictions and the freedom to enter into a contract.
By annulment of the bankruptcy order upon full payment, or upon successful proposal of settlement of the debt by an offer of composition or scheme of arrangement.
Another way is via a Discharge by the Court, where the Official Assignee (OA) is able to convince the Court that the bankrupt should be discharged. The latter is carried out subject to the discretion of the OA, for instance if the debt does not exceed $500,000 and at least three years has lapsed since the bankruptcy.
The OA will also consider factors, for example, the cause of insolvency, period of bankruptcy, bankrupt's assets, and payments made to the bankruptcy account, the bankrupt's conduct and the general level of co-operation given to the OA in the administration of their affairs.
One is made a bankrupt pursuant to an order of the High Court. The order is obtained after your creditor has succeeded in presenting a bankruptcy application before the Court.
This follows the expiration of a prescribed period of time stated in a document known as the Statutory Demand. The Statutory Demand states the nature and particulars of the debt owed (which must be a minimum sum of S$10,000) and carries with it a legal presumption that if the debt is not paid within the prescribed time period (21 days), the debtor is deemed unable to pay off the debt.
Divorce is an unfortunate fact of life today. Here we give you the answers to some of the most common questions we face in any divorce case.
No. There is no such ground in Singapore.
You may be granted a divorce for one or more of the following:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for 3 years with written consent
- Separation for 4 years
An annulment is a declaration that you were never married in the first place. A high standard of proof is required for annulments. A divorce is a declaration that the marriage has ended.
As a matter of law, divorce proceedings can only commence after parties have been married for at least 3 years. If you want to commence proceedings earlier, you must show the Court that you are suffering from cruel and unusual hardship.
A Deed of Separation may or may not be necessary, depending on the facts of your case.
As a matter of public policy, the Courts in Singapore do not currently recognise pre-nuptial agreements currently. However, the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement are likely to be taken into consideration depending on the facts of the case.
If the grounds for divorce and the ancillary matters are all agreed, the divorce can be finalised in about 6 months from the date of filing. If the grounds are contested and/or the ancillary matters are contested, the process can take up to 1 to 2 years to complete. If there is an appeal, the process can stretch another 6 months or so.
Yes, subject to the 3-year limit referred to above. However, if a HDB property is involved, information from the HDB regarding the property must be obtained prior to filing the divorce papers.
Custody is the legal obligation to be involved in the upbringing of a child. Generally, the Courts will want to grant joint custody between parents. Care and control is the day-to-day responsibility and management that is needed in caring for a child.
No. However, generally speaking, a mother usually gets care and control of babies and very young children. At the end of the day, the Court will make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child.
Generally, all assets and property purchased or acquired during a marriage are considered matrimonial assets. It is up to the party arguing that an asset should not fall into this category to provide sufficient evidence of the same.
No. Matrimonial assets are divided equitably and on a broad-brush basis. This means that you need to show the Court how much you paid for an asset, how you improved the asset and/or how you maintained the asset. Then the Court will take everything into consideration and broadly separate all assets. There could be some assets that will be completely given to you or your spouse.
If the Court is of the view that it is better for you or your spouse to buy out the other person’s share, the Court will order it accordingly. One often cited reason is that the children are young and need a stable home.
Yes, in most cases. However, the Courts have very wide powers as to how to deal with this situation. The Court can order that a property be sold with no money refunded to the person’s CPF account.
By law, the husband must maintain the wife. However, the Court will also consider whether the wife actually requires it, in which case the sum ordered could be nominal, or whether she is for asking too much, in which case the Court will order accordingly.
Both parents have a duty to maintain the children according to their respective earning ability. The Court often apportions the sum to be paid by each party according to what they earn.
The Court will look at each item claimed to see whether it is reasonably incurred before making a decision.
Yes, always. If both parties are agreeable, the Court can direct that another Judge or a Counsellor sit as mediator to try and settle all disputed issues or as many disputed issues as possible. In Singapore, where children are involved, it is mandatory for both parents to attend at least one compulsory counselling session, whether or not the custody, care and control of the children have been agreed or not.
Even without the need for divorce proceedings, a maintenance order can still be a good way to ensure you and your family are provided for. Here, we list a few of the questions we are frequently asked.
A wife can apply for a maintenance order against a husband. Either parent can also apply for a maintenance order against the other parent who fails to provide reasonable maintenance for the children of the marriage.
You can apply for maintenance even if there are no divorce proceedings. You can personally make an application by going to the Family Court. The staff there will guide you accordingly. It is best if you list out all the expenses you normally incur for yourself, as well as for your children.
Yes, the Court often sends a complaint for mediation. If parties agree to a sum of maintenance, it is then recorded into the maintenance order.
If the other party refuses to pay, they are in breach of the order. The maintenance is then in arrears. You will then need to go to the Family Court to apply for an enforcement order. When your application is accepted, they will be summoned to Court to explain why they have not paid the maintenance ordered. The Court may then make further orders against him, e.g. immediate payment of all or part of the maintenance in arrears. The Courts may even send the defaulting party to jail for failing to make payments, depending on the facts of the case.
For more information, please visit the Family Court site
Personal Injury Claims
If you're unlucky enough to have been injured, you may feel you’re due some compensation for the injury and any other damages. So how do you go about it? Here we walk you through the claims process.
Anyone who has suffered a personal injury and is able to establish that they were owed a duty of care — and that duty was breached due to the negligence of the person who owes them a duty. This person could even be your employer or a third party.
You will have to prove the liability of the party responsible and also justify the amount of damages you seek to claim in Court.
It is usual for the party responsible (the Defendant) to raise defences such as contributory negligence or, less commonly, volenti non fit injuria (you knowingly accepted the risk or dangerous situation) or illegality (you yourself are the wrongdoer).
A person who fails to take reasonable care of themselves according to the standards of a reasonable person is said to have contributed to the occurrence of the accident. There will be a reduction of damages where the person is partly responsible for the injuries suffered. For instance, an engineer who was hit by a mooring cable while taking a short cut through a shipyard was 50% to blame for the accident as he was considered to be an experienced man and should have entered through the main gate and been cleared by the security office as in the recent case of Toh Siew Kee v Ho Ah Lam Ferrocement (Pte) Ltd & Ors  SGCA 29.
In instances where the Defendant is able to prove contributory negligence and you are partially responsible for causing the accident leading to your loss, you will not be able to claim the full sum of compensation. For example, if you are found to be 30% responsible for the accident, the compensation you will receive will be reduced by 30%.
You can claim for anything and everything, subject to proof and causation. Under the Common Law, general damages or special damages can be claimed. General damages include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of amenities, future loss of earnings/profits and loss of earning capacity.
General Damages cannot be calculated exactly, so medical and specialist reports are usually the main form of evidence. They include:
- Pain and Suffering
- Loss of Amenities
- Loss of Future Earnings
- Loss of Earning Capacity
- Future Medical Expenses Etc
Special Damages are monetary losses suffered or expenditure incurred as a result of the injury caused by the accident. These types of damages have to be strictly proved and specifically pleaded. Documentary proof is required for their recovery. Special Damages include:
- Medical Expenses
- Transportation Expenses
- Nursing and Care
- Household Expenses
- Damage/Loss of Property
- Reimbursement to Third Party
- Pre-Trial Loss of Earnings/Profits or Drop/Reduced Income
* All documents and evidence of loss must be kept for proof in Court.
COLLECTION OF ALL NECESSARY DOCUMENTATION
The first stage in your claim will be to obtain all the necessary documentation in order to begin your claim. This may have already started if you provided us with medical receipts, police reports, repair bills etc.
We will also write to any hospitals you have attended and the traffic police and other such departments for additional information and documentation.
Remember, this is an on-going process. For example, if you are continuing to receive treatment, it is crucial that you provide us with your ongoing medical bills and receipts.
It is important that you provide us with the supporting documents for all items; otherwise you will not be able to claim for them. If you are unsure, please send in the receipts and we will advise accordingly.
NOTIFYING THE OTHER DRIVER’S INSURER OF THE CLAIM
Once we have all of the documentation to support your claim, we will write to the other party’s insurance company with details of your claim. We will give them brief details of your injuries and/or damage to your vehicle in a Letter of Claim. We will also alert them to the possibility of impending court action.
At this stage, the insurance company may make an offer to settle your claim, deny that the other party was at fault, make a request for further information or not respond at all.
COMMENCEMENT OF PROCEEDINGS
If the other party’s insurer does not respond or does not make any suitable offers, we will commence proceedings. The documents used to commence proceedings are referred to as the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim (Writ)
The Writ contains a brief summary of the accident, your injuries (known as general damages) and out-of-pocket expenses (special damages).
Once the Writ has been filed, the other party (now known as the Defendant) or his solicitors have 21 days from the date of the Writ being served (given) to him to file a Defence to you.
The Defendant may choose to admit that the accident was their fault or dispute it.
NEGOTIATIONS TO SETTLE YOUR CLAIM
Two types of settlement talks will take place, depending on whether responsibility (liability) for the accident has been established:
- Court Dispute Resolution (CDR)
Lawyers for both parties appear before a judge in court, giving brief details of the accident with supporting documentation. The judge then gives a suggestion about how liability should be settled (e.g. 50:50, 70:30).
- Assessment of damages (AD/CDR)
This is the same process as CDR, except that liability has already been decided/agreed; the only issue is how much (quantum) you will receive.
Several rounds of settlement talks can take place in the negotiations. After the settlement talks have taken place, we will contact you to let you know what has happened and advise you accordingly.
If you and the other party cannot agree on liability and/or quantum, your case will have to go before a judge to decide the matter in a hearing and you will be required to attend this hearing to give evidence about how the accident happened and/or your injuries.
Once a settlement has been agreed or decided by the court, the Defendant’s insurers will then release your compensation to either us directly or the Public Trustee, depending on the value of your claim. Your compensation will then be forwarded to you.
Although it is difficult to be precise on timing because of the number of external influences over which we have no control, we would nevertheless expect that this matter would be completed within 18 — 24 months. If for any reason we see the likelihood of a significant delay, we will of course let you know.
We hope that the information above provides an adequate summary of the claims procedure for you.
(Please note that this list is not exhaustive)
- Medical receipts / bills / invoices
- Medical certificates
- Outpatient appointment cards
- If you are claiming for the costs of repairs to your damaged vehicle, your vehicle registration card (log card), certificate of insurance, IDAC assessment form, survey report with photographs of your damaged vehicle and the repair bill
- If you have a claim for loss of income/drop in income/overtime/bonus, etc., your salary slips and a letter from your employer stating that you were not paid by them whilst you were on medical leave as a result of the accident
- If you have a claim for loss or damage of personal items, receipts of purchase or other such documents and photographs showing the item
- If you have suffered permanent scarring, photographs of your injuries/scars with the date they were taken and by whom they were taken
- If you require a caregiver such as a nurse or domestic helper (maid), the documents to show how much you have to pay to maintain that person
- If you can no longer work or have difficulty working, the historical evidence of your income such as your Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution history and/or your Notice of Income Tax Assessments from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) for a few years before the accident until your claim is settled/decided
- A photocopy of your passport and/or identification card
- If applicable, your driving licence
Workman’s Compensation Claims
Should you suffer an injury at work, what are the differences between claiming under the Workman’s Compensation Act, or using Common Law? More than that, how can having a lawyer help? Here are some answers to those questions.
Employees who sustain injuries, contract occupational diseases or die in work-related accidents are entitled to claim compensation under the Workman’s Compensation Act (WICA). WICA is a low-cost, simple and expeditious system through which injured employees or the dependents of deceased employees can make compensation claims. It covers all employees who are engaged under a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether they are manual or non-manual workers and regardless of their level of earnings.
WICA safeguards the interests of injured employees, prohibits non or delayed payment of compensation by irresponsible employers and protects employers against dishonest claims by employees. The Act is principled on a ‘no-fault’ basis and compensation is generally claimable regardless of who is at fault, as long as an employee suffers an injury arising out of and in the course of employment (even after employment has been terminated). The calculation of compensation under the Act is based on a fixed formula and is capped to a maximum of $218,000.
Alternatively, under Common Law, an employee can choose to pursue a civil suit against the negligent party for damages, the amount of which must be proven before the Courts. In order for compensation to be awarded, the employee must prove that they were owed a duty of care and that the party responsible breached that duty. The amount of damages is limited only by the claimant’s ability to prove their losses, and they may receive damages that include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of income, property damage, transportation expenses, medical expenses and any future loss of earnings.
The employee should, therefore, carefully consider the specific circumstances of the injuries suffered and pursue their claims under the appropriate avenue. As a general rule, if the employee can prove that the accident was caused by a third party and the injuries are serious or complicated, they are likely to receive more under Common Law.
Claiming Under WICA vs. Common Law
|Summarized from the MOM Website|
|What the employee has to prove||Only that they were injured in a work accident or suffered a disease due to their work||The employer or third party was at fault and caused the injury|
|Legal Representation||Lawyer not required||Lawyer is advisable|
|Compensation/Damages||Based on a fixed formula and capped at $218,000||Limitless|
|Time Limit||1 year from date of accident||3 years from date of accident|
Personal Protection Orders
Should you find yourself needing protection from a member of your own family, a Personal Protection Order may be the best solution. Here we detail a few of the relevant facts.
Family violence is the commission of any of the following acts:
- Wilfully or knowingly placing, or attempting to place, a family member in fear of hurt;
- Causing hurt to a family member by such act which is known would result in hurt;
- Wrongfully confining or restraining a family member against their will; or
- Causing continual harassment with intent to cause anguish to a family member.
If family violence has been committed against you and/or your children, you can apply for a personal protection order.
You should make a police report as soon after the incident as possible and seek medical help to attend to and record any injuries inflicted. It is also advisable to take photographs of any injures you have suffered. It is also good to consult a lawyer early on.
You can then personally make a complaint at the Family Court. The staff will guide you accordingly.
Once your complaint is accepted, the other party will be summoned to Court.
At the hearing, if the Court finds that family violence has been committed or is likely to be committed, the Court can issue a protection order.
Yes, the Family Court always supports efforts to promote a peaceful family environment. Your complaint is likely to be sent for mediation first before it is allowed to proceed for a full hearing.
For more information, please visit the Family Court site
As a motorist, what are some scenarios that might get you into trouble with the law? Here is some practical advice on road rage, drink driving and mobile phone usage that every driver should know.
No violence of any kind will be tolerated by the court — whether you are the culprit or victim. If you use any force against the other party, be prepared to receive a fine or go to jail.
The Court adopts a serious view on road rage and the benchmark for a first-time offender is a custodial sentence if the injuries are minor. If weapons are used or one is a repeat offender, a longer custodial sentence is usually meted out.
If you are the victim, it's best not to get involved. Legally, the best thing to do is to leave the scene — if you retaliate, you could be charged for affray (the fighting of two or more persons in a public place that disturbs others).
There is no acceptable drinking limit, although the legal limit is 35ml. In the eyes of the law, as long as you have had one drop of alcohol and drive recklessly, you can be charged for drink driving — it does not matter if your alcohol consumption level is below the legal limit.
It would be an issue of whether you were holding the phone while you were driving and if that contributed to the accident. Besides a civil suit for a claim in damages, the police could also bring criminal charges against you for a slew of Road Traffic Act offences.
You can call your lawyer to ask what you need to do. Check your car insurance docket, which comes with advice on the steps stated in the General Insurance Association forms.
Make a note of the other car's model and the registration number and exchange particulars and insurance company details with the other driver. If possible, take photographs of the accident scene and the damaged vehicles.
You need only make a police report if there is personal injury or death.
Never touch your phone while driving and only receive essential calls by clicking on the call receive button on your car dashboard. If you have to make an urgent call, find a safe spot to stop your vehicle. Never drive and text or hold your phone and speak.
Apart from having your phone confiscated, you will receive demerit points and you may also be charged for Road Traffic Act offences.
In Singapore, when a vehicle is in motion, it is an offence for the driver to:
- Hold a mobile phone with one hand — for example, pressing a button to answer a call or text message — while the other hand holds the steering wheel; and
- Communicate through that mobile phone while driving. This includes making or taking phone calls, and reading, writing or sending messages.
- Police can also take action against motorists who fail to maintain proper control of their vehicles or drive in an inconsiderate or careless manner.
- It is not an offence to use the phone when the vehicle is stationary, such as at a traffic light.
- Under the Road Traffic Act, a driver caught using a mobile phone could be fined up to $1,000 or jailed up to 6 months or both.
- The punishment could be doubled for repeat offenders.
- Drivers could also have their driving licences suspended and mobile phones forfeited.
- All offenders will get 12 demerit points.
- The mobile phones of the drivers could be seized for investigations but the phone's SIM card may be returned to the drivers.
It describes scenarios where one behaves in a manner that places another party in fear of his personal safety. For instance, it could be you approaching the other driver's car and banging on his car bonnet or assaulting him, or driving dangerously and placing the other party in fear of his life.
Summoned to court
What does being sued mean? We take you through the legal process, step by step.
Some may say that you will still get the same fine whether or not you have a lawyer or not. On the contrary, having a lawyer can make the difference between whether you get a custodial sentence or whether your disqualification from driving is longer than 12 months, etc.
The reason is that case law evolves daily and, with it, the lawyer can use this to "persuade" the Judge that perhaps you fall into the category of exceptional cases that do not deserve a custodial sentence.
Engaging a lawyer to represent you also means that you receive proper legal advice, which allows you to make an informed decision. Moreover, if you are represented by a lawyer, you get to go before those who are not represented, thus reducing waiting time.
Then, if you wish to say something to the Judge — perhaps you want to mitigate after you have pleaded guilty to drink driving — a lawyer can help you to present your mitigation plea to the Judge.
You can be summoned to Court for both civil and criminal matters.
For civil matters, you can be summoned to attend Court as a witness or in a family matter such as when your spouse takes out an application against you for failing to maintain her or for abusing her physically. If you fail to attend Court, a Warrant of Arrest can be issued to compel you to attend to answer her claim.
In criminal matters, such as theft, assault, or drugs, the police will seek your co-operation and take statements from you before deciding whether to charge you. If they decide to proceed with charges, you will be told to go to the police station where you will be informed and thereafter charged on a separate day.
In minor cases such as forgetting to pay your parking fine, failing to submit returns on your private limited company, income tax and HDB matters, you can be summoned to attend what is called Night Court.
Night Court starts at 6pm in the State Courts. Company matters are heard on Thursdays and income tax and HDB matters on Fridays. You do not really have to engage a lawyer, but if you are not represented, be prepared to queue till around 8pm if you are unlucky. If you engage a lawyer, you can be in and out within 5 minutes, depending on the crowd.
If you are being sued, there is a civil claim against you. You will usually be served with what is called a Writ of Summons — this is a Court document which contains a Statement of Claim which sets out the cause of action against you — be it breach of contract, outstanding credit card debts, negligence in a car accident.
If you wish to fight the claim against you, you should not ignore the Writ but to consult a lawyer quickly — there are repercussions for ignoring it — such as Judgment being entered against you.
Most matters are now commenced by way of a Writ of Summons, including Divorce.
This is when your spouse decides to file for divorce against you. In doing so, a Writ of Summons and related documents are filed and served on you — you can either agree to it or contest it.
Even if you agree to the divorce, you can still dispute on issues such as the matrimonial home, custody of children and the issue of maintenance — these are called ancillary matters.
It is advisable that you engage a lawyer if you wish to contest the divorce or ancillary matters. You will get proper advice, as opposed to hearsay from your friends, who will tell you about their friend's divorce case, for instance and what that friend “got”.
No two cases are the same and, as such, different considerations apply when a Judge makes a ruling. In matters such as this, a good lawyer can really help.
What goes into making a will? How to go about doing it?
Ideally, you should identify all your asset types and make them known to your executor, so that it will be easier to figure out what you have or do not have and make it easier to make an application to Court to obtain the Grant of Probate.
It is not possible to cover every situation or asset type — these can change over time. However, the least you should do is to ensure that your executor knows where to locate your assets and estate at all times.
The trustee or executor carries the responsibility of administering your estate according to your wishes and, usually, you should appoint someone you trust, like a family member or a close friend.
Wills are legal and binding as long as they are executed when you are of sound mind and are clear about what you are executing. Wills have full legal effect as long as they are not revoked at any point in time.
However, your will can be challenged on the grounds that it was made when you were of unsound mind or under duress.
Your assets and property, otherwise known as your estate, will be distributed according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act. This means that you have no say in how your estate will be distributed.
Your beneficiaries will have to apply to Court for what is called Letters of Administration. And no, it’s not just getting a letter from your lawyer to confirm that the deceased has indeed passed on. The procedure is similar to that of applying for a Grant of Probate, but the difference here is that it may be complicated by having many beneficiaries, minority interest and having to apply to Court for sureties should the Court deems that there is a need based on the estate’s net worth.
To avoid that, do make a will.
Note: Under Section 115(1) of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap.3), the beneficiaries must apply to the President of the Syariah Court for an Inheritance Certificate to establish the share of each beneficiary. Muslims can only dispose of or give away 1/3 of their estate to persons who are not already entitled under the said Inheritance Certificate.
The most common method to make a will is to consult a lawyer. A will typically costs anything from around $500, depending on the number of issues and nature of complexity of the estate.
Avoid the free online templates if you do not want to risk your will being invalid or challenged. It is simply not worth the grief to your beneficiaries to save on the costs of drawing up a will.
You need to include the following details:
- Names of the beneficiaries who will benefit under your will; and
- An executor who will administer your estate, identify your assets and carry out your wishes on how the assets are to be distributed.
You may also consider including any other special conditions and/or items which you want your executor to deal with, such as donations to charities, or simply that certain beneficiaries do not benefit until they reach a certain age.