In a breakdown of a family with children, apart from division of matrimonial assets and maintenance issues, there is also a need for the Courts to decide who the child/children should live with.
The Court decides the best parent for the child/children to live with based on legal documents such as affidavits and sworn documents presented to the Court. The judge may choose to interview the children directly. In some cases a welfare report will be obtained.
The ruling will be based on what best serves the needs of the children and not the parents. Considerable effort will be made to ensure the children are not placed in the home of a substance abuser or where they will suffer any type of physical or verbal abuse that might prove to be detrimental to their welfare. One is best advised to consult and be guided by an experienced divorce lawyer for options and likely outcomes that can be expected.
The Welfare Principle
In any proceedings before any Court where the custody or upbringing of a child is in question, the Court is asked to regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration. The welfare of the child is not to be measured in monetary terms. It includes the child’s moral and religious welfare, his physical well-being, ties of affection, his happiness, comfort and security.
At the Family Court, it is the belief of all judges that children are innocent victims. Children are often caught in the midst of proceedings and very often, parties use the children as pawns and contest the issue of custody, care and control in order to get even at the other party. Parties also use children as bargaining chips to get more maintenance or bigger share in division of assets.
The Family Court tries their best to shield children from proceedings and not subject them to trauma of attending Court. However, if there is a need to involve children, the Family Court has in place a system whereby trained counsellors and psychologists can talk to children and counsel them. There are also rules in place to prevent children from being placed for medical and psychiatric examinations unless ordered by the Courts.
The Courts will take into account various considerations using reports concerning the child such as the Social Welfare Report and the Access Evaluation Report.
Resolving Access Issues – Parenting Coordination
After divorce proceedings have ended, the Court would have determined child custody issues, in which it is decided which parent has care and control and which parent has access. However, having such orders handed down by the Court does not always mark the end of the issue – often, there can be disagreements between the parents over access issues, such as how it is to be carried out by the parent who does not have care and control of the child. These disagreements will often result in continued acrimony between the divorced parties, leaving the child in a difficult situation being caught in the middle of the two parents. The development of the child can also be adversely affected, given the emotional stress that the child may suffer from.
In order to help settle the access and care arrangements for children after a divorce, the Family Justice Courts of Singapore have designed a pilot project on Parenting Coordination, which is slated to come into place in the second half of 2016. Parenting Coordination is an alternative disputes resolution process which is child-focused, designed for parties undergoing divorce or separation, where the parties are in an acrimonious relationship. It is intended to help divorcing couples in their transition after divorce, to reduce conflict between them and their children.
Family lawyers trained as Parenting Coordinators will provide practical help to resolve access issues in relation to children, by working with parties to draw up a parenting plan to assist parents in facilitating access arrangements provided in a court order. They will then monitor the progress of the situation over a period of 6 to 24 months.
About Author: Jamson Lim works for a top Expat Divorce firm in Singapore and has effectively handled foreigners divorce cases in Singapore. He mostly writes on topics like expat divorce eligibility, spousal maintenance in Singapore, expat assets division and others.