Determining Child Custody in Singapore

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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.

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Presentation Transcript

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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.

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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.

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Welfare Reports The Courts will take into account various considerations using reports concerning the child such as the Social Welfare Report and the Access Evaluation Report. Types of Welfare Reports to assist the court When is it ordered What does it involve Costs 1 Social Welfare Report  Acrimonious disputes over care and control / overnight access  Allegations about place that child would stay noisy / messy  Allegations of physical or sexual abuse alcoholism or drug use  Child not really able to express himself verbally under 10 years old Officer from Ministry of Social and Family Development MSF will  Interview both parents as well as any other significant third parties  Speak to child and observe interactions between the parties  Conduct home visits No costs 2 Custody Evaluation Report / Access Evaluation Report  Acrimonious disputes over custody and access  Home visits not necessary because no allegations of home environment not suitable Court counsellor will  Interview children parties teachers and caregivers No costs

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 Allegations of alienation or brain- washing by one parent  Child able to express himself well verbally above 10 years old 3 Child Guidance Clinic Report A psychiatrist is required when:  A party is alleged to have exhibited behaviour consistent with a mental disorder for example paranoia seeing evil spirits extreme confusion  A party is suspected of having a medical condition eg alcoholism mild mental retardation that may diminish his capacity to fulfil his parenting duties  Allegations that the child’s mental health is being seriously affected or would be seriously affected by child’s interaction or lack thereof with his parents – and that Child Guidance Clinic of the Institute of Mental Health will arrange for parties and child to attend interviews Around 600

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the child may suffer a mental problem as a result  Serious allegations of child sexual or physical abuse Email Us: consultgjclaw.com.sg Call Us: +65 6337 0469 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 acqcess 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.

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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.

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