Divorcing couples urged to resolve disputes amicably before going to court

The Family Justice Courts (FJC) and the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) have urged divorcing couples to resolve their disputes amicably before filing divorce papers. -- ST FILE PHOTO
The Family Justice Courts (FJC) and the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) have urged divorcing couples to resolve their disputes amicably before filing divorce papers. -- ST FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE - Divorcing couples have been urged to resolve their disputes amicably before filing divorce papers,

Thousands of couples divorce each year - the latest figures show that there were 7,525 divorces and annulments in 2013. Last year, 19 couples opted for private mediation - in which a neutral person works with the parties involved to resolve their differences - up from eight couples in 2010. The numbers remain low despite the fact that cases are often resolved within a day and three out of four cases are settled.

A second pre-court option for divorcing couples is the Collaborative Family Practice (CFP) scheme. Just seven cases were settled under this scheme, up from three cases in 2013 when it was launched. In this scheme, specially-trained lawyers are assigned to help couples negotiate post-divorce issues, and if an agreement to settle is reached, the Family Justice Courts will prioritise closing the case.

These figures were revealed on Monday by the Family Justice Courts (FJC) and the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC).

They noted the figures were small and hope more couples will take part in such schemes.

SMC executive director Loong Seng Onn said: "Engaging a mediator... helps resolve disputes efficiently, saving people money and time."

An FJC spokesman added: "Early intervention with professional assistance may help to reduce acrimony and result in workable outcomes for all. This is especially important where there are children or extended family members who are affected by the dispute between the two parties." It is estimated that over half of the non-Muslim divorces heard in the FJC involve at least one child below the age of 21.

Both the CFP and private mediation schemes are run by the SMC. For divorcing couples in the "sandwiched class" - not poor enough to qualify for legal aid, but also unable to afford legal fees - they can tap the Primary Justice Project which was launched in May 2014. It has handled a dozen divorce cases to date.