Family Justice Courts moves some services to new office

Family Justice Courts.
Family Justice Courts. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Divorce-related mediation and counselling services shifting to MND Complex

A year after the Family Justice Courts (FJC) was created, its premises in Havelock Road can no longer house all its services because of its expanding work. Starting next week, its divorce-related mediation and counselling services will be situated on the fourth floor of the MND Complex in Maxwell Road.

The new office will also house its probate services, as well as the mental capacity and adoption registries. There will be two court rooms, three hearing chambers, nine mediation chambers and 14 counselling rooms in the FJC's second office.

The FJC, set up in October last year, integrates the Family Division of the High Court, the Family Courts and the Youth Courts through a single Registry. Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon announced the relocation at an event to mark the first anniversary of the FJC yesterday. He said: "Our mission at the FJC is unique because we deal with the extremely delicate matter of distressed family relationships. This is the core business of these courts, and our role will assume even greater importance in the years ahead."

HELPING FAMILIES IN DISTRESS

Our mission at the FJC (Family Justice Courts) is unique because we deal with the extremely delicate matter of distressed family relationships. This is the core business of these courts, and our role will assume even greater importance in the years ahead.

CHIEF JUSTICE SUNDARESH MENON

He noted that the annual ratio of marriage to divorce today is 4:1, compared to 13: 1 in 1980.

The weakening of family and community bonds has also had an adverse impact on children, he said, citing the number of youth as a proportion of all offenders. About 4,000 youth were arrested annually in the past few years, representing around 22 per cent of total crimes reported each year.

The Chief Justice highlighted three areas for improvement. First, more specialist family mediators will be trained early next year, to allow families to have a viable alternative method of dispute resolution.

The FJC accredited its first 24 specialist family mediators - comprising mainly of FJC district judges and senior lawyers - between November last year and January this year.

Second, the FJC will expand its pilot of the Child Inclusive Dispute Resolution model, which saw 75 per cent of 20 families - 40 parents and 35 children - reach an agreement on all children's issues.

The model incorporates an interview with children, to better understand their feelings and perspectives on their parents' disputes.

Finally, more court volunteers will be trained under the Court Friends scheme - in partnership with the Community Justice Centre and National University of Singapore law faculty's pro-bono office - to support the increasing number of self-litigants. The FJC has already trained 23 volunteers through the scheme, to not only provide information on court procedure and processes, but also give emotional and moral support to self-litigants.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'Family Justice Courts moves some services to new office'. Print Edition | Subscribe