Family Justice Courts to introduce programme to protect children of divorcing couples

The new programme will help divorcing couples in their transition after divorce, thereby reducing conflict between them and their children.
The new programme will help divorcing couples in their transition after divorce, thereby reducing conflict between them and their children.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A new programme that will protect children whose parents are undergoing divorce will be introduced by the Family Justice Courts (FJC) in the second half of the year, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon on Wednesday (April 6).

The programme, called Parenting Coordination, will help divorcing couples in their transition after divorce, thereby reducing conflict between them and their children.

While details of the scheme are still being worked out, 24 lawyers have already been trained as "parenting coordinators", and will help in the programme's pilot in the second half of the year.

These parenting coordinators will provide practical help "to resolve access (custody) issues in relation to the children", said CJ Menon.

He said: "With high-conflict parenting situations, disagreements frequently arise over how access is to be carried out by the parent who does not have care and control of the child.

"This can give rise to a host of issues, including the location for access, the timing for handover of the children, or whether the child is allowed a play date on that parent's access day.

"While these disagreements might appear to be trivial to the uninitiated, they can become a significant source of acrimony between divorced parents. And the children, who inevitably are caught in the middle, suffer developmental harm from the mental stress that this causes," added the CJ.

Speaking at the FJC Workplan 2016, he said the Child Inclusive Dispute Resolution model, which was piloted last year, will also be implemented for all suitable cases this year.

The extended pilot of the model last year 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.

CJ Menon announced that Maintenance Record Officers will also be appointed by the family courts. In cases where a respondent is unable to pay his maintenance obligations, these officers will investigate both parties' financial circumstances and submit the findings to the relevant judge.