Family justice system to be reformed for less painful divorces

SINGAPORE - A new specialist family court structure, geared towards resolving divorces more effectively and less painfully, is on the cards after the Government accepted the recommendations of a committee looking into how to better help troubled families.

This and other proposed measures announced on Friday place the interests of the child at the centre of divorce proceedings, and aim to move divorce proceedings away from an adversarial approach towards an amicable one.

Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah said on Friday that the two main thrusts of the recommendations were first, to save marriages where possible and second, to make the court process less traumatic for those who end up getting a divorce.

Ms Rajah co-chaired the inter-agency Committee for Family Justice that was tasked to study the family justice system and recommend reforms to better serve families in distress.

The committee recommended setting up specialist agencies to provide services to address issues arising from divorce, as well as to train personnel at community touch points, such as hospitals and family service centres, to identify families facing such issues and refer them to the appropriate agencies.

It proposed that a new body of courts, known as the Family Justice Courts, to be established to deal with all family-related cases. It will comprise the existing High Court (family division), Family Court and Juvenile Court.

Before going for divorce, couples with children must undergo a pre-filing consultation to understand the practical issues arising from a divorce that may have an impact on children, the committee recommended.

The committee also proposed appointing child representatives in high-conflict custody cases to act as independent voices for them.