Forum: Kids need protection of both biological parents post-divorce

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call last month for Singapore to be a society where families are celebrated and supported is heartening, but more should be done to strengthen support for young families and families in distress (CNY a time to celebrate family as strong ties make for a strong nation: PM Lee Hsien Loong, Jan 24).

Two years ago, I highlighted how family court orders granting care and control to one parent have caused many children of divorce, including me, to be deprived of the care and protection of one parent (usually the father) and to continue to live in deep conflict and vulnerability long after our parents' divorce (Review how custody of kids is granted in divorce cases, March 4, 2018).

Since then, I have followed some of the discussions in the media, including the recent recommendations by the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System, but have not seen concrete action taken to fundamentally reassess the impact of divorce on children in Singapore.

I am thus deeply saddened to read of yet another case of serious sexual abuse of a child by a step-parent (Stepdad jailed 24 years for sex abuse, Feb 8). This follows another case last year, where the mother was granted custody and the father was granted access only on alternate Sundays (15 years' jail, 24 strokes for sexually abusing stepdaughter, July 13, 2019).

We need to take firm action to stem this scourge of stepchildren abuse in Singapore. Penalties alone will not solve the problem, and we need to honestly address the fundamental vulnerabilities which children are exposed to when they do not have the protection of both their biological parents.

There is research to show that spending sufficient time with both biological parents - at least 35 per cent with each parent - after a divorce results in better outcomes in life for the children.

I appeal to the authorities to rethink how care and control is granted in Singapore, and to implement concrete measures to promote effective shared parenting post-divorce.

Nicholas Tan