Better gender balance needed in family justice system

I found the letter by Madam Lily Ong deeply troubling (S'pore courts' stand on shared care and control commendable; Aug 17).

She not only repeats an argument commonly used by family law practitioners - that having shared care and control is disruptive for the child - but also adds that because parents may be uncooperative in making joint decisions, custody, or the power to make major decisions for the child, should be given to one parent.

What is essentially being said is that the parenting role of one of the parents should be completely removed from the child's life, post-divorce.

The role and importance of both father and mother in the upbringing of a child, even within an intact family, is clear.

In a family where the parents have separated, it is so much more critical for the law, the Government and the judicial authorities to protect the relationship that the child has with both parents.

Another noteworthy point is that several letters to The Straits Times Forum page have highlighted how the issue of forced separation seems to be affecting fathers, in particular.

This raises serious questions about whether there exists an entrenched gender bias in our family justice system which minimises the role of fathers, and which family lawyers have been able to take advantage of to foment conflict in families already in distress.

It would be interesting to know the number of sole care and control orders granted to mothers and the number granted to fathers by the Family Justice Courts.

Daniel Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'Better gender balance needed in family justice system'. Print Edition | Subscribe