Divorcing parents' willingness should be key factor in granting shared care

The Family Justice Courts' reply sidesteps the profound responsibility it bears as the ultimate arbiter of family disputes and the need and right of a child to enjoy strong and enduring relationships with both parents (Both parents in divorce have to ensure that kids' interest comes first; March 9).

Asserting that shared care and control is only suitable when both parents are able to put aside their conflicts and co-parent effectively, in effect, encourages parents to be unreasonable so as to make an order of shared care and control unlikely.

This cannot be the stance adopted by the Family Courts.

Instead, the courts should consider the reasonableness and willingness of a parent to share the child's time with the other parent as a major factor in granting care and control.

Doing so will set parties who are already in a delicate or vulnerable situation emotionally on a virtuous cycle - and reduce the risk that children could be subject to psychological and emotional manipulation or alienation.

Research has proven that children do best when they enjoy the guidance of and spend sufficient quality time with both their father and mother.

This need to enjoy a strong relationship with both parents must never be compromised.

The courts' own statistics show that youth delinquency is grossly over-represented among youths coming from separated families.

Combined with recent reports of the extreme physical and sexual abuse of stepchildren, it is way overdue that the Government and courts take concrete action to ensure that children affected by divorce are not denied the guidance and protection of both biological parents.

To facilitate effective co-parenting, the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies could be roped in to transition families into new living and care arrangements.

This simple but fundamental change can help put our family justice system on a positive trajectory and stop the abuse of our children, both during and after divorce.

Wong Mun Fai (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2018, with the headline 'Divorcing parents' willingness should be key factor in granting shared care'. Print Edition | Subscribe