Forum: Family law not straightforward; lawyers' skills add value

Fixing fees for matrimonial disputes is deeply flawed, anti-competitive and a blunt methodology.
Fixing fees for matrimonial disputes is deeply flawed, anti-competitive and a blunt methodology.PHOTO: ST FILE

We refer to the letter by Mr Andrew Tan Chong Hee (Consider fixed legal fees for family law, Nov 1).

Non-contentious divorce proceedings appear to be relatively straightforward.

However, this overlooks the labour-intensive and time-consuming efforts expended to prepare such cases for filing under the simplified hearing track for divorce proceedings. Family law matters are not one-dimensional.

The labour involved entails protracted negotiations, mediation and the deployment of other alternative dispute resolution options. These are tools family lawyers utilise to attain amicable settlements.

Whether contentious or not, at the heart of divorce proceedings lie issues such as the children's best interests, parties' concerns over accommodation, financial security and other vital personal matters.

Such issues are often emotion-sapping, factually complex, interconnected and multifaceted.

Fixing fees for matrimonial disputes is deeply flawed, anti-competitive and a blunt methodology.

Parties need not engage lawyers to represent them in divorce proceedings.

Yet litigants often do so. They recognise that divorce outcomes have far-reaching and deeply impacting consequences on both them and their children.

A good lawyer who is both objective and empathetic brings good value far outstripping monetary remuneration.

The majority of matrimonial disputes are settled via mediation without incurring substantial legal fees.

For cases that proceed to court hearing, there are measures to curb unnecessary or protracted delay.

To assert that family lawyers take advantage of their clients' distress, or that they are mercenary legal elites motivated by a high profit incentive does a blatant disservice to the good work of the Family Bar.

Many family lawyers practise to uphold the noblest and finest ideals of the Bar while serving their clients' legal needs.

This additional lawyer layer of experience and expertise enables family practice specialists to heal familial conflict one family at a time.

Family practitioners often serve as a strong pillar of support to their clients.

Shawn Toh

Director, Communications

The Law Society of Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2019, with the headline 'Family law not straightforward; lawyers' skills add value'. Print Edition | Subscribe