Parties in mediation empowered to make their own decisions

Last year, 55 per cent of divorce applications were filed on the simplified track where parties are in full agreement on all relevant issues. Of the remaining 45 per cent of divorce cases filed, about half of them would have undergone the mediation p
Last year, 55 per cent of divorce applications were filed on the simplified track where parties are in full agreement on all relevant issues. Of the remaining 45 per cent of divorce cases filed, about half of them would have undergone the mediation process.PHOTO: ST FILE

We thank Madam Lily Ong for recognising that since the establishment of the Family Justice Courts, the rate of divorce settlements in Singapore has improved significantly, with the vast majority of cases being fully resolved without the need for a contested hearing (Room for family courts to be even more efficient, April 27).

The family justice system encourages and supports the harmonious resolution of family disputes by agreements instead of litigation. Last year, 55 per cent of divorce applications were filed on the simplified track where parties are in full agreement on all relevant issues.

Of the remaining 45 per cent of divorce cases filed last year, about half of them would have undergone the mediation process.

Of the divorce cases that went through mediation, about 70 per cent were fully resolved and a further 16 per cent were at least partially resolved through mediation. Overall, only between 6 per cent and 9 per cent of all divorce cases require adjudication.

In divorce proceedings, the court is the final arbiter of all the issues; thus if agreements are reached by parties through mediation or other means, the court will record these agreements as court orders made with the consent of the parties.

Between reaching an agreement and the recording by the court based on the agreement, parties could change their minds. The court recognises that parties in mediation should be and are empowered to make their own decisions.

In this regard, the court manages such cases and seeks to strike a balance between the need of parties to have the time and space to reach well-thought-out voluntary agreements and the need for expeditious proceedings without undue delay.

There is, however, no specific stage in the proceedings where parties are given up to five weeks to change their minds. Cases have different needs and each may take different periods of time to reach resolution.

Kenneth Yap

Registrar

Family Justice Courts

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'Parties in mediation empowered to make their own decisions'. Print Edition | Subscribe