Policies should not inadvertently encourage single parenthood

While Singapore continues to offer our best support to single parents by circumstance, our national and legal policies must not inadvertently encourage "single parenthood by choice", says one forum writer.
While Singapore continues to offer our best support to single parents by circumstance, our national and legal policies must not inadvertently encourage "single parenthood by choice", says one forum writer.PHOTO: ST FILE

Madam Lily Ong highlighted some of the difficulties single mothers in Singapore face (Soldiering on as a single parent, May 15).

Indeed, single parenthood is not easy - whether it is the mother or father who has taken on the responsibility of caring for the children.

I have the deepest admiration for these individuals.

In the case of the death of a spouse, the surviving widow or widower would have no choice but to take on dual roles as both the father and mother in the children's upbringing. In such cases, it is absolutely imperative that the state provides the necessary assistance to ensure the family's needs are taken care of.

However, in the more common situation of a divorce or in the case of an unwed mother, the child in fact has both biological parents to look after him.

While undoubtedly difficult, such situations, which I describe as "single parenthood by choice", should be mitigated through legal and government policies with upstream intervention to empower both parents to care for their child.

Numerous accounts by both parents and children affected by divorce have highlighted the archaic policy and detriment of granting "sole care and control" to one parent after divorce (Review how custody of kids is granted in divorce cases, by Mr Nicholas Tan, March 4, 2018; Look into factors leading to abuse of stepchildren, by Mrs Geraldine Tan Chee Lian, March 8, 2018; and Review divorce cases where shared care was not granted, by Mr Daniel Lim, Nov 5, 2018).

This legal intervention of "sole care and control" orders has led to, not least of all, a psychological imbalance in parental responsibilities, post-divorce.

In more severe cases, it has also led to parental alienation or access denial to one parent (Access: denied, March 18).

Those most affected by this are innocent children.

Yet more cases of sexual and physical abuse of stepchildren have emerged (Man sexually abused stepdaughter for over 6 years, Feb 7).

This is only the tip of the iceberg.

The deep vulnerabilities experienced by children of divorce must be taken seriously by the Government and the courts.

While we continue to offer our best support to single parents by circumstance, our national and legal policies must not inadvertently encourage "single parenthood by choice" and deprive children of the love and protection of both their parents.

Oh Ee Hoe

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2019, with the headline 'Policies should not inadvertently encourage single parenthood'. Print Edition | Subscribe