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Review how custody of kids is granted in divorce cases

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call in his Chinese New Year message to strengthen family ties and create a brighter future for our children struck a chord with me (Setting the foundation for S'pore's future prosperity; Feb 15).

My parents divorced about 10 years ago, when I was just six years old. Since then, life for my family has been tumultuous.

I was separated from my father by order of the court, against both our wishes. My mother got sole care and control of my sister and me.

While living with my mother and maternal grandmother, my sister and I were "taught" to obey their wishes, often at the expense of our interests and schoolwork. My studies suffered badly.

When it came to access time with our dad, my mother would often come up with excuses and "teach" us what to say so as to prevent us from spending time with him.

Throughout this period, I witnessed my father trying ways and means to meet us - while my mother would repeatedly find ways to scuttle the visits.

My sister and I longed desperately to see our father, and felt helpless.

I further witnessed how family court proceedings favoured my mother, making things difficult for my father.

Three years ago, I ran away from my mother's home to live with my father - a very difficult decision for a young boy, but one for which I have no regrets.

My schoolwork has improved tremendously and my father has taught me to become a confident, reliable person.

I often wonder why my sister and I had to go through all this.

Why couldn't the courts have granted shared care and control, which research has shown to be best for children caught in divorce?

From 2005 to 2014, about 5,000 children were involved in divorce cases each year.

I hope the family courts will seriously review the way they grant care and control, and allow children to enjoy the guidance of both parents, even after divorce.

Nicholas Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'Review how custody of kids is granted in divorce cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe