Shared care and control statistics don't gel with court's position

Recently, it was reported in The Straits Times that according to the courts, there is neither a presumption that shared care and control is always in the child's welfare, nor a legal principle against such an arrangement (Child's welfare must come first: High Court; Aug 14).

However, this position articulated by the courts does not gel with the statistic that was revealed in Parliament in July - that only 4 per cent of care and control orders in divorce cases in 2016 were shared.

If there was indeed no legal bias, one would imagine that at least 50 per cent or perhaps the majority of care and control orders in divorce cases would be shared.

Such a measly statistic for shared care and control orders is clearly contrary to the court's stated position.

It was also mentioned in the judgment that shared care and control for children might not be suitable due to acrimony between parties.

However, research has shown that shared care and control is beneficial to children despite the initial conflict.

One should also be acutely aware that the "acrimony" in a divorce can often be a result of the adversarial nature of current family law practice, especially when lawyers are involved.

The unwillingness of one parent to cooperate in co-parenting cannot be reason to deny the child of a valuable and precious relationship with the other parent.

This only creates a perverse incentive for parties and their lawyers to perpetuate conflict and be uncooperative.

Instead, a default position of shared care and control with necessary social support can go a long way in educating and encouraging both parties to behave reasonably and put the needs of their child first.

Heather Lim (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2018, with the headline 'Shared care and control statistics don't gel with court's position'. Print Edition | Subscribe