Shared care may be in kids' best interest, studies show

The Straits Times report, "Child's welfare, not parents' wishes, at top of judges' mind when deciding if parents should share care and control" (Aug 13), shed light on the considerations of judges when deciding on care and control arrangements for children affected by divorce.

Among the reasons given by the Family Justice Courts (FJC) for not awarding shared care and control in the cited case was that it "may not be practical" for the child to split her time between two homes because she was entering primary school.

Numerous studies conducted worldwide have concluded that shared care arrangements have significant long-term benefits for children whose parents have divorced.

Not having this protective buffer has not only led to worse developmental outcomes for children, but has also resulted in abhorrent cases of physical and sexual abuse, and even death, of stepchildren in Singapore.

Many more children of divorce continue to live in deep vulnerability.

I agree with Mr Daniel Lim that Singapore's small geographical size gives it the added advantage to effectively implement a shared care arrangement in divorce cases (Shared care provides protective buffer for children; Sept 4).

This is a crisis which needs immediate attention.

In her full judgment released, FJC presiding judge Debbie Ong cited research done by Australian researcher Jennifer McIntosh as basis against awarding shared care and control of children in divorce.

Several reputable, peer-reviewed journals have raised concerns about Professor McIntosh's research, including aspects of sampling, methodologies and interpretation of results.

Among Prof McIntosh's arguments are that it is not suitable for young children to have overnights with the non-primary parent "unless it is helpful to the primary-care parent", and that spending more time with the non-primary parent would cause distress and affect the quality of the child's relationship with the primary parent.

This view has since been discredited or disproved by leading researchers in the field.

I urge various stakeholders in the family justice system to undertake a comprehensive and fundamental review of the research, policies and systems which affect thousands of children and families in Singapore every year - and for the FJC to take immediate steps to rectify this injurious situation.

Ian Chan Eng Kiat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline 'Shared care may be in kids' best interest, studies show'. Subscribe