Forum: Families need better support during and after divorce

Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT) is a charity that has been supporting low-income families for the past seven years. During this time, we have worked closely with many women who have gone through divorce.

Years after a divorce, some women still struggle with feelings of anger and remorse. Stronger counselling support during and after divorce, as proposed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, would definitely be well received. We hope the suggested support for divorcees and children would also be available to families seen by the Syariah Court.

We believe further support can be given to mothers and their children in many other forms.

To start, the current conversation surrounding gender equality in Singapore rightfully calls for more equity in caregiving duties; suggesting that both men and women should share the care work and support within the family unit.

We believe that divorce should also be understood from this perspective, in which care and support given to children post-marriage should be divided equally between former spouses.

While courts in theory try to follow such criteria, court-ordered maintenance and access orders are often not adhered to, seriously hindering the quality care of children in many cases.

The process of maintenance enforcement, which includes child maintenance, has left many divorced Singaporeans, mostly women, increasingly frustrated.

As stated in DOT's recent White Paper, 27 per cent of women find it hard to return to work due to legal issues. A significant portion of them grapple with enforcement; repeated filings, mediation and court hearings can still end in non-payment and limited outcomes.

In extreme cases, warrants of arrest cannot be acted on as the former spouse cannot be located. We believe the justice system, in a country that is able to track down people who disregard safe distancing rules, can do more to enforce payment of these orders.

We believe that sharing the expectations and requirements during pre-divorce counselling is the first step to setting the tone and aligning a couple. Using therapeutic justice to make sure that family members are being holistically cared for is paramount.

We urge officials to review the enforcement and execution process as they attempt to further help divorcing parents.

Kanak Muchhal

Women's Strategic Development

Daughters Of Tomorrow