Divorcee welcomes proposed changes to child access and maintenance laws

But more should be done to help former spouses come to an agreement so they can rebuild their lives, says divorcee Jane. PHOTO: PEXELS

SINGAPORE - Soon after giving birth to her daughter in 2018, Jane (not her real name) found out her husband was having an affair.

Jane, who is in her thirties, had experienced abuse from her husband and conflict at home after getting married in 2017.

She separated from him and took her daughter with her to a different house. It was only after she sought legal counsel that she realised they would have to wait for their marriage to hit the three-year mark before she could seek a divorce.

Jane hopes the proposed amendments to the Women's Charter make it easier and fairer to settle child access and maintenance matters, and going forward, the Government will consider reducing the three-year period.

"The proposed changes to the divorce law here are a welcome step but more should be done to help ex-spouses come to an agreement, especially in acrimonious situations, so they can rebuild their lives after a failed marriage," she said.

Over the two years she waited to hit the milestone, Jane feared that her husband and his family would keep her daughter away from her, in the absence of a court-mandated order on custody over the girl.

"Her father would pick her up from school without checking with me, although the usual routine was that I would bring her home, shower and feed her before he picked her up so they could spend time together," she said.

"I was concerned that the change in routine would confuse my daughter and the strain in our relationship would affect her impression of her parents."

Jane, who sought help from the legal clinic run by the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations, filed for divorce in September last year, citing unreasonable behaviour on her husband's part.

As the divorce process grew more acrimonious, she found herself juggling her job as an administrative executive and parenting responsibilities with the emotionally draining process of filing multiple affidavits.

"I would come back from work and put my daughter to sleep before I began looking through my divorce paperwork at midnight, often sleeping at 1am in the morning," she said.

The divorce process was completed in July and Jane, who earns about $2,500 per month, received $350 in monthly maintenance from her former spouse who has a senior managerial role. She was also granted primary care and control of her daughter.

"Towards the end of the process, I was suffering from physical and emotional fatigue, and I agreed too hastily to the maintenance and child access proposals," she said.

"Now I am considering going back to court for a fairer settlement because $350 is not enough to provide for my daughter's school and living expenses and medical costs as she grows older."

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