Divorcing parents of minors to undergo e-learning course and counselling

The new course aims to help parents understand their marital situation, co-parenting relationship and their children's needs. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Parents of minors filing for divorce who are required to attend the Mandatory Parenting Programme must take an e-learning course and go for counselling from this month.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said this on Tuesday during her keynote address at the start of a two-day virtual conference on family law organised by the Law Society of Singapore.

The new e-learning course aims to help parents understand their marital situation, co-parenting relationship and their children's needs.

After the course, a counsellor at a Strengthening Families Programme@Family Service Centre (FAM@FSC) or Divorce Support Specialist Agency will help the parents assess their needs and provide support.

Currently, only couples who are divorcing under the Standard Track, where they are contesting the divorce, have to attend the Mandatory Parenting Programme.

Under a new amendment aimed at providing additional support to those undergoing divorce, all parents with minor children will also have to attend the programme before they can file for divorce, said Ms Sun.

She also brought up other amendments made to the Women's Charter earlier this year, such as the Divorce by Mutual Agreement (DMA), which aims to reduce acrimony in the divorce.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development is working with the Family Justice Courts to operationalise the amendments, she said.

"We hope to implement some of these amendments by the end of this year, while other amendments, such as DMA, would come into effect in 2023, to allow time for courts, lawyers, social service agencies and other parties to be ready."

Veteran family lawyer Rajan Chettiar said the purpose of the Mandatory Parenting Programme is to educate divorcing couples on how the divorce will affect their future in relation to housing and finance, and how it will affect their children.

The enhanced programme will facilitate co-parenting, a major problem parents face after divorce, he said.

He added: "Divorce is a major step in life. The programme will make them pause, think through, consider their actions and plan their and the children's future.

"Like marriage preparatory courses, which couples go through when planning for marriage, this programme will provide resources and prepare the couple for their post-divorce journey."

Ms Sun said more than 5,000 individuals and families have gone to the FAM@FSC since it was launched last year to help families address issues related to marriage, finances and parenting.

Seven FAM@FSCs have begun operations, with three more to be set up by the end of the year, she added.

The current centres are run by AMKFSC Community Services, Care Corner Singapore, Fei Yue Community Services and Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities, among other agencies.

"When all the 10 FAM@FSCs are set up, families with early risks will be supported through a regional, integrated and multi-disciplinary approach," Ms Sun said.

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