Family Justice Courts launch cheaper and faster way for users to file applications

A staff member of the Family Justice Courts demonstrates the new online system, the integrated Family Application Management System (iFAMS), at the Supreme Court on Oct 2, 2019. PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - It will be more convenient and affordable for court users to file various family court applications, such as that for deputyship powers, through an electronic case management system.

With the Integrated Family Application Management System (iFAMS) Mental Capacity Act Module, it will be easier, cheaper and faster to apply for deputyship powers, the Family Justice Courts (FJC) announced on Wednesday morning (Oct 2).

Under the Mental Capacity Act, a deputy is a court-appointed individual, often a family member, who is granted specific powers to make decisions for the welfare of the person who lacks mental capacity.

The new system allows for straightforward and uncontested deputyship applications to be filed using a simplified track.

Under this simplified track, an applicant can go to the iFAMS portal from the convenience of their home to apply for certain deputyship powers, such as to withdraw money from the bank account of the person - who has his lost mental capacity - to pay for his expense.

It costs $40 to file an application under iFAMS.

Before this iFAMS module, applicants would have to travel to a CrimsonLogic Service Bureau, which is located at the Supreme Court Building and at Chinatown Point, to file the application.

And it cost between $150 to $200 to file an application for a similar case under the old system.

Besides, the processing time is now faster. With the iFAMS system, it takes within three weeks from the time an application is filed to when an order is issued, down from between two to three months under the old system.

Last year, there were 478 Mental Capacity Act applications and most of them were for the appointment of deputyship.

Besides those seeking deputyship powers, other groups of court users will also benefit from new modules in the iFAMS system.

They include those who defaulted on their maintenance payments, were ordered to pay up and have to bring their proof of payment to court.

But under the iFAMS Remote Show Payment module, they can take a picture of their proof of payment, such as a bank transfer, and submit it through the iFAMS portal.

This new iFAMS module will be piloted from this month for six months for some cases, such as those who cannot attend court as they are travelling overseas for work.

Maintenance is a form of financial support and different groups can apply for maintenance under the Women's Charter. They include divorced women asking for maintenance from their ex-husbands for their children, and married women seeking financial support from their husbands who have neglected or refused to provide them with reasonable support, according to the FJC website.

Then, there is the new iFAMS Offer to Resolve module where parties can ask for a specified sum in maintenance after the application for maintenance is filed.

For example, one party can ask for a certain sum of maintenance and the other party can accept the sum requested for or make a counter-offer. This is known as an offer.

Those involved can still do this negotiation through their lawyers, but the new online module, which is in its pilot phase, gives them the convenience of making these offers themselves and saving the legal fees, among other advantages.

They can also make offers for certain variations when it comes to maintenance, such as for a larger or smaller sum, through the iFAMS Offer to Resolve module.

There were 4,712 maintenance applications last year.

Lawyer Lim Chong Boon said the new iFAMS module helps divorcing couples as they, for example, do not need to hire a lawyer each time they want to change the sum of maintenance given. This is because they can do it themselves through the portal.

At the Family Justice Practice Forum on Wednesday, the FJC's Presiding Judge Debbie Ong said that a recent survey by the FJC and the Law Ministry of lawyers and court users found that a large majority had positive views of the family law reforms.

For example, 82 per cent of lawyers and 96 per cent of court users found that there is greater effectiveness in the courtroom with the docketing system.

This system refers to cases which are assigned to designated judges so they are more familiar with the issues those involved face and the judge can manage the case from start to end, bringing about better outcomes for these parties who may have multiple applications and proceedings in court.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.