Faster, cheaper way to file various family court applications

A staff member from the Family Justice Courts demonstrating the new electronic case management system, called the Integrated Family Application Management System, at the Supreme Court yesterday.
A staff member from the Family Justice Courts demonstrating the new electronic case management system, called the Integrated Family Application Management System, at the Supreme Court yesterday.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

New online system will benefit court users such as those seeking deputyship powers

It will be cheaper and easier to file various family court applications, such as that for deputyship powers, through an electronic case management system.

The deputyship powers can be sought through the Integrated Family Application Management System (iFAMS) Mental Capacity Act Module, the Family Justice Courts (FJC) announced yesterday.

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 straightforward and uncontested deputyship applications to be filed using a simplified track.

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

It costs $40 to file an application under iFAMS.

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

It used to cost between $150 and $200 to file an application for a similar case under the old system.

Also, 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 and three months under the old system.

  • 478 

    Number of Mental Capacity Act applications last year. Most of them were for the appointment of deputyship.

    4,712

    Number of maintenance applications last year.

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.

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 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 it under the Women's Charter. They include divorced women seeking maintenance from former husbands for their children, and married women seeking financial support from husbands who have neglected or refused to provide them with reasonable support.

There is also 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.

At the Family Justice Practice Forum yesterday, 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 viewed the family law reforms positively. A total of 106 lawyers and 879 court users were polled.

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 that 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2019, with the headline 'Faster, cheaper way to file various family court applications'. Print Edition | Subscribe