SINGAPORE - Couples contemplating divorce can turn to a new online portal, where they can get online counselling and do an e-learning module, as part of a parenting programme to help them better understand their marital situation and how it affects their children.
In addition, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is working with the Community Pyschology Hub to start a two-year pilot programme later this year that will give couples online counselling support via instant chat or e-mail.
This pilot online counselling service is free.
The hope is that some people, who hesitate to seek counselling in the traditional face-to-face manner, will seek help earlier through online counselling, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, said on Thursday (March 5) when he announced the new measures.
Mr Lee, who was speaking during the parliamentary debate on his ministry's budget, said: "Children are often the most severely affected in a divorce.
"The portal will help couples understand the immediate as well as long-term impact on children, learn how to co-parent effectively and point them to relevant services."
The portal is among the recommendations of the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System.
Earlier, Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) had asked about the status of the recommendations, which were aimed at strengthening the family justice system and reduce acrimonious disputes between divorcing couples.
Last month, the Government accepted the recommendations, which include giving judges more power to prevent conflicts from dragging on and inflicting more hurt on the children involved, as well as beefing up the enforcement regime for child access orders.
Currently, all divorcing couples with children under 21 years of age and who have not reached an agreement on their divorce and all its ancilliary matters, like child custody, will need to attend the Mandatory Parenting Programme.
The programme helps them to understand the practical issues of divorce and make better informed decisions to prioritise the child's well-being.
A new version of the programme, called the Enhanced Mandatory Parenting Programme, will include an e-learning module and self-assessment tools to help parents better understand their marital situation and children's needs.
Ms Chrys Ong, manager of Care Corner Centre for Co-Parenting, told The Straits Times that e-learning gives the user greater convenience.
And the insights they glean during the e-learning session will be useful when they meet the counsellors who run the programme for an in-depth discussion tailored to their needs, she said.
The Enhanced programme will be rolled out by late 2021, together with the first phase of the portal.
The portal will also consolidate the information commonly sought in a divorce, such as housing and Central Provident Fund (CPF) matters, for the greater convenience of users.