SINGAPORE: A committee tasked with reviewing Singapore's Family Justice System has set out a slew of recommendations -- all aimed at making divorce proceedings more efficient, less adversarial, and putting the child's interests at the heart of the process.
It comes on the back of rising divorce rates, with more than 8,000 children affected every year.
Public consultations on the proposals are now underway.
One of the recommendations from the committee calls for a pre-writ consultation session to help parties understand issues arising from the divorce, and the impact on children. This is so that couples make an informed decision, and prioritise the welfare of the child before they even start with court proceedings.
The session could be made mandatory for parents with young children, but with exemptions for cases in which family violence is involved.
There is also a call for a dedicated department to provide a voice to the child. The idea is for counsellors to speak with children, gather their thoughts and wishes, and submit a report to the court. The appointment of Child Representatives has also been suggested. The representatives can act as advocates for the child and prepare an independent report.
Beyond the needs of children, there are also proposals to streamline the court process and empower judges, as well as the court, to order couples to go for mediation or attend counselling.
Other key proposals include the setting up of a new Family Justice Court to hear all family-related cases, and within the community -- the establishment of specialist agencies, staffed with practitioners with specialist skills in handling divorce and family violence issues.
This is a significant move as there is a lack of such specialist practitioners out there to deal with such issues, thus this initiative will be a helpful resource for families seeking advice, be it pre or post-divorce.
The consultation paper is available on the websites of MinLaw and Reach. - CNA/ac
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