Collaborative Family Practice (CFP) in Singapore

 

In 2013, the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) further introduce the Collaborative Family Practice (CFP). This led to the formation of panel of Collaborative Family Practitioners by the SMC. These divorce lawyers are trained in the methodology of collaborative strategy of dispute resolution.The defining characteristic of the CFP is that it is an interest-based approach initiated before the beginning of any court proceedings. It aims to help parties arrive at an agreement which meets the needs of all parties. In this way, the CFP seeks to avoid any litigation at all, and the emotional distress that is ancillary to adversarial procedures.

 

There are three guiding principles that underpin the CFP process:

 

(1) Undertaking not to litigate in court
(2) Open, honest and voluntary exchange of information
(3) Commitment to work towards solutions that take into account the best interests of all parties, including any children that may be involved.

 

Primarily, the CFP involves trained CFP lawyers and other professionals, including financial advisors and child specialists. They will assist the parties to negotiate a settlement that meets the needs of the family. Thus, the role of both lawyers and other professionals is to provide advice and assist in negotiations.

 

Unlike litigation and other ADR mechanisms, however, the parties’ lawyers cannot represent their clients in future litigation if settlement cannot be achieved. Such protections ensure that the parties negotiate in a less acrimonious environment. It also helps the parties maintain confidentiality. Most importantly, especially if children are involved, it facilitates the parties maintaining a certain level of civility towards each other.

 

Apart from divorce proceedings, the CFP is also used to address other matters such as annulment of marriage, separation, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

 

1.How Does The Collaborative Family Practice Work?



Generally, these are the general features of a CFP:

Both parties consult a family lawyer trained in the collaborative process and accredited by the Singapore Mediation Centre. Here, each party will discuss whether the collaborative process is suitable for your circumstances.

If suitable, both parties will undertake not to go to Court. This negates the threat of litigation, which is hostile to an ideal negotiated outcome.

Trust is of paramount importance. Both parties must make a full and frank disclosure of any relevant information.

Discussions are “privileged” information and confidential. This means that any discussions and documents cannot later be used in Court should there be no settlement. An exception to this rule relate to the disclosure of financial documents.

There should be minimal correspondence between the parties and their respective lawyers, apart from the exchange of meeting minutes and points of discussion for subsequent meetings.

Once a settlement has been agreed upon, the lawyers will draft a settlement agreement, which will be filed in Court as a draft consent order.

Upon review and approval of the Court, this draft will then be turned into a legally binding and enforceable Court Order. (INSERT TABLE)

2. Difference between Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Family Practice Divorce Process



There is no short answer to the question of choosing between divorce mediation (also known as “family mediation“) and the collaborative process. Much depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the situation that the couples find themselves to be in.

However, one of the key aspects where they differ is the possibility of legal representation. If negotiations through the mediation process are unsuccessful, the respective lawyers may proceed to file for divorce with the Family Court and leave the decision in the hands of the judge. In contrast, through the Collaborative process, if negotiations fail, their legal representatives are not allowed to represent the couples in the divorce proceedings. Another lawyer has to initiate the process. This disincentives parties from terminating the CFP process and removes any possibility of CFP lawyers financially profiting from any future litigation. Further, lawyers who are not trained in CFP may not be as familiar with reaching a fair and sustainable long-term agreement under the CFP.

Apart from legal representation, mediation, unlike the CFP, still forms part of the litigation system. In mediation, the role of the respective lawyers are still, to an extent, advocates in an adversarial role, albeit to a smaller extent compared to litigation in court. This is primarily due to the difference in the role of lawyers stated in the preceding paragraph. In contrast, through the CFP, the role of the family lawyers is to actively facilitate a settlement whilst ensuring that the parties’ interests are protected.

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Founder and Principal Lawyer
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Beatrice Yeo Poh Tiang

Having handled over 10,000 divorces since 2006, Ms. Beatrice Yeo, the Founder and Principal Lawyer of the firm, is widely acknowledged as one of the best divorce lawyers in Singapore.

She has extensive experience in all aspects of Matrimonial Law, including Nullity Proceedings, Contested & Uncontested Divorce and Mediation.

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