Family Court – An Overview of the Family Justice Court in relation to Divorce in Singapore

 

The Family Courts of Singapore (or more accurately, the “Family Justice Courts of Singapore“), play a large part in resolving familial disputes with minimum acrimony. The pressing focus on children’s welfare ensures that the impact on children stemming from their parents’ divorce is curtailed.

 

1. Location and Contact



The Family Courts are located at 3 Havelock Square, Singapore 059725; the nearest MRT station is Chinatown (NE4/DT19).

There are a few contact numbers you can call to reach them:
General enquiries: 64355110
Enquiries on filing of Writ of Divorce: 64355398

You can also email your divorce enquiries to [email protected].

The full list of contact numbers and emails is available at https://www.familyjusticecourts.gov.sg/Common/Pages/ContactUs.aspx.

Website: https://www.familyjusticecourts.gov.sg/

2. Elements of The Family Justice Courts



The Family Justice Courts is the collective name for a body of courts which comprise the Family Courts, the Youth Courts and the Family Division of the High Court. These Courts are overseen by the Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts. The centralised Family Justice Courts Registry receives and manages all types of family cases for greater efficiency.

A) Family Courts
The Family Courts hear all family proceedings except those that come under the Children and Young Persons Act. This system contrasts the previously adversarial nature of proceedings by streamlining all family matters to reflect a familial perspective and facilitate a less combative process. To ensure a smoother legal journey, Registrars assist Judges with different cases.

In divorce cases, the welfare of the children caught in the divorce is the Courts’ overriding objective. While there is a host of legislation which the Family Courts deal with, the primary piece of legislation that relates to divorce is the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353). This is supplemented by the Family Justice Rules, the Rules of Court and the Family Justice Courts Practice Directions which govern family proceedings in Singapore.

(B) Youth Courts
These deal with children and young persons who commit offences and other youth matters which fall under the ambit of the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA). The Youth Courts’ approach is restorative and aims to hold youths accountable for their offending behaviour, but also re-integrate them into their families and communities. More information on the Youth Courts can be found at https://www.familyjusticecourts.gov.sg/Common/Pages/YouthMatters.aspx.

(C) High Court (Family Division)
The High Court (Family Division) hears appeals against decisions of the Family Courts; appeals may be heard before one or three judges. Parties may apply for their case to be heard at first instance by the High Court (Family Division) where the case is complex, involves an important question of law, or for other satisfactory reasons.

3. Informational and Legal Assistance



The Community Justice Centre’s HELP Services are located on Level 3 of the Family Justice Courts – it offers assistance in understanding court procedures and processes. It also refers cases to legal and social service agencies where appropriate. More information about the Community Justice Centre’s services is available at http://cjc.org.sg/programme/.

Law Society runs a free Family Court Legal Clinic located at the Family Justice Courts. Sessions run every Wednesday from 4.30pm to 5.50pm – applicants are required to register by calling 64355110 and disclosing the necessary particulars to the Pro Bono Services Office. Each consultation will last 20 minutes and the volunteer lawyer dispensing advice cannot represent the applicant outside the Clinic.

4. Notable Changes as of 2014



(i) Mandatory court-ordered counselling and divorce mediation
Before a divorce in Singapore is filed, the Family Justice Court is entitled to send parties for mandatory counselling if they have children unless there is no contest with regard to the divorce or ancillary matters.

(ii) Judges taking on more pro-active role
Judges have more control over divorce procedures, and are able to control the pace of the divorce process. The Judge may direct parties to attend mediation and/or counselling if his evaluation of the facts determines that the dispute can likely be resolved harmoniously. If this is not possible, the Judge can call on parties to work on pertinent issues that have been identified. In addition, he/she has license to regulate evidence and the filing of court documents.

(iii) Child Representative
The Court can appoint a Child Representative who will represent the child’s interests throughout the divorce proceedings where the child’s parents are unable to come to an agreement on custody, care and control and access. The Child Representative will interact with the child and communicate his/her views to the Court, which will then use this perspective to arrive at the best outcome for said child.

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