One of the fundamental changes affecting divorce proceedings in Singapore is the change that has been made to the Women’s Charter with effect from December 2016. Anyone with intends to divorce whilst having a child/children less than fourteen years of age and who wishes to commence divorce proceedings here in Singapore or file a counterclaim in divorce proceedings may have to undergo a mandatory parenting programme (MPP) conducted by counsellors with one of the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSA) in Singapore.
Briefly, the programme is divorcing parties who wishes to divorce but cannot agree on matters about their children. Only if the divorcing couple agreed upon a parenting plan for their child/children, they might be exempted from attending the programme. It is worth nothing that the programme will eventually be extended to divorcing parties with a child/children less than twenty-one years of age.
Under the new law (which is set out in section 94A of the Women’s Charter), a divorcing party may not file a writ of divorce, or a counterclaim with the Court unless that party
a) has completed a parenting programme;
b) is an excluded party, or
c) is allowed by the court to do so.
If a divorcing party fails to complete a parenting programme, one of the orders the Court can make would be to stay divorce proceedings until the defaulting party completes the parenting programme.
Further, when it is highly contentious between parties, the Court may order for a counsellor to be present and supervise access sessions when the child/children meet the parent with access or when the child/children are handed over to the parents with access.
That being said, the Court hearing any proceedings for divorce may, at any stage in those proceedings order either or both parties to complete a parenting programme if it considers that doing so is in the interests of parties and any child of the marriage.
In addition to the MPP, individuals with a child/children less than fourteen years of age are still mandated to attend a Child-Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC) that will take place after the commence of divorce proceedings.
The programme comprises of a one-on-one two-hour session with a counsellor at one of the DSSAs. The programme is conducted on a without prejudice basis. Without prejudice means that anything that is shared during the session cannot be admitted as evidence in any court. Briefly, the programme is focused on the child/children and aims to provide parties with information on matters relating to marriage, divorce and how a divorce may affect a child of the marriage.
The focus of the programme is achieved by guiding parties into considering the living arrangements, finances and housing after the divorce in addition to increasing parents’ awareness on the impact of the divorce on their children.
On completion of the counselling session, the counsellor who conducted the session will issue a certificate of completion. Only with the certificate can the prescribed party proceed to make an application to commence divorce proceedings or file a counterclaim with the Court.
There are not charges for the registration.
The programme is currently free of charge.
A quick search on MPP will lead to a portal which requires the prescribed party’s SingPass to log in. To register, the divorcing party will need their personal details including NRIC or passport number and a valid contact address.
There are no issues if the prescribed party is based outside of Singapore as special arrangements will be made by the respective DSSA to facilitate the programme.
The programme will be held at one of the DSSAs in Singapore. The prescribed party will be allocated to a DSSA located nearest to his/her registered address.
Please find below the list of DSSAs in Singapore:
1. Care Corner Centre for Co-Parenting
21 Eunos Crescent
Tel: 6258 0020
2. Thye Hua Kwan Centre for Family Harmony
54 Commonwealth Drive
Tel: 6357 9188
3. HELP Family Service Centre
570 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3
Tel: 6457 5188
4. PPIS As-Salaam Family Support Centre
322 Ubi Avenue 1
Tel: 6745 5862
Arguably, yes since parties will now have to undergo the programme before commencing divorce proceedings. However, the programme is focused on the child/children and aims to counsel/guide parties on the impact of divorce of the child/children, what arrangements can be put in place that will be in the child’s/children’s best interests, and in certain situations, how even to break the news of divorce to the child/children.
We at I.R.B Law understand that going through a divorce is a heart-breaking moment in your life and navigating through the various divorce procedures and proceedings only serve to make the moment ever so more frustrating and confusing. Our team of experienced lawyers can help guide you through the ordeal while allowing you to recover emotionally and still protecting your best interest at heart.