Children of Divorce in Singapore: The Golden Thread

Children of Divorce in Singapore: The Golden Thread

The golden thread is the most precious strand in the embroidery of a worn and beaten rug. The golden thread is the welfare of the child, and the worn and beaten rug is a married couple’s eroded relationship.


Often times, the event of divorce brings about the heated topic of child custody. Child custody is a Court-awarded right to care for, control and raise a child. The law in Singapore advocates for the best for the child. Because the concept of what’s best for the child is so abstract, child custody can be one of the most vexing matters. Throughout the stress surrounding divorce, the welfare of the child serves as the backbone of all legal proceedings involving child custody in Singapore.


In the keynote address at the Family Justice Court’s Work Plan Seminar in 2016, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon reminded the public:


       “The child remains at the heart of our work… The welfare of the child is our paramount consideration and will override any other consideration. This legal principle is soundly rooted in societal needs. Our young are the future of our society, and we best protect our community’s future by protecting our young.”


The future is our Children. If they are not provided for then, it will be hard for them and anyone to have the best possible future they deserve.


Custody in Singapore vs. Care and Control in Singapore
Child custody operates on the phrase “custody, care and control.” It is important to note the difference between “custody” and “care and control.”


On one hand, custody grants the custodial parent(s)the right to make major decisions regarding the child (e.g. education and health care).


On the other hand, care and control are only given to one parent (with whom the child will live) and grants him or her the right to take part in the child’s day-to-day matters (e.g. bedtime and meals).


What happens if I am not granted Care and Control of the Child in Singapore?
Typically the parent who is not given care and control will be granted reasonable access or liberal access to the child. (What is “fair” and “reasonable” is left to the Courts to decide).

What if my Spouse does not let me see my Child in Singapore?

If you are not allowed to see your Child when you have been granted reasonable or liberal access to your Child, you may take out an application in the Family Justice Courts to attach a penal notice to the Order of Care and Control.


A penal notice specifies the responsibilities of the parent housing the child. Such duties can include allowing the other parent access to the child at a particular time and manner. Notably, the failure to comply with these terms will bring the parent in err to court or potentially jail.

Who typically gets Care and Control in Singapore?

In Singapore, care and control are mostly awarded to mothers. By comparison, there is a lower probability that the father of the child will be granted the full care and control of the child.


However, a father may assume the position as sole guardian if the mother agrees to his request or if the child is at an age when he or she is able to express explicitly that he or she wants to be with the father. In exceptional cases in which the mother is abusive or neglectful, the Court will first order an evaluation report by the Family Court counsellor before making a decision.


Alternatively, the father can pursue shared-care and control of the child, whereby the time spent with the children will be equally divided among both parents. Nonetheless, to successfully have shared care and control, the father must have been the primary caregiver of the child before the divorce. Also, shared care and control are unlikely to be granted to parents of children who go to school due to the inconvenience of travelling between 2 homes. Therefore it is said to be a lot of work for a father to fight for any care and control. Though it may seem difficult, it is not entirely impossible; there have been cases in which care and control had been given to the father.

Custody Orders and How They’re Awarded

The Court Appeal of CX v. CY (2005) SGCA 37 set precedence on how the Courts decide on the matters of child custody. The Courts have promoted joint parenting so that both parents have direct involvement in a child’s life. There are namely four types of custody orders given in Singapore courts:


1. Sole custody order
This order occurs when the parting couple is incapable of having rational conversations, and communication is ineffective due to eroded relationships. In such cases, the lack of cooperation between the parents would have a negative impact on the childhood of the offspring, therefor to avoid negative interactions, it would be reasonable for the child to be under the wing of one person. The order stipulates that the parent who is granted custody of the child is the one who has the right to make the major decisions in the child’s life.


2. Joint custody order
Under this order, both parents have equal standing in raising their child. Both are the key decision makers in the child’s life. In this context, both parents are to communicate often with each other to reach any agreement.


3. Hybrid order
In a hybrid order, one parent will be granted custody, but the custodial parent must speak and cooperate with the non-custodial parents on matters regarding the welfare of the child.


4. Split custody order
This occurs when the couple has more than one child. Under this order, custody of one or more children is granted to one parent, while custody of the remaining children is granted to the other parent. This type of order is uncommon because the Court would usually allow siblings to live together to be sources of emotional support.

How will the Courts determine which Order to Grant?

A standard called the “welfare principle” is applied when deciding what type of custody order to award. By using the welfare principle, the Court attempts to give the arrangement that optimally suits the best interests of the child. The welfare of the child is not only measured in terms of money or physical comfort, but also in terms of moral, religious and physical wellbeing as well as his or her bond of affection to either parent. Generally when awarding custody, the Court will take into account the following:


• The primary caregiver of the child during his or her development years
• The current living arrangements
• The child’s interests
• The parents’ interests (the court will prioritise the child’s wishes over those of the parents)
• The age of the child
• The parents’ financial abilities (the parent with the higher financial capability does not necessarily give him or her an advantage in custodial arrangements)
• The presence of family support


To analyse these elements, the Judge may ask for social service reports or those from counselling sessions to assess the relationships between both parents and child. Commonly used reports include the Social Welfare Report, which is prepared by officers from the Ministry of Community Development and Sport.


The officers are tasked with speaking to the child and observing the child’s interaction with his or her parents. After reviewing these notes, the Judge will then award the type of custody that is best for the family.

How We Can Help

Child Custody in Singapore is a matter that should never be taken lightly. At I.R.B. Law LLP we know that your child means to you more that anyone can imagine and you only have their best interest at heart. Our Lawyers are well versed in Child Custody related matters and will be able to advise you and guide you through the various processes that may be involved regarding your Child.


Our team of experienced lawyers can advise and guide you through the process of child custody with the aim of resolving your matter expeditiously while keeping your costs low, as we believe the access to justice should not be hindered by high legal fees and sudden bill shocks.


We strive to take care of our clients no matter the case. Your first consultation with us is usually free,. Please don’t hesitate to email us at or call us at 6298 2537.


The information contained in this article is provided for general information only and may not reflect current status in relation to applicable law, cases, settlements or judgements. Nothing contained on this website or article is intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be construed as I.R.B Law LLP agreeing to provide legal services to you. You acknowledge and agree that your use of this website shall not create a lawyer-client relationship with I.R.B Law LLP.