Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that serves as an alternative to the courts that may help parties to a dispute resolve their disputes more amicably. Divorce mediation may help couples, whether considering a divorce or undergoing proceedings, by ending marriages more amicably or even by expediting proceedings by helping couples come to an agreement over issues such as the custody of children or how matrimonial assets are to be divided.
Divorce mediation in Singapore can generally be separated into two main groups: court-based mediation and private/out of court mediation.
Mediation by the Child-Focused Resolution Centre
The Child Focused Mediation Centre (“CFRC”) conducts mediation and counselling sessions which are mandatory for all divorcing parents who have at least one child below the age of 21. If you are part of a divorcing couple with at least one child below the age of 21, you and your spouse will be spent formal notices to attend the sessions at no cost to you.
The aims of the sessions conducted by the CFRC include:
- Helping parents identify and promote their children’s best interests through mediation and counselling;
- Building an appropriate and sustainable parenting agreement that allows their children to have meaningful relationships with both parents; and
- Affecting positive co-parenting that is sensitive to the unique needs of their children.
The specialists provided at the CFRC include:
- Mediators who are specifically appointed Judges, staff Family Mediators, or volunteer legal professionals specialising in family mediation; and
- Family Counselors who are specially appointed Court Mental Health Professions who are experts in family matters and child welfare issues.
The number and duration of sessions that you will have to participate in will vary based on the complexity of your divorce.
If and when an agreement is made between you and your spouse during the mediation, the agreement can be recorded by the Judge or mediator involved in the mediation as an Order of Court. This agreement will be binding on both parties. If, however, you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, the matters can still be taken to court.
Co-Mediation involving both a mediator and a family counsellor may also be necessary if the mediator considers that there are complex legal and emotional issues that have to be addressed holistically.
Should you have lawyers representing you in your divorce proceedings, you may wish to ask your lawyer to attend all the sessions other than the counselling sessions with you so that they may advise you on matters concerning the divorce.
Counselling and mediation services under the CFRC take place at the Family Justice Courts, 5 Maxwell Road, #04-00, Tower Block MND Complex, Singapore 069110.
Directed Mediation and Counselling Programmes
Section 26 of the Family Justice Act 2014 (No. 27 of 2014) provides that the Family Court may order parties to a divorce to undergo mediation, counselling or family support programmes or activities as the Court may direct.
A judge to a divorce proceeding, having a more pro-active role in directing proceedings in the case of divorce, may direct parties to undergo such sessions if he/she is of the opinion that the dispute may be better resolved through mediation or counselling than through the court.
These directed mediation and counselling programmes are largely the same as those identified above and are located at the same place.
Should you and your spouse choose to do so, you may voluntarily participate in private mediation to deal with issues concerning your divorce. Private mediation allows you and your spouse more flexibility in deciding the time frame in which the mediation process occurs. However, unlike court-based mediation, you will be required to pay for private mediation.
Family Mediation Scheme
The Family Mediation Scheme offered by the Singapore Mediation Centre (“SMC”) purports to offer a faster and cheaper alternative to resolving issues entirely in court. The aim of the Scheme is to:
- Encourage conciliation to end family discord;
- Smooth out domestic conflicts quickly and successfully;
- Foster family ties for the long term and reduce emotion turmoil between parties; and
- Keep costs low.
The SMC will appoint a mediator from its Family Panel, which includes judges, trained family lawyers and legal professionals who have experience in family and divorce-related issues.
The mediation sessions will be kept completely confidential. If you and your spouse are agreeable to it, the mediator may record in writing whatever agreement you and your spouse may come to. Such agreement in writing will be binding on both you and your spouse once it is signed by both parties. If an agreement is not reached, the parties may also request for a non-binding recommendation from the mediator as to the terms of the settlement.
The fees for filing a case at SMC and costs of individual mediation sessions are available on the SMC website, along with further details of the Family Mediation Scheme.
Collaborative Family Practice
The Collaborative Family Practice (“CFP”) is a less confrontational alternative also offered by the SMC to resolving matrimonial disputes. It takes place before the start of any court proceedings. The CFP aims to help couples in dispute reach an agreement which both sides can live with, preventing bitter lawsuits.
Specially trained lawyers and other family specialists, including experts such as financial advisers and child expert, on SMC’s CFP Panel, will adopt a more facilitative, rather than adversarial, role, working with you and your spouse to negotiate an agreement that will suit all parties.
However, to incentivise reaching an agreement between the parties, the lawyers representing you and your spouse at the CFP will not be allowed to further represent their clients.
The fees for employing the CFP, along with further details of the CFP, are available on the SMC website.
Private mediation is not necessary
While there are benefits to adopting the above-mentioned services, it should be noted that non-mandatory mediation may not be necessary for every instance of divorce.
How Can We Help You
Filing for a divorce or an annulment in Singapore are delicate issues and may be too technical for you to fully understand alone. We understand that going through such an event in your life is difficult and emotional. Worry not, at I.R.B. Law; we have experienced divorce lawyers who are well versed in family law proceedings in Singapore. We will be able to guide you through the process and explain to you each and every stage of your divorce or your separation.
Contact us today to receive advice on how your divorce proceedings can be handled so that you can focus on getting back up on your feet. Our first consultation is usually free as we wish to focus on you and not on your wallet. Do not hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] or call us at +65 6298 2537 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers today.