When going through a divorce, the well-being of the children involved is often the primary concern. The custody and care and control of children after a marriage breakdown is a crucial matter that requires a constructive and amicable resolution. At IRB Law, we are committed to assisting families in navigating child custody issues in the most beneficial manner possible.
Understanding Custody and Care and Control: It is important to clarify the distinction between custody and care and control:
Custody: Custody refers to the authority of a parent or parents to make significant decisions about the child’s future, including education and religion. There are two types of custody arrangements:
Care and Control: Care and control pertain to the parent who has primary responsibility for the child’s daily life, such as sleeping arrangements, meals, and school routines. The other parent is typically granted access to visit the child at agreed-upon times.
Access Rights: In addition to custody and care and control, there are three types of access rights:
In a high-stakes custody battle in Singapore, a couple’s decade-long marriage broke down and the ensuing acrimony led to a fierce dispute over their 11-year-old son, diagnosed with multiple neurodevelopmental disorders. In a landmark judgement, the court has ordered shared custody, urging the parents to look beyond their personal discord for their son’s welfare.
The couple, both high earners, married in 2011 and soon had a son, who was diagnosed with refractory frontal lobe epilepsy at age three, along with other neurodevelopmental disorders. The father, claiming his ex-wife’s “abusive behaviour” caused their son’s seizures, sought a personal protection order for himself and his son. The mother, however, insisted she was the primary caregiver, arranging and paying for all of his therapies.
In her judgement, Justice Debbie Ong stressed that the son needed both parents in his life. She noted that both parents exhibited strengths in their parenting approaches: the mother was praised for her meticulous organisation and commitment to therapeutic and educational opportunities for their son, while the father demonstrated empathy and creativity in dealing with his son’s learning disabilities.
However, she also identified areas of improvement for both parents. The mother, she suggested, could benefit from acknowledging her son’s need for rest between therapies. The father, she said, should appreciate the structured and supportive environment that the therapies provided.
The mother will have the son from Saturday to Wednesday nights, with the father taking the rest of the week. Arrangements for special occasions and overseas trips are to be mutually agreed, and either parent can request adjustments to the care periods. The judge emphasized the need for flexibility, cooperation, and graciousness in these arrangements. The parents are also to equally share the son’s monthly personal expenses.
Justice Ong urged the parents to perceive divorce as a reorganization of familial and financial arrangements, rather than a battleground. She reminded them of the immeasurable gains from their marriage, most significantly their son, and encouraged them to find a way forward.
The parents, who got married in 2012 and had a daughter the same year, divorced in 2017. They had joint custody of their daughter, who was 4 years old at the time, with the father having primary care and control.
However, five years later, the child began residing with the mother due to allegations of emotional abuse and neglect by the father and his domestic helper. This change prompted legal applications from both parents, with the mother applying for a change in the custody arrangement, and the father seeking enforcement of the original orders. The district judge dismissed the mother’s application, siding with the father.
The mother then appealed this decision. The appeal judge, Choo Han Teck J, reversed the district judge’s decision, not because of the alleged abuse but because he believed it was in the child’s best interest to live with her mother, as she was happier and more comfortable there. The child, who was now 11, expressed her preference to live with her mother.
The new orders granted the mother primary care and control of the child, while the father was given access rights on specified days. This change took effect from May 6, 2023. The court made no order regarding costs.
At IRB Law, we provide comprehensive legal advice and services related to child custody, care and control, and access rights. Our goal is to ensure that these matters are resolved fairly and in the best interest of all parties involved. Our experienced child custody lawyers can assist you with the following:
Q1: What is a custody lawyer?
A1: A custody lawyer is a type of family lawyer who specializes in cases related to child custody. These lawyers provide guidance and representation during legal proceedings involving the determination of parental rights.
Q2: How does child custody work in Singapore?
A2: In Singapore, child custody refers to the right to make major decisions for the child, such as those concerning education, religion, and health matters. It is often granted to both parents (joint custody) even after a divorce. However, the court may grant sole custody if it is in the best interests of the child.
Q3: What factors does the court consider in custody proceedings in Singapore?
A3: The court considers various factors including the child’s wishes, the mental and physical health of all parties involved, the child’s relationships with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, and any history of family violence or abuse.
Q4: How long do custody proceedings take in Singapore?
A4: The duration of custody proceedings in Singapore varies depending on the complexity of the case, the degree of cooperation between the parties, and other factors. On average, it can take several months to over a year.
Q5: What is the difference between custody and care and control in Singapore?
A5: While custody refers to the right to make significant decisions for the child, care and control refers to the daily physical care of the child. The parent with care and control is responsible for the child’s daily routines and needs.
Q6: Can a father get custody in Singapore?
A6: Yes, fathers can get custody in Singapore. The court makes its decision based on the child’s best interests, not the parent’s gender.
Q7: What does a Singapore custody lawyer do?
A7: A custody lawyer in Singapore can guide you through the legal process, represent you in court, negotiate with the other party on your behalf, and help ensure your rights and interests are protected.
Q8: What is joint custody?
A8: Joint custody is where both parents share the right to make major decisions concerning their child, even though they are no longer married or cohabiting. It encourages both parents to remain involved in the child’s life.
Q9: Can custody orders be changed in Singapore?
A9: Yes, custody orders can be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances, and the change is in the best interests of the child.
Q10: How can I find the best custody lawyer in Singapore?
A10: You can search online, seek referrals from friends or family, or use directories of legal professionals. Look for a lawyer who specializes in family law and has a strong track record in custody cases.
Q11: What are the costs of hiring a custody lawyer in Singapore?
A11: Costs can vary widely depending on the complexity of the case, the lawyer’s experience, and the length of the proceedings. It’s advisable to discuss fees upfront during your initial consultation with a lawyer.
Q12: What is the role of the Child Representative in Singapore custody cases?
A12: A Child Representative is appointed to represent the child’s interests in contentious custody disputes. They help ensure that the child’s views and preferences are considered during the proceedings.
Q13: How is child visitation determined in Singapore?
A13: Visitation rights, also known as access, are usually granted to the parent who does not have care and control of the child. The court determines the frequency and duration of visits.
Q14: How can a custody lawyer help in a case of international child abduction?
A14: A custody lawyer can help navigate the complex international laws and treaties related to child abduction, represent you in legal proceedings, and work with international authorities to return the child safely.
Q15: What happens if there is a breach of a custody order in Singapore?
A15: A breach of a custody order is a serious matter. If this occurs, the court can enforce the order and penalize the offending party.
Q16: How is child support determined in Singapore?
A16: Child support is determined based on the child’s needs and the financial abilities of the parents. The court ensures that both parents contribute to the financial support of the child.
Q17: What happens in cases of alleged child abuse during custody proceedings?
A17: Allegations of child abuse are taken very seriously. If such allegations arise during custody proceedings, the court may order investigations or assessments to ensure the child’s safety.
Q18: Can I represent myself in a custody case in Singapore?
A18: Yes, you can choose to represent yourself. However, custody proceedings can be complex and emotionally challenging. Having a lawyer can help ensure your interests and rights are adequately represented.
Q19: How confidential are custody proceedings in Singapore?
A19: Family proceedings, including custody cases, are usually confidential. The identities of the parties involved are often protected, especially when children are involved.
Q20: Do grandparents have any rights in custody proceedings in Singapore?
A20: While grandparents don’t have legal rights in custody cases, their roles and relationships with the child may be considered during custody proceedings, especially if they have been heavily involved in the child’s upbringing.
We commit to guiding you at every stage, empowering you to make informed decisions about your future. Our dedicated team appreciates the sensitivity of divorce matters and handles each case with the utmost discretion and respect. With a team of experienced and competent divorce lawyers who are not only proficient in their field but also empathetic and understanding, we stand ready to support you during this difficult time. Trust in our commitment to securing the best possible outcome for your divorce proceedings.
The Straits Times, in collaboration with Statista, has recognized I.R.B Law as one of the leading family law firms in Singapore. This honor mirrors our unwavering commitment to legal excellence and our ability to deliver exceptional legal services tailored to our clients’ unique needs.
Trust in our dedicated team’s ability to guide you through this complex process with competence, compassion, and respect. Our team’s dedication, coupled with our experience in dealing with diverse and complex cases, makes us your ideal ally in seeking a successful resolution to your legal process in Singapore.
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Baiross is the managing partner of IRB Law LLP. He is an experienced lawyer with an excellent reputation across a broad selection of practice areas including divorce, insolvency, crime, probate, syariah, and civil litigation.
Muntaz is a partner in I.R.B. Law and oversees the work of associates as well as manages the firm with the Managing Partner. She holds two degrees from the National University of Singapore.
Ashwin has a keen passion in criminal defence and contested matrimonial matters. He has gained a reputation for fearlessly fighting for the defence of accused persons in all types of criminal offences.
Kulvinder’s practice focuses on civil and commercial litigation, and matrimonial affairs. She has successfully obtained sole custody and highly favorable access arrangements for her clients (both mothers and fathers).
Cherie’s primary focus is on matrimonial matters where her empathy, sensitivity and patience has won her many cases involving divorce, maintenance and custody. She speaks English, Mandarin and Hokkien.
Mohammed Shakirin graduated from the highly selective Graduate LLB program at the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons). He covers a wide range of legal areas for his clients.
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