Child custody, in the legal sense, is granted after the court accesses the best welfare arrangement the child requires following the divorce. In line with the principles laid out in the Guardianship of Infants Act, the court determines which parent(s) is in a better position to make major decisions for the child.
However, couples going through a divorce often confuse child custody with that of care and control. The former looks at the legal custody of the child which accords parents long-term decision-making authority to take care of more prominent aspects of the child’s life such as religion, education and healthcare. On the other hand, the latter refers to the physical custody granted to the parent who will be responsible for the day-to-day matters of the child’s life such as accommodation and food.
In understanding this legal concept, we look into three myths of child custody.
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Myth #1 – My wife will be granted child custody regardless of whether I have been more committed as a father.
The belief that mothers will always be granted sole custody of the children is the biggest myth of child custody. Otherwise depending on the facts of the case, joint custody is usually awarded to both parents who are legally granted an equal say in all important decisions made pertaining to the child. This is because the court finds that the presence of both parents in the child’s life is essential during his/her growing years. Where joint custody is not appropriate, the court will decide which of the other custody orders is more suitable for the child.
The court applies the welfare principle when granting child custody. It does so by looking at the level of stability and security the parents can offer and whether their lifestyles will be beneficial for the child’s wellbeing, among other relevant aspects. Therefore, fathers should not feel biased when matters of custody are discussed in court as their role as a parent will equally play a part in the court’s decision.
While mothers are typically regarded as the primary caregiver of children and that the court would most likely grant care and control (or physical custody) to them, the welfare of the child will still remain of utmost importance. If the court does not find the mother fit to manage the daily responsibilities of raising a child, the court will not grant her care and control. Such cases may arise if the mother does not have the physical or mental capability to care for the child on a daily basis or exhibit an abusive and neglectful parenting behaviour.
Myth #2 – My ex-spouse will not get legal child custody of my children because of adultery
Believing that the act of adultery by one party will force the court to make decisions in favour of the other is another pressing myth. While adultery is one of the grounds spouses can use to file for a divorce, the court in Singapore does not look at who is in the wrong when deciding matters pertaining to the child. The child’s interests are the most important and the act of adultery by one spouse that led to the divorce will not directly influence the court’s decision on custody matters. However, if the party in question is a serial adulterer, or leads a rather promiscuous lifestyle, the courts may pay more attention to the commitment of the spouse to ascertain his/her capability of making major decisions for the child. It would also have a bearing on its decision to award care and control.
Myth #3 – Despite being granted joint custody, I will not have a say in my child’s future as my spouse will not communicate with me after the divorce due to our strained relationship
Acrimonious divorces are complex and can cause issues when both spouses are required to co-parent the child. When joint custody is granted, both parents are given an equal say in deciding for the child’s future, as legally stipulated by the court. In the case where your spouse does not let you take part in the decision-making, he/she is, in fact, violating the court’s order. You may file a complaint in court to enforce the court’s decision onto your spouse.
Typically, couples are recommended to consider mediation as an alternative to contesting their divorce in court so that the two parties can come to a mutual agreement on issues surrounding their child’s welfare. Moreover, should tensions still linger in the post-divorce setting, parents should employ methods to diffuse conflicts that may arise while co-parenting.
Read more: 4 Myths Of Divorce In Singapore