Going through a divorce is never easy, especially when children are involved. As a parent, you want to do your best to consider your child’s best interests during the divorce process.
But what exactly can you expect regarding child custody and support in Singapore?
This article will provide a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the legal system and understand your rights and responsibilities.
Child Custody in Singapore
In Singapore, a child’s best interests always come first regarding custody arrangements. Before making any decisions, the Court will look at the child’s needs, such as their health, education, and welfare, as the paramount consideration.
The two common types of control in Singapore are joint and sole custody.
Joint custody means parents have equal legal rights and responsibilities in making significant child welfare decisions, including education, religion, and medical treatment.
Sole custody means one parent has complete physical and legal custody of the child. This parent is responsible for making all decisions regarding the child’s welfare, education, and health. Sole custody is granted only in exceptional situations where there has been abuse or if the breakdown in the parties’ relationship has caused harm to the child.
Read more: Understanding Child Custody: Sole Custody & Joint Custody
Care and Control of the Child
In Singapore, Child Care and Control refers to the daily care arrangements made for children in a divorce. It determines which parent the child will predominantly reside with and who will make major decisions regarding the child’s life.
A care and control order is almost always accompanied by an access order that allows the non-residential parent to have specified access to the child, including the possibility of staying over for a night or longer. Access should be understood as the right of the child to remain in contact with the non-residential parent.
“Ultimately, the aim is to ensure a stable and safe environment for the child to grow and thrive in despite the changes happening in the family.”
Child Support in Singapore
Most disputes over child support (child maintenance) arise when one or both parents disagree about the amount of child support payable to the child and how much each parent should contribute.
Generally, child maintenance is payable until a child reaches the age of 21 in Singapore. However, parents may be ordered to pay child support past age 21 if their child suffers from physical or mental infirmity or is still serving his national service or pursuing their first university education.
In a contested hearing on child maintenance, the Courts aim to have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including but not limited to the following matters:
- the financial needs of the child; the income and earning capacity of the parents;
- any physical or mental disability of the child;
- the standard of living enjoyed by the child before a parent neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the child.
Generally, when seeking maintenance, a breakdown of reasonable expenses for either the child or the spouse must be provided for the Court’s determination. The Court will order the quantum of maintenance regarding all case circumstances, including the abovementioned factors.
Read more: How is Child Maintenance Calculated?
The Divorce Process
When it comes to divorce, the process in Singapore is straightforward. If there is no resolution on all the issues, one party must file a Writ of divorce to start proceedings. The Writ of divorce, together with the Statement of Claim and Statement of Particulars, will then be served to the other party.
If there is no resolution at this juncture, parties will be directed to attend court mediation, which is mandatory for parties with at least one child under 21. A Judge-mediator facilitates Court mediation and will assist in the discussions between parties in the hope of helping parties reach an amicable settlement.
Once the divorce and ancillary issues are settled, the divorce will proceed as an uncontested administrative divorce hearing.
However, if there is no agreement on how the marriage broke down, the divorce will proceed toward a trial. If the divorce is resolved, but there is no agreement on any or all of the ancillary issues, the matter will move toward an Ancillary Matters hearing.
Read more: Process for Getting Divorced in Singapore (With Flowchart)
Mediating Custody and Support Disputes
Going to Court is not the only option for parents in custody or support disputes. Mediation is an alternative way to resolve disagreements and is less formal and less expensive than going to Court.
Mediation involves a mediator who helps both parents work out a settlement agreement. The agreement can be legally binding, and parties can also have the terms encapsulated into a formal court order in the relevant court proceedings.
“As Divorce Lawyers, we always urge our clients to consider divorce mediation before proceeding to trial.”
At times, we have clientele not inclined to consider mediation because they believe their spouse is as “stubborn as a cow” and that proceeding to trial is the only way forward. However, we can be testimony that sometimes all it requires is the presence of a 3rd party to facilitate discussions between parties to resolve matters.
Read more: All you need to know about Divorce Mediation in Singapore
FAQs on Child Custody and Support
What is the age at which a parent can stop providing for a child?
Generally, the applicable Singapore law requires parents to provide for their children until the child turns 21 or until they are financially independent.
Read more: Can I apply for Child Maintenance when I am above 21 years old?
Is it possible for a father to have Sole Custody of his child?
Yes. The Court will ultimately look at the child’s best interests as paramount consideration and evaluate factors such as:
- who has been the primary caregiver of the child
- the relationship between the child and each parent;
- the level of involvement of each parent in the child’s life; and
- the ability of each parent to provide for the child’s needs.
However, if the child does not yet have a formal schooling routine, parties may consider having Shared Care and Control of the child instead. Shared Care and Control is where the child spends a designated part of each week or month with one parent and then the other (TAU v TAT  SGHCF 11).
Relevant considerations include:
- the child’s relationship with each parent; and
- all relevant circumstances, such as the child’s current needs and the parent’s ability to support two homes.
Read more: Child Custody Battles: 6 Things Dads Should Know
Does the Court consider the parties’ Income Ratio when determining child maintenance?
Yes. Per Section 69(4) of the Women’s Charter 1961, the Court is to consider all circumstances concerning the matter, including the following:
- the financial needs of the child;
- any physical or mental disability of the child;
- the standard of living enjoyed by the child;
- the manner in which the child was being, and in which the parties to the marriage expected the child to be, educated or trained.
Read more: Additional Question on Child Maintenance in Singapore
Can a child be interviewed in a Custody Dispute hearing?
In family proceedings, the Judge is at liberty to arrange for a Judicial Interview to speak with the children on matters relating to them, such as;
The experience of meeting with a Judge may be overwhelming for the children. Children are not involved in their parents’ angry and bitter proceedings where their testimony may support one party’s position rather than the other’s.
Read more: Children Testifying in Court for Family Proceedings
How GJC Law Can Help You
If you’re going through a divorce with children, familiarising yourself with the divorce process and what to expect is essential.
As Divorce Lawyers, we understand that individuals who come to us will feel stressed, frustrated, or even numb.
Our family law team at GJC Law is committed to safeguarding the interests of our clientele and their loved ones.
Through our vast experience as Family Lawyers in Singapore, we know a smooth divorce encompasses Mediation, Child Welfare, and Communication.
Divorce and child custody and support can be challenging issues. Remember, the child’s best interests always come first. You can navigate the legal system and successfully come out of the other side with proper guidance and support.
GJC Law credits Siti Nurul Hajar for her research and advice.
At Gloria James-Civetta & Co, our goal is to help you find a resolution that works for both you and your family. When you contact our matrimonial law team, we will provide you with a consultation, tailored to your specific circumstances and goals in mind.