Child Issues in Divorce: What You Need to Know

child issues in divorce

If you are considering a divorce in Singapore or currently going through one, it is crucial to understand how your decision will affect your children.

It is essential to consult an experienced Singapore divorce lawyer who can guide you through the process and explain any legal issues you may face. From the updated mandatory co-parenting programme to child custody, here are some key child issues that divorcing couples need to consider.

Child Custody and Visitation Rights

The most common child-related issue in a divorce is child custody and visitation or access rights.

As defined under Section 122 read with Section 92 of the Women’s Charter, a ‘child‘ of marriage is a child of the husband and wife under 21 years of age.

This definition includes any adopted child and any other child who was a member of the family at the time they ceased to live together or at the time immediately before proceedings. Child custody refers to having authority and responsibility over the child’s upbringing. The authority extends to decisions for matters with long-term consequences, such as religion and education (CX v CY [2005] 3 SLR(R) 690).

On the other hand, the parent with care and control over the child is usually the parent the child would live with and would make decisions on day-to-day matters with short-term consequences.

Key Points

  • Custody

    • Sole Custody refers to the exclusive right/discretion of one parent making big decisions relating to the child(ren). However, the parent not granted child custody continues to have authority (L v L [1996] 2 SLR(R) 529).
    • Joint Custody refers to both parents having to consult each other and making big decisions relating to the child(ren) together.
  • Care and Control

    • Sole care and control refers to the child living primarily with one parent, who will be the child’s caregiver (AQL v AQM [2012] 1 SLR 840).
    • Shared care and control refers to where the child will spend a roughly equal amount of time living with both parents, and the parent would be the child’s caregiver during such times. Shared care and control mean the child would effectively have two homes.
    • Split care and control refers to where siblings would be split between parents, and the parent granted care and control would be the caregiver of the child(ren) under their care.

Read more: 4 Key Questions About Child Custody in Singapore

It is rare for the Court to grant sole custody and it would only be granted for exceptional reasons, eg. the other parent had disqualified themselves, or there is some allegation of abuse (ZO v ZP [2011] 3 SLR 647).

Generally, the Singapore Courts would be inclined to grant a joint custody order, with one parent having sole care and control of the child. The Court makes a joint custody order as it expects parents to bear responsibility in co-parenting even after the breakdown of their relationship, (AZZ v BAA [2016] SGHC 44).

Where one parent has sole care and control, the other parent may be granted visitation or access rights. However, access may be supervised if the child is uncomfortable with the non-caregiving parent or there is a history of abuse or violence.

Given the importance of co-parenting, the Mandatory Parenting Programme (MPP) was revised in 2023 and is now the Mandatory Co-Parenting Programme (CPP).

Under the Women’s Charter (Parenting Programme) Rules, it will be mandatory for you to complete the CPP if:

  • You intend to commence Divorce Proceedings or file a Counterclaim;
  • You have a child below 21 years old; and
  • You cannot agree with your spouse regarding the grounds for divorce or any ancillary matters.

As the Certificate of Completion of CPP must be annexed as a supporting document, parents must complete the CPP before the commencement of Divorce Proceedings or before filing a Counterclaim.

Child Support (Maintenance) Payments

Under Section 68 of the Women’s Charter, it is the duty of both parents to maintain their children (legitimate and illegitimate) whether they are in their custody, or under the custody of any person. Generally, custody orders would end when the child reaches 21 years old unless otherwise ordered by the Court or otherwise agreed by parents.

A child above 21 years old may also claim maintenance if there is a mental or physical disability, he or she is serving national service, he or she is undergoing vocational instruction or training, and in other special circumstances.

Section 69(4) of the Women’s Charter sets out a list of factors that guide the Courts in determining the appropriate quantum. The factors are as follows:

  • The financial needs of the child;
  • The income, earning capacity, property, and other financial resources of the child;
  • Any physical or mental disability that the child suffers from;
  • The age of the spouses and the duration of the marriage;
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the child; and
  • How the child was being educated or trained, and the expectations of the child’s parents.

Read more: How is Child Maintenance Calculated?

Ultimately, while these factors help lend a hand to the Courts to come to a decision, they are not exhaustive. The Court will prioritise the child’s best interest and welfare in considering all the facts of the case (Section 125 of the Women’s Charter).

Emotional Challenges

Besides navigating complex legal matters, you will ultimately face emotional upheavals. It’s natural for parents to worry about how their children will react, especially if there is animosity between parents. Parents should be cautious about drawing the children into their conflicts, which may result in parental alienation or lack of trust, low self-esteem, and even poor future relationships for the children.

If your child(ren) needs to testify in Court for contested cases, it is imperative to prepare yourself and your child(ren) should this arise.

Read more: Children Testifying in Court for Family Proceedings

Finally, it is undeniable that divorce will be a difficult and taxing process physically and emotionally. However, understanding some critical matters regarding your children can help ease some of those concerns. If you are going through a complicated divorce, it is essential to consult a divorce lawyer in Singapore who will ensure your interests are protected.

GJC Law credits Trainee Noelle Teoh for her research.

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.

Call us on +65 6337 0469