Children Testifying in Court for Family Proceedings

child testifying in court

It’s a tough question: “Should children testify in court for family law proceedings?“. This article will break down Singapore’s legal system’s stance on the welfare of children in Singapore divorce proceedings.

In Singapore, the first consideration is Singapore’s commitment under Art 12 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (“UNCRC“).

In Singapore, there is no particular age at which a child will be deemed sufficiently mature to testify in court, as children may mature at different ages. However, the requirement in Section 120 Evidence Act 1893 is that the child must be able to understand the question and give rational answers.

However, the court will also consider other factors, such as the child’s level of development and emotional stability.

What a child can testify on in Singapore Divorce cases

As such, children may be called upon to testify in family proceedings relating to:

  • divorce,
  • custody, or
  • another legal matter.

Giving testimony could be an overwhelming experience so they are generally not encouraged to give evidence. This avoids involving children in the parties’ angry and bitter proceedings. Primarily, when the child’s testimony supports one party’s position over the other.

Where matters relate to child-related issues such as;

The court’s first and paramount consideration of divorce in Singapore is the best interests and welfare of the child (Section 125 Women’s Charter 1961; 3 Guardianship of Infants Act 1934).

To determine the child’s best interests, the court will consider various factors, including the child’s wishes. This is provided that they can express an independent opinion and are of sufficient maturity.

The Benefits of Children Testifying

Despite concerns about discomfort or coaching by parents, it can be beneficial for children to have a voice in the legal proceedings (ZO v ZP [2011] 3 SLR 647; AZB v AZC [2016] SGHCF 1). It is an opportunity for children to regain some control and relief.

Note that even if a child has sufficient maturity to testify, the court will still consider the overall impact of testifying in court on the child’s well-being.

Safeguards will be implemented to ensure that the child is protected from potential harm and distress, including testimony via live video in child protection matters (Section 62A(1)(a) Evidence Act 1893). The court can also determine the child’s wishes through judicial interviews in chambers or by appointing a child representative pursuant to Rule 30 Family Justice Rules 2014.

All in all, the welfare of the child is the most important consideration when deciding whether a child should testify in court. The parties involved are parents, divorce lawyers, and the court. If a child must testify, all parties involved must recognize the potential impact on the child.

Therefore, steps to prepare them should be taken. This includes explaining to the child the importance of telling the truth and only answering questions they understand.

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