Comprehensive Guide to Children’s Issues in Divorce Cases

guide to children issues singapore

The numerous factors involved when it comes to children’s matters in divorce proceedings can make things very confusing.

This list simplifies the essential information you need to ensure a smooth divorce process for both you and your children.

1. Important Legal Terminology & Concepts

It is important to be aware of relevant legal terminology and concepts to understand what Court orders are in place with regard to your divorce and what your rights are with regard to your children.


The party awarded custody is empowered to make long-term decisions regarding all aspects of the upbringing of the child (e.g. which school the children go to, major medical decisions, etc.).

The Court will usually make an order for joint custody. This is to ensure that both parents have a responsibility to bring the child up in the best way possible. Also, the child has the right to the guidance of both his parents.

An order of sole custody to one parent is only made in exceptional circumstances. Just because parents display an animosity towards each other during litigation does not warrant the granting of sole custody (Understanding Child Custody).

The Court may also choose not to make an order for custody since the law automatically gives both parents joint custody of every child, even after divorce.

Care and Control

An order for care and control dictates who the child lives with, and who is authorised to make daily, short-term decisions for the child.

Typically, the Court grants an order for sole care and control to one parent, who then becomes the child’s primary caregiver. The other parent (who does not live with the child) will be granted reasonable access to the child.

An order for joint care and control is rare when the parties have a bitter relationship with each other, as it is difficult to agree on the small day-to-day decisions of the child.

Alternatively, an order for shared care and control means that the child spends time living with each parent. That parent then becomes the child’s primary caregiver for the duration that the child lives with him or her (Case Studies).


Access refers to the opportunities that the parent without care and control would have to spend time with the child.

The Court can make many different types of access orders, which may be quite detailed. Access can be reasonable or liberal, scheduled or specified. It can include overnight access if the child is old enough (Child Access Arrangements).

Further orders on access that the Court may make include the following:

  • Overseas and holiday access and on special occasions like birthdays, public holidays etc.
  • Access facilitated by technology such as video calls
  • Supervised access
  • Conditions imposed on access (e.g. not allowing a party’s new partner to be present during access times)


Maintenance of a child refers to payment of the child’s expenses. Both parents have a duty of maintaining the child.

The primary consideration in a maintenance application will be the child’s needs, which are balanced against each parent’s ability to pay. The Court will then determine the proportion of the child’s expenses that each parent must pay (Calculating Child Maintenance).

Relocation Application

If either party wishes to relocate the children to another country, they must make a relocation application to the Court. If there is a custody order in place, neither parent can take the child out of Singapore, except with both parents’ written consent or leave of court.

In a relocation application, the Court will balance the child’s loss of relationship with the parent who is left behind against the reasonableness of the relocating parent’s wishes (Relocation and Child Custody Disputes).


Interim orders are temporary orders that are put in place until the final orders are made by the Court. Interim orders can be made for custody, care and control, access and maintenance (Care and Control Interim Application).

“Welfare of the child is paramount”

In any order that the Court makes in relation to a child, the paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. The Court’s consideration of the welfare of the child will override the wishes of both parents and the wishes of the child (if they are of an age to express an independent opinion).

The welfare of the child is not measured in money or physical comfort alone. The child’s moral and religious well-being as well as ties of affection will also be considered together with his or her physical well-being (Welfare Principle).

Read more: Factors Affecting Child Custody in a Singapore Divorce

2. Collecting Evidence For Divorce Proceedings

Evidence will be the backbone of your lawyer’s submission to the Court. It is of utmost importance to collect as much evidence as you can, in an organised manner.

Document your involvement in your children’s lives

Having clear evidence of your involvement in your children’s lives can show that you have contributed significantly to their upbringing and can influence the orders on care, control and access that the Court will make.

Take photos and videos of the activities you do with your children – be it playing games at home, going for an outing or helping them with their school work. Collect clear evidence of the bond you share with your children such that it would be hard for your ex-spouse to dispute this in Court.

Record your child’s emotional needs

Every child has unique needs that must be met in order for them to thrive. Keeping a journal of your children’s needs and specific circumstances can be used to help the Court understand your children’s specific requirements better. This will be important when determining who should have care and control of the children.

Keep records of your children’s successes and achievements

Being able to show the Court that your children are thriving under your care is sure to dispel any accusations that your ex-spouse may have against you. Keep a record of your children’s developmental milestones and achievements.

These can span beyond academic achievements into your children’s hobbies, enrichment, motor skills or language development; for example, if they did well in their dance class, made new friends at school, or were especially brave at the dentist’s office.

Keep receipts for all child-related payments

Before the breakdown of a marriage, parties often do not think to keep receipts for their child related payments. However, such evidence is extremely useful when you provide the Court with your position on your children’s monthly expenses.

This shows the amount you are expending on the child, and gives the court a general picture of the cost of maintaining the child.

Keep a chart tracking your daily childcare routine

Having a record of the routine that your children are accustomed to is extremely helpful when the Court decides on issues relating to care, control and access. This will help you prove to the Court why certain schedules and arrangements may not work for your children.

Keeps records of your communication with your ex-spouse

When discussing matters relating to your children or arranging for your ex-spouse to spend time with your children, maintain a civil tone and avoid using aggravating language.

Remember that records of this communication can show that you have tried your best to cooperate with your ex-spouse for the sake of the children. However, your ex-spouse can also use such communication against you when alleging that you have been uncooperative.

Read more: Child Custody Battles: What to Expect and How to Prepare

3. Court’s Considerations for Child Custody Orders

Allowing your children to maintain their relationship with your ex-spouse

Being able to maintain their relationship with both parents will help your children maintain a sense of security in the midst of divorce proceedings. It is very important to the court that children have the right to maintain a relationship with both parents, even if their parents are divorced.

Allowing your children to spend time with your ex-spouse and talk to them on the phone will show the Court that you prioritise your children’s wellbeing over your own disagreements.

Protecting your children from adult matters

Children should never be made to feel as if they are caught in between two parents in a disagreement. Refrain from arguing in front of your children, badmouthing the other parent or punishing your children for siding with the other parent.

This will show the Court that you will not create discord between your children and your ex-spouse if care and control were to be awarded to you.

Allowing your children to enjoy their time with your ex-spouse

Although the marriage may have broken down, it is important to keep in mind that your ex-spouse is still your children’s parent.

Placing conditions on your children, such as giving them a gift on the condition that it stays at your own house, may confuse them and hurt them in the long-run. Showing the Court that you prioritise your children’s sense of security will work in your favour.

Read more: Enforcing Access and Custody Orders

4. Tips For Parents Residing In Different Countries

There may be situations where one party moves to another country and the other party remains in Singapore with the children. In such situations, ensuring that both parents maintain a relationship with the children will always be challenging. However, it is important to keep the best interests of the children in mind.

If you are the long-distance parent, maintain your relationship with your children

Make it a point to speak and interact with your children regularly through video calls. Instead of spending all your time on call telling them that you miss them or asking them how they are, try to make the time spent together meaningful for the children by playing a game together, or reading them a book.

This will be more memorable for the child in the long-run and strengthen your bond compared to trivial conversations that they will not remember.

You can arrange a schedule with your ex-spouse to allow you to spend time with your children regularly so that you can still be a regular parental figure in their lives. If your ex-spouse is uncooperative, you may consider applying for a court order that requires your ex-spouse to allow you this access time with your children.

Above all, nothing beats physical interaction. Take the time to fly back and be with your children whenever you can. Again, if your ex-spouse prevents you from doing so, you may apply for a court order mandating such access time.

If you are the parent living with your children, don’t prevent the other parent from spending time with them.

It is generally in the best interests of any child for that child to have both parents involved in their life for the entirety of their childhood, even after their parents have divorced. This provides them with a sense of security and stability.

Furthermore, the Singapore Court consistently emphasises the importance of children having the nurturing presence and joint contribution of both parents in their lives. The Court is likely to keep this in mind if your ex-spouse makes an application for the provision of access time, unless there are exceptional circumstances leading the Court to decide otherwise.

Read more: International Divorce – What About The Children?

5. Arguments That Do Not Work In Court

When a marriage breaks down, parties will often disagree on matters involving their children. In order for the divorce to proceed as efficiently as possible, it is useful to be aware of arguments that do not work in Court.

“I want sole custody because my ex-spouse and I disagree a lot”

The fact that parties may not be able to cooperate in making decisions on the upbringing of their child during or directly after the divorce is not, on its own, a good enough reason to convince the Court to make a sole custody order.

This is because some degree of tension between spouses is expected when they are going through the stresses of a marital breakdown. It is illogical to assume that because of disagreements during divorce proceedings, parents will not be able to agree on the future long-term interests of the child.

A sole custody order is only warranted when there is evidence to show that one parent is unfit to be a parent.

“My ex-spouse should not see the children because they cheated”

The Court will require convincing evidence before denying a parent reasonable access to their child (e.g. risk of abuse, the child is estranged and fearful of the parent, etc.). The judge will not take into consideration the fact that one parent has cheated when making orders for custody.

As far as possible, the child should be allowed to interact with both parents so that, despite the breakdown in relations between the parents, he is assured, to the greatest extent possible, of a normal family life with two parents.

“We should have shared care and control to make it fair”

As mentioned above, the Court will place the welfare of the children above the wishes of the parents when making orders relating to the child. Shared care and control will involve the child having to move from one house to the other constantly and may not be suitable in some situations.

The Court is likely to only make an order for shared care and control if parents are able to cooperate in pursuing a shared agenda in caring for the best interests of the child and when the child is of relatively mature age.

“I want sole custody because I am moving to another country, and I’m taking my child with me”

Unless both you and your ex-spouse have agreed for you to move with the child overseas, doing so may be seen as simply a way to prevent your child from visiting his other parent. This will not be viewed favourably by the judge.

If you have plans to move overseas and wish to ensure your access to your child, orders can be made for the child to go on overseas visits to see you. The best interests of the child will be the judge’s paramount consideration. Thus, the judge will be more inclined to order that the child stay in an environment that he/she is most comfortable and familiar with.

Threatening to bring the child overseas with you against court orders is not a good idea. Expressing such intention may be the basis for orders for the children’s passports to be surrendered to your ex-spouse, preventing you from taking the child out of Singapore without consent.

Read more: Child Custody Matters in Singapore: Mistakes to Avoid

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