SINGAPORE: Child representatives to be appointed in divorce cases? Special divorce courts to be set up?

Filed in: International Divorce News
SINGAPORE: Should Singaporean children have a say in their parents’ divorce? That is, should they be able to choose which parent they want to live with and other issues relating to their care, post divorce? This is the debate going on in Singapore at the moment, according to a recent article by author Laura Elizabeth Philomin at the Singapore Academy of Law which was published by Singapore Watch.
Other debates included whether a specific set of courts should be set up to deal specifically with Family law issues. The fact that this debate is only now occurring in Singapore underscores the great cultural and legal differences that exist in the world community and the variety of jurisprudence in matters of family law. Because this issue of children needing  a guardian ad litem or a law guardian is a matter that has been long settled in most American jurisdictions; as has the need for courts with particular jurisdiction over family law matters.
This could be due to the fact that until maybe the last decade or so, divorce was not so common in Singapore. But the rate of divorce has been rising furiously. And, as is true around the world, many of these are “international divorces” involving a Singaporean national and a foreign national.
Clearly, the need for family law reform in Singapore is urgent. But not everyone agrees. Ms. Philomin writes:

While family law experts and social workers welcomed the proposal as a necessary move, they also cautioned that implementing the proposal would not be a simple process, as giving children a greater voice also risks exposing them to more conflict and emotional distress.
They also noted the need for well-trained child representatives, who can sense whether a child has been “coached” by a parent, and questioned how to determine a suitable age to be eligible for a Child Representative.
Currently, judges have to make an order for Family Court counsellors to interview children and write recommendation reports to the courts if there are grounds for concern. The Ministry of Family and Social Development also steps in in extreme cases or those involving child abuse.
Divorce rates have been on the rise, with more than 8,000 children affected every year. Family lawyer Tan Siew Kim called the proposal a double-edged sword but, at the same time, the only way forward. Family lawyer Yap Teong Liang, who sits on the committee, further argued that, without a Child Representative, the voice of a child might be buried or misrepresented by his parents.
Ms Ellen Lee, Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC and legal consultant at Ramdas and Wong, said: “(Parents) don’t appreciate the impact divorce has on children, especially if it’s very acrimonious. And, therefore, there is a need to address this issue that, instead of leaving the children alone to suffer in silence, perhaps they should be given a voice.”

Read more at: Ms Pi=web