​​​This section provides information on resolving family disputes at the Family Justice Courts.

 

The information provided below is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice. The Family Justice Courts cannot provide legal advice or assist with drafting the contents of any document.

 

References to legislation

 

 


 
 
Resolving Family Disputes at the Family Justice Courts

 

The nature of family disputes

Family disputes are typically emotionally charged as they go to the heart of familial relations. When any matter of the family is brought to Court for adjudication, the process can be expensive, stressful and upsetting for all involved.

As parties will have on-going relationships as family members, often times, the process of litigation and eventual decision by the Court may not ultimately resolve the relational aspects of the dispute.

 

Mediation and counselling available for all cases

The Family Justice Courts have been constituted to help parties resolve family disputes, as far as possible, in a less acrimonious way through the use of counselling and mediation provided by in-house and volunteer specialists. All cases coming before the court will be managed pro-actively by judges from the start and where necessary, the Court can direct that parties undergo counselling and mediation to try and reach amicable resolution of their disputes instead of proceeding with adjudication.

 

For child related cases

In particular, parties undergoing a divorce involving children below the age of 21 will have to undergo counselling and mediation at the Court. The sessions will help parties work out parenting issues and custody disputes, find closure and a way forward.

 


 

What is counselling?

Counselling is conducted by court mental health professionals who will help parties gain insights and strategies to better manage personal and relationship issues in relation to the dispute at hand. The aim is to help parties resolve familial disputes, heal and as far as possible repair familial relationships. For example, in the aftermath of a divorce, it is important that parties understand the developmental needs of their children and the co-parenting role that both parents will continue to have going forward. The other members of the extended family members can also take part in the counselling process to strengthen familial bonds for the road ahead.

 

What are the advantages of counselling for parties?

  • Professional help in dealing with their emotional and relational issues;
  • Help improve communication;
  • Better understanding of the psychological aspects behind the dispute; and
  • Being able and ready to find solutions and closure.

 

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process which offers a safe and supportive environment in which parties can communicate openly with each other and explore options for themselves and their loved ones through the assistance of a neutral third party (a mediator). Our mediators, who may be specially appointed judges or volunteers legal professionals, aim to build bridges for better communication and a focus on the future so that parties may find mutually acceptable and sustainable solutions for their issues.

 

What are the advantages of mediation?

  • Can save time, money and stress;
  • Can learn better ways of dealing with conflict;
  • Children benefit from parents taking more responsibility; and
  • Feel more empowered by making their own decisions.

 


 

About Counselling and Mediation in Court

A child's well-being is the paramount concern of the Family Justice Courts. Divorcing parents, who have at least one child below the age of 21 are required by law to undergo mandatory counselling and mediation at the Court as part of the divorce proceedings.

The Court aims to help parents:

  • Identify and promote their children's best interests through mediation and counselling;
  • Build an appropriate and sustainable parenting agreement that allows their children to have meaningful relationships with both parents; and
  • Effect positive co-parenting that is sensitive to the unique needs of their children.

 

The Specialists in Court comprise:

  • Mediators who are specially appointed Judges, staff Family Mediators or volunteer legal professionals specialising in family mediation; and
  • Family Counsellors who are specially appointed Court Mental Health Professionals with expertise in child welfare and family related matters.

 

How the Court works in cases involving children below 21 years of age?

Depending on the issues in dispute, and in particular when the case involves a child, parties will be expected to attend one or a combination of the following sessions:

Types of SessionsWho to Attend
ParentsLawyers
Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Conferencexx
Counsellingx-
Mediationxx
Co-Mediationxx

 

 

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Conference

Parties who have disagreements on parenting arrangements as well as other family related issues, will have to attend a FDR Conference with their lawyers (if any). A Judge and a Family Counsellor will meet with all parties. The Judge and Family Counsellor will clarify the issues and set the agenda for the mediation and counselling, as well as narrow any differences that both parties may have. The Judge will then fix a mediation or co-mediation session.

At the end of the FDR conference, the parties will meet with the Family Counsellor for counselling.

 

Counselling

At the first session, the Family Counsellor will gather further information and address any immediate concerns regarding the care and access arrangements for the child.

Subsequent sessions may be fixed at a mutually convenient time for either or both parents. The child may be asked to attend the counselling session.

The Family Counsellor will help the parents recognise their new parental roles, understand their child's immediate and future needs, and make joint informed decision on future parenting arrangements in the best interest of their child.

 

Mediation

The Mediator will meet with the parties and their lawyers to discuss the legal aspects of the case. The Mediator will also help parties resolve issues related to the child, and other related disputes.

 

Co-Mediation

Co-mediation may be necessary if the Mediator considers that there are complex legal and emotional issues. Here, a Mediator and a Family Counsellor will help the parties and lawyers to address the issues holistically. Sessions may also be held for the child to speak with the Mediator and/or Family Counsellor.

 

Resolution

Should both parties reach an agreement during counselling, mediation or co-mediation, the agreed terms can be recorded by a Judge as an Order of Court, made by the consent of the parties, where appropriate. Once recorded, both parents are required by law to abide by the agreed terms. However, either party may apply to vary the terms of the order if there is a significant change in circumstances affecting the parties in the future.

 

Confidentiality

All information and matters discussed during the FDR conferences, counselling, mediation or co-mediation are confidential. Should a case go for a hearing, anything said or any document provided in confidence during these sessions cannot be used as evidence. A Judge-Mediator will also not hear the case.

 

Length of session(s)

The length of the session(s) may vary depending on the requirements of the case. The majority of cases would be completed in 3 sessions or less. Single or limited issues might take less time. Exceptionally complex or sensitive cases might take longer and will be specially managed.

The number of sessions depends on several factors:

  • Readiness of the parties and their lawyers
  • Commitment to the process
  • Level of conflict and trust between the parties
  • Complexity of issues, status of legal proceedings
  • Need for empowerment for parties in order to establish a more level playing field

 


 

Information on Directed and Mandatory Counselling and Mediation Programmes

 Type of ApplicationsAge of ChildrenLocation
Mandatory Counselling and MediationDivorce writs filed with at least one minor child filed on or after 1 October 2014At least one child under 21 years

 

Family Justice Courts, 5 Maxwell Road, #04-00, Tower Block MND Complex, Singapore 069110

Directed/ Voluntary Counselling and MediationAll Other divorce and Ancillary Matters and applications pursuant to e.g: Guardianship of infants Act, Mental Capacity Act and Probate Matters 

 


 

Articles and News

1. Child Focused Resolution Centre – Phase Two. (June 2013 issue of SubCourts News)

2. Mandatory Counselling and Mediation - The Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC). This article was first published in the December 2011 issue of the Singapore Law Gazette during the implementation of phase 1.

3. Mandatory Post-Filing Divorce Mediation and Counselling on Child Matters - Objective and highlights of the newly formed Child Focused Resolution Centre. (September 2011 issue of SubCourts News)

 

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Last updated on: 4/7/2017 12:00 PM

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