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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
Family Justice Rules
Family Justice Courts Practice Directions
The nature of family disputes
Family disputes are typically emotionally charged as they go to the heart of familial relations. Whether it is divorce, child custody arrangements, maintenance, division of assets, care of mentally incapacitated persons or distribution of a deceased's assets, when these disputes are brought to the Court for adjudication, the process can be very expensive, traumatic and a miserable experience 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 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, for cases involving children, parties undergoing a divorce will have to undergo counselling and mediation at the Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC), and for all other cases, at the Family Resolution Chambers (FRC). 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?
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?
About the Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC)
A child's wellbeing is of paramount concern to 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 Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC) as part of divorce proceedings.
The CFRC aims to help parents
The CFRC is situated at:
About the Family Resolution Chambers (FRC)
The FRC will handle all non-divorce cases involving children as well as any other case that the Court may direct parties to undergo counselling and mediation, to help move them towards amicable settlement of the dispute.
The FRC is situated at: Family Justice Courts, 3 Havelock Square, Level 4, Singapore 059725
The Specialists at CFRC and FRC comprise
How the CFRC and FRC work 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 at CFRC for divorce cases and at FRC for all other cases:
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.
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.
The Judge-Mediator will meet with the parties and their lawyers to discuss the legal aspects of the case. The Judge-Mediator will also help parties resolve issues related to the child, and other related disputes.
Co-mediation may be necessary if the Judge-Mediator considers that there are complex legal and emotional issues. Here, a Judge-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 Judge-Mediator and/or Family Counsellor.
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, 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.
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. The 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:
Information on Directed and Mandatory Counselling and Mediation Programmes
Locations for Counselling and Mediation
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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