Understanding Child Custody in Singapore

We have been getting questions from concerned parents who are getting divorced with regards to child custody in Singapore. It appears that many parents are confused with the terms used in court for child custody and how the court grants it.

We speak to practising divorce lawyer, Ms Beverly Lim, from leading law firm Gloria James-Civetta & Co. to find out more about child custody and hiring a child custody lawyer in Singapore.

Q: How does child custody work in Singapore?
Ms Lim: The parent with custody of the child will be the one who makes the major decisions for him/her. This includes decisions on healthcare, education, religion, etc.

Custody should not be confused with care and control. The parent with care and control of the child is the one who resides with the child. That parent will also be make day to day decisions for the child – eg. what time the child will wake up; how should the child dress when he/she goes out etc.

A good divorce lawyer will explain these terms in greater details and advise you on how to gain child custody during your divorce proceeding.

Q: Does a mother get a higher chance for child custody?
Ms Lim: In Singapore, the court usually grants both parents with joint custody because it takes the position that the child will benefit from having both parents in his life. This means that both mother and father must co-parent and make joint decisions for major issues in relation to the child.

However, in exceptional circumstances, the court may grant sole custody to a parent. For instance, if the other parent abused the child, or has been diagnosed with certain mental condition rendering him/her incapable of looking after the child.

If you and your child have faced abuse in the marriage, the best divorce lawyer to hire is one who is experienced in handling complex cases that involve abuse.

Q: Is it possible for you to prevent your ex-spouse from seeing your children?
Ms Lim: The court will usually grant access for the parent who does not have care and control of the child. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the other parent will be able to exercise access with the child. This can range from liberal access to supervised access depending on the grant of the court.

Your Singapore divorce lawyer can advise you on this matter if there is a valid reason why you want to prevent your ex-spouse from accessing your children.

Q: What are the chances of you getting care and control as a full time, working mother?
Ms Lim: The court usually awards care and control to the mother if the child is young. Nonetheless, the mother must also be able to satisfy the court that she has a concrete care arrangement plan for the child.

If you are worried about not getting care and control of your child, you have to hire a top divorce lawyer who is able to advise you how to get the best possible outcome for your divorce proceeding.

Q: What are the chances of you getting care and control as a stay-at-home mum with no income?
Ms Lim: You will need to ensure that you will be able to look after the child on a daily basis. While you will likely receive maintenance from the child’s father, you will also need to ensure that you contribute financially to the child. Both parents have a joint responsibility to take care of the child regardless whether financial or non-financial. Ultimately, the court will take into consideration the circumstances of your case and decide whether it is in the child’s best interest to reside with you.

A divorce lawyer in Singapore will help you to assess your situation and assist you to find the best possible way to increase the chances of you getting care and control of your child.

Q: If your spouse is divorcing you on grounds of unreasonable behaviours, what are your chances of getting care and control?
Ms Lim: “Unreasonable behaviour” is commonly relied upon by parties when filing for a divorce. It should be noted that the court usually will not fault parties for their unreasonable behaviour during the course of the marriage. Nonetheless, if you have acted in a manner to suggest to the court that you are not fit to be granted care and control of the child, the court will take this conduct into consideration when reaching a decision.

For example, if you have consistently acted violently against your child, the court will take this fact into account when determining whether you should be awarded care and control of the child.

In a situation where you think your position is undesirable, you need to be honest with your child custody lawyer in order for her to help you obtain the best possible outcome.

Q: If your spouse has been abusing you and your children, can you appeal to prevent your spouse from getting child custody?
Ms Lim: The court will usually order for joint custody as the court firmly believes that the child will benefit with both parents in his/her life. Nonetheless, the court will take into account your spouse’s violent tendencies and may grant for supervised access (instead of reasonable or liberal access). This means that when your spouse exercises his/her access with the child, your spouse will do so in the presence of another third party. This is to ensure that the access arrangement goes on smoothly and to gradually repair the relationship between parent and child.

In a complex case like this, consider to hire a top divorce lawyer who can help you to access the best co-parenting plan with your ex-spouse.

Q: If you get a joint child custody and your ex-wife is given care and control, can you request to see your children more than once a week?
Ms Lim: If a court order has been made, you will need to apply for a variation of the court order to change the current access arrangements that you have been granted. Your divorce lawyer will be able to help you file for the application.

Q: What can you do if your ex-spouse (who has care and control of the children) prevent you from seeing your children?
Ms Lim: You should inform your ex-spouse that it will not be in the children’s best interest to limit their access to you. However, if he/she refuses to allow access, you may consider varying the current court orders for you to be granted care and control of the children instead.

A good divorce lawyer who is experienced in dealing with child custody in Singapore will be able to help you file for a variation of the court order to grant care and control of the children to you.

Q: Your ex-spouse did not pay child maintenance on time every month. What can you do?
Ms Lim: You may consider filing an application for the enforcement of the maintenance payment. This is a formal court process. Again, your child custody lawyer can help you with this.

Q: What are the chances that your ex-spouse and you will be given both joint custody and shared care and control?
Ms Lim: Joint custody are almost always granted save for exceptional circumstances. Shared care and control are only ordered if parties can convince the court that they are willing to cooperate with one another and are able to co-parent the child. The court will decide if shared care and control is in the best interest of the child when making its decision.

Q: Is there any way that you can influence the decision of the judge to give you care and control in Singapore?
Ms Lim: You must be able to show the court that you are able to look after the child on a day to day basis. You must be able to satisfy the court that you have a concrete and well-thought care arrangement plan for the child – eg what time will the child go to school and who will send him/her to school; what will the child do when he/she reaches home from school; etc. You must also be able to assure the court that you will facilitate the child’s access with the other parent and that you will not attempt to block access. The court will consider your case and decide whether it is in the child’s best interest to reside with you.

Your best option in this case is to hire a good divorce lawyer who can help you to submit your claims to obtain the best possible outcome of your divorce.

Q: Is it illegal to bring your children overseas without informing your ex-spouse?
Ms Lim: If you have care and control of the children, you do not need the consent of your ex-spouse if you bring them overseas for a period of less than one month. However, if you intend to relocate with your children permanently, you will need the consent of the left behind parent or you will need the permission from court.

We hope that the above has addressed some of your concerns and questions about child custody in Singapore. If you have more questions, reach out to the experienced child custody lawyers from Gloria James-Civetta & Co for a free 20-minutes consultation.

We have been getting questions from concerned parents who are getting divorced with regards to child custody in Singapore. It appears that many parents are confused with the terms used in court for child custody and how the court grants it.

 

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