Child Custody After Divorce Proceedings
While you are undergoing divorce proceedings in Singapore, there is a crucial matter that you will need to consider before your divorce is finalised. And that matter is the custody of your children.
Of course, each of you would want to have custody of your children, but how do you justify that you are the more suitable parent? Is there any condition that you need to satisfy to have that privilege?
What are the implications on your child otherwise? There are so many unanswered questions and you are worried that you may not be taking the best course of actions for your children’s future.
What Is Child Custody?
Let us first take a look at the definition of custody. Custody means protective care of someone. And child custody is one of the most controversial issue in a divorce. By child it means that the child is below twenty-one (21) years old according to definition in the Women’s Charter.
The main law governing this issue of child custody is the Guardianship of Infants Law Act and this law applies to everyone residing in Singapore, Muslims and non-Muslims included.
Things might get ugly during your child custody battle, hence maintaining a level-head and having a lot of patience is essential in maintaining order and no hassle process.
What Does Care And Control Means In Singapore?
Besides, custody there is also a term called Care and Control. So what is the difference between custody and care and control? Basically, custody involves the person having authority in making bigger decisions regarding the child for example in terms of schooling, religion and other issues that involves the future of the child.
But for Care and Control – it’s channeled to one parent and this parent is involved in the child’s daily issues. For example, daily and basic needs and consents for school outings.
How Many Types Of Child Custody Are There?
There are 4 types of child custody in Singapore.
Sole custody means whichever parent being granted this custody, will be the sole decision maker for all major milestones for the child. Normally, this order is passed when the couple’s relationship has gone downhill so bad to the extent that they could not even look at each other, let even talk to one another.
Even after counselling and therapy sessions, their relationship is beyond repair. In this kind of extreme cases, it is clear that there will be no co-operation between the parents and this will bring bad influences for the child.
Another reason why sole custody is given is when some parents give up the custody of the child to the other parent, in order for them to gain a better leverage on other matters.
Lastly, sole custody is given when the other parent was found to have previously abused the child and the safety of the child is at stake if a joint custody was given.
For joint custody, both parents can be the decision makers for all major decisions of the child. The parents will need to talk to each other and reach an amicable agreement especially when it involves the future of their child. This order gives both parents equal rights in bringing up the child.
In Singapore, the Courts are increasingly giving out more joint custody as compared to sole custody. Why? It is because the presence of both parents is crucial in the child’s growth and development.
Being divorced, it does not end the relationship between the parent and the child. That is a life long commitment and relation that needs to be nurtured throughout the child’s life.
Hybrid means one parent is granted custody but he/she need to seek the opinion or agreement of the other parent on issues that relate to the child’s welfare.
Split custody means the siblings are separated whereby one or more siblings is granted to one parent and the remaining is given to the other parent. However, this is not common as the Court would allow siblings to be together in order for them to support each other through this difficult time.
Now you might be questioning, how does the Court decide who will get custody and what type of custody? It can be a heart breaking process especially when both parents love the child equally and want only the best for their children.
The Courts will look at important factors when deciding who to get custody and the type of custody being granted.
How Can I Increase My Chances At Getting Care And Control?
It is hard to say what will necessarily “increase” your chances at receiving a larger custody agreement. However, the following things would positively go a long way in getting you a fair and reasonable custody arrangement:
- having a stable job with a fairly set work schedule,
- having an adequate living situation with proper bedrooms for your children,
- being able to show that you have had a longstanding close relationship with your children and caring and nurturing your children;
- having no current or prior problems with substance abuse or promiscuous behavior which could be used to show that your children may not be safe if left in your care.
This is not an exhaustive list of things, but certainly good things to be sure to follow to increase your likelihood of getting more time with your child.
Don’t believe the common misconception that if your ex-spouse makes a lot more money or has a bigger and cleaner home than yours than that means he/she will get more time with the kids. Those things are not meant to be used to show that it would be in the child’s best interests for the child to spend more time with that parent.
Continual Care For Your Child
The most critical factor is continuous care arrangement. The Courts will try to maintain as much as possible the current routine of the child.
For example, if the child is happy and schooling near to home, a sudden uprooting of the child to a new location and a new school would be psychologically damaging to the child as the child has to cope with too many changes all of a sudden.
The Courts will also consider which parent has been the primary caregiver of the child most of the time.
Better Security And Stability
In terms of a roof over the child’s head as well as financial stability, the Courts will also consider this factor while deciding on who to give the custody order to. Nucleus support within the family is also considered before the Courts decide on the custody order.
You might ask, “I am the mother of my children, I should be granted sole custody of my children, right?” Is this statement true? Do mothers normally get sole custody? And if the mother is not a working mum with no source of income, will she still be eligible to be granted with sole custody?
There are many other factors that need to be considered and looked into before custody issue is settled. However, do note that the Court will not put importance of the parents’ wishes above the welfare of the child involved.
As this involves the future of a young one, the Courts will not bypass any issue or potential mishaps that might happen in the future.
If you are the mother to your children, of course you would want to have your children with you at all times. You are concerned of their well-being, safety and all other matters relating to your children.
You question yourself, “Will the Court grant me sole custody of my children?”, “What are factors or criteria that I need to meet in order to have sole custody of my children?”, “I am unemployed, will the Court still grant me with sole custody?”
Let us take a look at whether you are at an advantage being a mother to your children in this process.
Besides the factors mentioned above, there are some other factors to be considered before the Court decides on the custody of the children. Official reports namely Social Welfare Report which is prepared by the officers of Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Access Evaluation Report and Custody Evaluation Report prepared by Family and Juvenile Justice Court will be taken into consideration.
The Social Welfare Report whereby the officers from Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth will interview the parents of the child as well as caregivers of the child who play a major role in the past.
The officers will also interact with the children and do an observation. They will observe how the child behaves and react with each parent. All this fact finding will be compiled as a report and provided to the Judge only.
The Access Evaluation Report however assists to resolve any access disputes. It details the terms and conditions of access for parents. The terms will include location, duration as well as any supervision of parent-child interactions.
These reports are also based on interactions as well as observations of the officers from the Family and Juvenile Justice Court together with the child and parent in question.
The other report mentioned was the Custody Evaluation Report. This report helps the Court to resolve any custody disputes. Both this report as well as the Access Evaluation Report will be done at the Family Court as the officers do not do home visits.
If the child is more than 10 years of age, the Court will consider the child’s wishes as to which parent is he/she more comfortable to stay with. On top of all these factors mentioned, the Court places more importance on the maternal bond between a mother and the children.
For a father to be granted sole custody of the children, he need to prove that the mother does not have a strong bond with the child.
Custody of illegitimate children remains the same as legitimate children as well as maintenance issue of the child until they are 21 years of age.
Supporting Your Child Psychologically
When it boils down to the children caught in the divorce process, it can be a confusing as well as traumatizing experience for them. They might think that the divorce happens because of them.
They might have a mixture of feelings such as anger, sadness, fear as well as guilt. How do you alleviate and still protect them psychologically and emotionally during this process?
Here are some points to note in order to keep it positive for the children involved;
1. Frequent Assurance
In some cases, a child may blame themselves when they know that their parents are going their separate ways. The parents should assure their children that despite what is happening, their child will always be loved.
Keep on assuring them that though their life might change moving forward, do let them know that both parents still love them equally and want to be part of their life as they are growing up.
Even though the parents are no longer together, but the parent and child bond will never disintegrate.
2. Continual Involvement
Do not let the divorce process stop you from being involved in your child’s daily life. Continue your duty as a parent by bringing them out for leisure, assisting them in their studies and talk.
Talking is the most important activity that you need to place importance during the divorce process. Ask them how are they feeling and how you can support them better.
3. Separate Children From Your Disputes
Do not let your children see you having a disagreement with your spouse. And worse, do not ask them to choose sides as they will feel pressurised and stressed as to which side to pick.
Whenever you have a disagreement, have a talk with your partner away from your child.
4. Post-Divorce Programs
There are support groups that assist both parents and children to cope better in their new situation. Within the group, you can learn from other participants how they deal with different situations and any other matters that arise.
With effect from December 2016, the Women’s Charter has implemented a Mandatory Parenting Programme whereby it is compulsory for the initiating party and has a child below the age of 14 to undergo a 2 hours private session before the divorce is filed.
Both parents are to work out on a suitable schedule for the visits. So if you have been given visitation rights, what is your entitlement?
There are two types of access in this scenario. One is unsupervised and the other is supervised visits. For unsupervised visits, it means that the other parent is allowed to spend their time freely with the child without a third party being present with them.
As for supervised visits, it means that a third party needs to be present during the time that the other parent and the child is spending their time together. This could arise to protect the child from potential physical or emotional abuse.
Child Maintenance and Support
Each parent is responsible to support the child till the child turns 21 years of age in Singapore. The Court may order the maintenance payment to be in one lump sum or a monthly sum.
For fathers, even if your ex-wife has remarried, you are still to abide by the Court order of paying maintenance to your child who is below 21 years old.
Do You Have A Question?
So you see, divorce between 2 parties is already a tedious process and it gets more complicated when there is a child involved in the divorce process. Ultimately, if it has come to a point of no return for you in your marriage, stride forward and hold your head up high.
What’s important is to not get too emotional. Always put the well-being of your child first and remain objective.
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