Singapore Family Court
11.30In 1995 a Family Court was formally established with jurisdiction to hear divorce and ancillary matters such as custody, adoption and spousal violence.1163 The Family Division now consists of 5 courtrooms, 7 chambers, 2 registries and 9 counselling and mediation chambers.1164 Case-flow management such as status conferences and pre-trial conferences track progress in a case. The status conference is similar to the issues conference1165. At the pre-trial conference arrangements for referral to mediation, counselling or a joint conference can be made. If settlement is not possible a date for hearing is allocated so as to avoid these processes being used as delaying tactics. This conference can also be heard after the decree nisi to deal with ancillary matters.
Mediation and counselling
11.31Mediation and counselling “are integrated into the case process and offered to the parties as an option” free of charge. The Subordinate Courts issued Practice Direction No 1 of 1996 to offer mediation and counselling in the court. Subsequently the Women’s Charter (Amendment) Act 1996 provided statutory authority to the court to refer parties to mediation and counselling.1166 The mediation agreement can be recorded before a judicial officer who checks that the agreement complies with the law. In 1996 mediation settled 89.7% of cases.
11.32More recent amendments to the Women’s Charter1167 have given the court power to direct or advise parties or their children to attend counselling if the court considers that it is in the best interests of the parents or children to do so. The Family Court makes referrals to two external counselling agencies or alternatively the in-house counselling service can be used which is free of charge.
11.33Where the resolution of legal issues is blocked by emotional issues, joint conferences are held by a court counsellor and a judicial officer to try and settle all outstanding issues. Judicial officers have been conducting mediation of matrimonial property or cases with complex legal issues. In that case another judicial officer will hear the case if mediation fails. There is also a Family Court Support Group of volunteers trained in mediation, with a legal, psychology or social work background who help provide mediation services to the public. Custody and access issues are dealt with by in-house counsellors trained in mediation or by the Family Court Support Group.
1163 This was by order under section 28A of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act to take effect from 1 April 1996.
1164 The information was obtained from the Family Court of Singapore.
1165 See chapter 6 supra.
1166 Section 47B.
1167 These came into effect on 1 May 1997.