Key Terms and Definitions
In Singapore, the Women’s Charter defines a ‘child’ as a child of a marriage who is under 21 years of age.
There are 3 important concepts in relation to Child Orders:
Firstly, Custody refers to the legal decision-making authority in regards to the child’s well-being. This decision-making authority is usually in regard to major life issues such as religion, education, health and activities. In recent years, the Court has shown tendencies to award both parents joint custody such that both parents would be involved and consulted in making the major decisions for their child. However, in special circumstances where the Court deems one parent unfit to make decisions for the child, the Court may grant sole custody to one parent. Further, there may be situations where the Court may feel that the child’s custody is better off with a relative or a children’s welfare organisation, instead of with the parents.
Care and Control
Care and control, on the other hand, refers to the day-to-day living arrangements of the child. Under normal circumstances, the Court usually grants one parent care and control of the child, while the other parent would get access to the child. The parent who retains care and control of the child is usually whom the child resides with on a regular basis.
Custody and/or care and control given to one parent does not necessarily preclude the other parent from child access. Often, the other parent is given time to spend with the child of the marriage on a regular basis. This arrangement is known as “access”. Access can be supervised or unsupervised, overnight or day access.
However, the Court may deny access to either party if such access would likely be detrimental to the well-being of the child and is against his / her best interests.
It would thus be ideal for both parents to draft out a suitable, convenient and reasonable time for individual access to the child of the marriage. If both parties cannot come to an agreement, the Court will decide on a course of action after hearing both sides. These arrangements when done right will minimize the psychological trauma of the child.
Who and When to Apply for Child Orders
Any parent can request for the custody and/or the care and control of the child who is deemed as such under the Women’s Charter.
Either parent can apply for the custody and/or the care and control and/or access of the child at any time during the marriage, separation or during court proceedings in a divorce lawsuit.
How To Apply For Child Orders
Either parent who wishes to be the custodian of the child of the marriage will have to apply to the Family Court or the High Court for the custody and/or the care and control and/or access of the child.
Considerations For Child Orders
In the eyes of the law, the interests of the child of the marriage is paramount. The Court’s key concern is therefore: who can best serve the emotional and financial needs of the child?
In deciding who to give custodial rights and/or the care and control and/or access of the child to, the Court may also take into account the wishes of either party as well as the wishes of the child of the marriage (if the child is old enough to express an opinion).
Taking The Child Out Of The Country
The child is not allowed to be taken out of Singapore without prior consent from the other parent.
If any such implicitly worded or actions surface prior to the ‘abduction’, the custodial party may obtain an order from Court to prevent the other party from taking the child out of the country. Disobeying a Court Order could be considered a contempt of Court punishable with a fine or imprisonment.