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Changes to family justice system afoot

The Law Ministry and Ministry of Family and Social Development have accepted the recommendations of the Committee of Family Justice on Friday (July 4), and will table a new Family Justice Act in Parliament next week.

SINGAPORE: The family justice system in Singapore will see changes in the coming days, after the Law Ministry and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) accepted the recommendations put forward by the Committee for Family Justice.

Both ministries said in a statement on Friday (July 4) that they welcomed and accepted the recommendations, and are committed to implementing them. One of their first acts would be to introduce a new Family Justice Act in Parliament next week to establish the new Family Justice Courts, comprising the High Court (Family Division), the Family Court and the Juvenile Court.

The recommendations made by the committee are focused on helping families resolve their disputes by developing a robust and integrated network of assistance and support, as well as enhanced court management processes that will empower the Court to resolve such disputes more effectively. The recommendations are meant to help lessen the trauma and acrimony involved in the divorce process, the committee said.

For instance, couples with young children will undergo a mandatory pre-filing consultation session before they file for divorce unless they are able to agree on divorce and all ancillary matters. The consultation will help couples understand practical issues arising from divorce that may impact their children, such as the importance of co-parenting.

The consultation sessions will be conducted by a new group of agencies called the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies, and these can be established in key community nodes by the end of the year.

Child representatives will also be appointed in appropriate court proceedings to act as the child's advocate. These representatives could be lawyers, and custody cases are one example of the need for such representatives.

A new Family Law accreditation scheme will also be introduced, where lawyers will undergo specialist training. This will enhance family law practice in the new family justice system. 

Moving forward, the Committee will review other specific aspects of the family justice system. These include the enforcement of maintenance orders, as well as the resourcing and training of social services professionals and judges.

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