SINGAPORE: Starting December, couples filing for a divorce will have to attend a mandatory parenting programme if they have minor children and cannot agree on all matters in the split, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said on Friday (Sep 30).
Currently, divorcing parents only attend mandatory mediation and counselling after a writ of divorce has been filed.
Speaking at the International Family Law Conference, Mr Tan said the programme – which is part of the amendments to the Women's Charter passed in Parliament in February – is part of the ministry's strategy for preserving families in Singapore.
The programme, delivered by three Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs), is a one-time private consultation with counsellors that lasts for two hours and is free of charge. It aims to guide parents in considering living arrangements, finances and housing after the divorce, and to increase parents' awareness on the impact of divorce on their children.
"We must be compassionate in our approach when working with families who face conflict and crisis," Mr Tan said.
The DSSAs provide family-centric services and are staffed by specialist counsellors and social workers. "They give the child a voice and work with parents to fulfil their duties to their child even amid conflict," Mr Tan said.
As part of the programme, a secure online portal will also be launched in end-November. Couples filing for divorce must access the portal using their SingPass to register for the programme, following which the ministry will assign them to one of three DSSAs centres.
Couples will be required to produce evidence of attendance in the programme before they are allowed to file or make a counterclaim during the divorce.
Separately, Mr Tan also said that his ministry will be tabling a proposed Vulnerable Adults Bill to allow the state to step in for high-risk cases, including those suffering from abuse and neglect.
"We should empower the social system to organise protective care around such people ... We want to keep families intact as far as possible. We also want to ensure a safe environment for all of its members," he said.