SINGAPORE: An online portal will be set up to make it easier for couples considering divorce to gain access to marriage counselling as well as information on issues such as housing and finance, announced Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Thursday (Mar 5).
The first phase of the portal is expected to be ready in the later part of 2021, Mr Lee said during his ministry's Committee of Supply debate.
“We hope that this will help couples to make better decisions, and give their marriage another chance. For those who decide to proceed with the divorce, the portal will consolidate information and resources on housing, finance, and other important issues that will significantly impact the family’s lives after divorce,” Mr Lee said.
The portal will help couples better understand the practical implications of their decision, and reduces the need for couples to approach multiple agencies for information, he added.
MSF said the portal will also provide information that parents need to consider in the best interest of their children. The portal will consolidate the information and resources required by these couples, such as those related to Housing Development Board (HDB) flats and Central Provident Fund (CPF) matters.
“Children are often the most severely affected in a divorce. The portal will help couples understand the immediate as well as long term impact on children, learn how to co-parent effectively, and point them to relevant services,” said Mr Lee.
Currently, couples with minor children who are unable to reach an agreement on divorce are required to attend a Mandatory Parenting Programme (MPP), where counsellors from Divorce Support Specialist Agencies help them better understand the practical issues of divorce.
There are currently six Divorce Support Specialist Agencies in Singapore offering specialised programmes for divorcing and divorced families. These agencies provide support and care to families through a strong child-centric approach, MSF said.
ONLINE COUNSELLING PILOT
However, some couples are hesitant to use face-to-face counselling services or prefer online avenues, said Mr Lee.
To overcome this, MSF will implement a two-year pilot with the Community Psychology Hub, to provide online counselling through live chat or email later this year, said Mr Lee.
This pilot can reach out to 200 clients a year, he said. The online counselling sessions under the two-year pilot with Community Psychology Hub will be provided free of charge.
“We hope that this online channel will encourage those who are hesitant about face-to-face services to seek help earlier,” he said.
To ensure that the online portal is truly useful, relevant and sensitive, focus group discussions will be held in the third quarter of this year with Singaporeans to seek honest feedback and develop various aspects of the portal such as design, content and flow, he said.
The portal is being developed in response to recommendations from the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System (RERF).
READ: Committee recommends online platform for couples planning divorce, ways to make process less painful
The RERF Committee submitted their report and recommendations on how to further enhance the family justice system to better protect and support families to MSF and the Ministry of Law in September last year.
Subsequently, the ministries held a public consultation on the recommendations to gather public feedback on the recommendations. In February this year, the ministries announced that they will accept all recommendations, and consider public feedback in its implementation.