The Singapore Family Justice Court has a responsibility to ensure it operates in a way that is “as free from trauma as possible”, the Chief Justice has announced.
In a speech held to mark the beginning of the judicial year in the Asian city state, Sundaresh Menon stressed the importance within family court proceedings of sensitivity to the needs of children as well as to continuing demographic changes within the population as a whole, such as the rising number of elderly people and the increasing popularity of multinational marriages.
As in the UK, the Family Justice Court now places greater emphasis on the avoidance of confrontation. Divorcing couples caught up in a contentious cases are required to attend mediation and family counselling services are also available, especially when children are involved.
The Chief Justice explained:
“We found that [mediation and counselling] helped parents appreciate the consequences of their actions on their children, with encouraging results.”
A total of 51 family mediators have been accredited to date.
Singapore also recently introduced child representatives who work within the court system to promote the welfare and best interests of children involved in family disputes, in a similar way to legal guardians and Cafcass officers in the UK.
The Chief Justice now plans to establish an advisory council consisting of family judges and legal experts from other countries, in order to help develop Singaporean legal system still further.
“Family justice poses many challenges and I believe we can learn much from the experiences of other jurisdictions”.
The Family Justice Court was established in October 2014 as an amalgamation of the existing family and youth courts, as well as the family division of the High Court of Singapore. It has dealt with more than 24,000 cases to date.