The Family Justice Courts helps parties resolve family disputes as far as possible through mediation provided by the Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Division. Mediation sessions are conducted by specially appointed judges, staff family mediators or volunteer legal professionals (collectively known as FDR mediators).
The court may refer parties for mediation at the FDR Division for most family disputes, including any of the following:
Alternatively, parties may request mediation at the FDR Division any time during their case. Parties may also make their request for mediation through their lawyer if they have one. The FDR Division will consider the request and fix a mediation, where appropriate.
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party (the mediator) helps parties to:
Parties who undergo mediation at the FDR Division can:
All information produced and matters discussed during mediation are confidential and cannot be used as evidence if a case proceeds to a hearing.
The judge whom parties will meet during the hearing will also be different from the FDR mediator they may meet during their mediation sessions.
There are no fees charged for mediation conducted at the FDR Division.
Mediation may be conducted in one of the following ways:
Parties with at least one child aged 21 and below are required to attend counselling and mediation at the FDR Division (the FDR process). Parties and their lawyers (if any) meet with a FDR mediator for mediation and a court family specialist (CFS) from the Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for counselling to resolve any disagreement over the following matters (if applicable):
The court may also direct parties with a Guardianship of Infants Act application to participate in a similar FDR process.
Refer to the following to find out how cases referred for mediation and counselling at the FDR Division are managed.
The court may give directions on:
At the end of the FDR conference, the parties will jointly meet with the CFS for the first counselling session known as the intake and assessment session.
During the intake and assessment session, the CFS will meet parties jointly to explain the counselling process and to understand the different perspectives and concerns of both parties regarding the care arrangement for their children.
The CFS will also meet each party individually to find out more about their personal, family and mental health history. The CFS will then arrange for one or more follow-up counselling sessions with the parties.
Counselling sessions seek to help parties:
The CFS will help parties focus on the current and future needs of their children and explore a workable parenting plan that will be beneficial to their children.
The CFS may arrange for one or more follow-up counselling sessions with the parties to:
The CFS will update the mediator on discussions held during counselling. Any outstanding disagreements will be handled during mediation or co-mediation.
A typical counselling session may take up to 2 hours. Only parties involved in the divorce case and their children will have to attend the counselling sessions.
Lawyers are not required to participate.
The CFS will also work with parties and their children to explore and find out if further support is necessary after counselling. This means the CFS may do any of the following with the parties' consent:
If parties reach an agreement on living and care arrangements and other issues during counselling, they can record a draft agreement that is witnessed by the CFS.
If a party is represented by a lawyer, they can bring the draft agreement to their lawyer. The lawyer can confirm this draft agreement with the mediator during mediation to assist with drafting a consent order based on the agreement.
If the mediator finds that there are complex legal and emotional issues to resolve in a case, they may call for co-mediation with a CFS.
During co-mediation, the mediator and the CFS may also hold sessions with the parties’ children.
The length of a mediation or co-mediation session depends on the requirements of the case. It may take more than one mediation or co-mediation session for the parties to reach a settlement on the disputed issues.
Before the first mediation session, parties and their lawyers (if applicable) should prepare the Summary for Mediation (Form 191, FJC Practice Directions) and all relevant documents relating to the disputed issues in the divorce.
At the mediation or co-mediation sessions, parties should:
A party may indicate to the mediator in the course of the mediation or co-mediation that they are interested in reconciling with their spouse.
If their spouse is willing to consider this possibility, the court may propose for both parties to attend reconciliation or marriage recovery counselling.
If both parties can reach an agreement during mediation or co-mediation, the court may record the terms the parties agree on as a court order.
Once the court order is recorded, parties are required by law to follow the agreed terms. If there is a major change in circumstances of either party in the future, they may apply to vary (change) the terms of the order if they cannot reach an agreement between themselves.
If both parties cannot reach an agreement during mediation or co-mediation, the court will give directions for the parties to prepare for a hearing.
The FDR Division does not conduct mediation for the following cases:
For these cases, the court may direct parties to attend private mediation. Private mediation can be conducted at the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), the Law Society Mediation Scheme (LSMS) or an agreed private mediator chosen by the parties.
Refer to Paragraph 11 of the FJC Practice Directions for more information.
Refer to Part V of the FJC Practice Directions for alternate dispute resolution.
Family disputes are typically emotionally charged, as they go to the heart of family relationships.
Whether it is divorce, living and care arrangements for the child, maintenance, division of matrimonial property and assets, care of mentally incapacitated persons or distribution of a deceased's assets, when these disputes are brought to the court for a hearing or trial, the process can be a very expensive and stressful experience for all involved.
As parties will have ongoing relationships as family members, the process of litigation and eventual decision by the court may not ultimately resolve the relational aspects of the dispute.
Parties should go to their sessions with reasonable proposals in order to start the process.
They should do all the following:
Depending on your case, parties may have to prepare the following documents (and any other relevant documents) and bring them to their sessions (if applicable):
Lawyers may also assist parties by exchanging these relevant documents before the mediation session.