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Mediation in the Family Justice Courts

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 at the Family Dispute Resolution Division

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party (the mediator) helps parties to:

  • Communicate openly with each other in a respectful and safe environment.
  • Explore mutually acceptable and sustainable solutions for themselves and their loved ones.

Benefits of mediation

Parties who undergo mediation at the FDR Division can:

  • Save time and money on legal proceedings.
    • Parties who can resolve disputes through mediation will not need to attend a court hearing.
    • If parties can reach an agreement during mediation, they can record the terms of the agreement as a court order.
  • Understand better ways of dealing with conflict.
  • Feel more empowered by making their own decisions through agreement and mutual understanding.
    • This is in comparison to a court hearing where a judge makes decisions for the parties regarding their legal disputes.
  • (If parties have children) Learn about the impact of divorce on children and how to settle their disputes through discussion and a focus on the needs of their children.

Confidentiality of information

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.

Estimated fees

There are no fees charged for mediation conducted at the FDR Division.

How mediation is conducted

Mediation may be conducted in one of the following ways:

  • Online via a video conference.
    • The court will inform you if you do not need to attend court in person. Find out more about virtual court sessions.
  • In person at the FDR Division of the FJC.

The family dispute resolution process for cases with young children

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 divorce.
  • The children’s living and care arrangements.
  • Maintenance.
  • Division of matrimonial property and assets.

The court may also direct parties with a Guardianship of Infants Act application to participate in a similar FDR process.

Watch the video to find out more about the FDR process.

 

 

What to expect

Refer to the following to find out how cases referred for mediation and counselling at the FDR Division are managed.

A family dispute resolution conference (FDR Conference) is conducted by a judge and a CFS. At the FDR Conference, the judge will:

  • Explain the mediation and counselling processes, and how these sessions are conducted
  • Set the agenda for mediation and counselling.
  • Clarify the issues the parties disagree on.
  • Schedule dates for mediation (or co-mediation) and counselling sessions.

The court may give directions on:

  • The steps parties and lawyers need to take to prepare for the mediation, including the documents to be exchanged.
  • The requirement for parties to attend the sessions with their lawyers, if any.

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.

About the counselling sessions

Counselling sessions seek to help parties:

  • Identify significant issues that are important to the family and their children.
  • Resolve underlying conflicts.
  • Develop skills to manage difficult and painful emotions.
  • Communicate effectively with each other in relation to the needs of their children.
  • Build a consensus on the interim and future care arrangements for their children.

What to expect in a counselling session

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:

  • Further work on resolving their differences.
  • Reach an agreement on what would be best for their children's living and care arrangements.

The CFS will update the mediator on discussions held during counselling. Any outstanding disagreements will be handled during mediation or co-mediation.

Note

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.

Providing further support

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:

  • Refer parties to appropriate community and social service agencies, such as Family Service Centres (FSCs) or Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs).
  • Contact and work with any mental health professionals that parties and their children have been meeting.
  • (If the parties and their children are assessed to be at immediate risk of harm) Alert the relevant agencies and persons to keep the family safe.

If parties reach an agreement

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.

Parties can participate in mediation or co-mediation sessions with or without a lawyer. Mediation or co-mediation sessions allow parties to:

  • Explore options and come to an agreement on sustainable solutions, where possible.
  • Reach an agreement on co-parenting arrangements for their children.
    • If parties can reach an agreement during mediation, they can record the terms of the agreement as a court order.
  • Reduce the legal costs, time and stress that go into a hearing.

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.

How to prepare for mediation or co-mediation

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:

  • Be ready to listen to the views of the other party.
  • Be open in exploring ways with the mediator to resolve issues relating to their children and any other disputes.
  • Put the welfare of their children first.
    • When discussing issues with the other party, parties should explore options that work best for their children.
Note

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.

Outcomes of mediation or co-mediation

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 parties cannot reach an agreement

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.

Court-ordered private mediation

The FDR Division does not conduct mediation for the following cases:

  • Divorce applications where the value of the assets is $2 million or above, and there are no contested child issues (such as disputes relating to the living and care arrangements of, or the custody, care and control of or access to any child).
  • Applications for probate and letters of administration where the value of the assets is $2 million or above.
  • Applications under the International Child Abduction Act.

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.

Resources

Refer to:

Refer to Part V of the FJC Practice Directions for alternate dispute resolution.

Related questions

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:

  • Be on time.
  • Come prepared to negotiate in good faith and be ready to give and take.
  • Strive to be civil at all times.
    • The session is not the place to make personal attacks against the other party.
  • Consider suggestions with an open mind.
  • Be involved in brainstorming for solutions to resolve the disputes.
  • Share information and provide relevant documents.

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):

  • Income tax returns, payslips and other evidence of income.
  • A detailed list of their estimated monthly expenses and the children.
  • Latest Central Provident Fund (CPF) statements on balances in the CPF accounts.
  • Latest CPF statements on withdrawals for properties.
  • Valuation reports for properties that they own.
  • Documents showing cash payments towards the properties.
  • Documents showing outstanding mortgage.
  • Documents showing payments towards housing renovations.

Lawyers may also assist parties by exchanging these relevant documents before the mediation session.


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