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Justice Debbie Ong: Speech delivered at the Family Justice Support Scheme Launch 2022

Fellow Judges,
Members of the Bar, and
Distinguished guests

 

  1. Good evening. Thank you very much to the Law Society Pro Bono Services and Family Justice Support Scheme Committee, for inviting me here this evening.

     

  2. Being involved in court proceedings can be very daunting. Litigation is highly stressful. The mission of the Family Justice Courts is to make justice accessible to families and youths through effective counselling, mediation and adjudication. I am delighted to see the fruition of the efforts of the Law Society and FJC in this wonderful scheme, the FJSS. The FJSS will help fill up gaps in our current system to ensure that more individuals are able to benefit from legal representation, including the "sandwich class" of Singapore citizens, PRs and foreign spouses.

  3. Family disputes are very different from other types of disputes going through the Courts. I am sure that with your own experience in family practice, you already know of the costly impact of litigation on families. Even after what seems like an end to a dispute, the emotional dimensions involved in family cases may increase the chances of further multiple applications for variation and enforcement even after the conclusion of proceedings.

     

  4. A lawyer who provides holistic advice, especially one who practises therapeutic justice, can have a hugely positive impact on families. A party often looks to a lawyer for guidance and takes a lawyer's lead in how a case is run.Lawyers sometimes become the client's closest confidant and it is through this relationship that a lawyer can help steer a family onto the path of healing and towards a resolution that is workable, sustainable and prioritises the welfare of children.

     

  5. I had written in a Law Gazette article years ago:

     

    A woman once told me, ‘Right after my husband told me that he loved another woman and was leaving me, I felt I was drowning, together with my two young children. And then X (a family lawyer) reached out and pulled me out of the water. She saved me’.

     

  6. Lawyers are in that place where they can give hope to someone in despair; they can also turn the tides for acrimonious parties - to encourage divorcing parties to let their love for their children be greater and more powerful than their anger with each other, so that healing can begin.

     

  7. It sounds quite odd to say that Lawyers and Judges are a team in our system – but in this unique field of justice where children are present, Lawyers and Judges do problem-solve together towards the same goal – to support the parties and their children to move on positively. Our shared hope is that it will become more natural to view divorce proceedings as a period of transition with changes in life and not as an adversarial and litigious process.

     

  8. Legal representation can also be especially valuable in complex cross-border disputes such as relocation cases, international child abduction proceedings, or where a litigant is a trailing spouse undergoing the ordeal of a family dispute in a foreign land. Legal representation is clearly helpful to everyone when there are challenging legal issues as well, as litigants in person are less able to engage in complex legal issues.

     

  9. I am happy to see the launch of the FJSS as a service to the community. I commend the commitment and hard work of all who were involved in setting it up and preparing for its launch today.

      

  10. Thank you once again for giving me the privilege of being here to share in this momentous occasion, and I wish all of you an enriching and pleasant time this evening. Thank you very much. 
2022/10/21

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