Singapore, 6 April 2016
– The Family Justice Courts (“FJC”) announced new initiatives to better equip families in resolving disputes in an increasingly global context during an annual closed door event for all FJC staff.
2 The Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon delivered the Keynote Address at the Work Plan Seminar on the theme of “A New Family Justice Paradigm”. His Honour noted that there is a global trend and also in Singapore of family and community ties coming under strain resulting in rising divorce rates and other family disputes needing court intervention¹ .
3 In Singapore, cross-cultural and cross-national marriages are increasingly common as the rise in transnational work draws foreign talent and their families to our shores. Incidence of divorce cases involving at least one party who is a foreigner is also on the rise².
4 It is therefore imperative that FJC continues the foundational work started since its establishment on 1 October 2014. The Chief Justice highlighted 3 key aspects in FJC’s Work Plan for 2016, adding his remarks on why the new initiatives will better address the needs of families and children under the current realities -
¹ Since 1996, the number of applications for Personal Protection Orders and Domestic Exclusion Orders has nearly doubled: See Violence: Applications for Personal Protection Order (PPO)/Expedited Order (EO) and Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO) (available on <http:> (accessed on 28 August 2015)) and “Protecting Families from Violence: The Singapore Experience” (Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports) (October 2009) at p 12.
The annual ratio of marriage to divorce today is 4:1, compared to 13:1 in 1980: The figures for total marriages against total divorces and annulments in a given year are 22,444:1,721 (1980), 23,953:3,634 (1990), 22,651: 5,137 (2000) and 28,407:7,307 (2014) (see Statistics of Marriages and Divorces 2014 Report (Department of Statistics) (released on July 2015) at pp 23 and 65).</http:>
² Out of all the divorce cases filed between 2011 and 2015, the percentage of international divorces involving at least one party who is a foreigner increased from 31% in 2011 to 36% in 2013 to 40% in 2015. In terms of absolute numbers, international divorce cases increased from 1,929 in 2011 to 2,272 in 2013 and to 2,381 in 2015.
(a) Introducing more child centric interventions -
“The child remains at the centre of our work. The Courts have consistently taken the view that the welfare of the child is our paramount consideration and will override any other consideration… This legal principle is soundly rooted in societal needs. Our young are the future of our society and we best protect our community’s future by protecting our young. Social science research suggests that divorce is the cause of a range of serious and enduring behavioural and emotional problems in children and adolescents and this view is now gaining wide acceptance.”
- Implementation of the Child Inclusive Resolution Process
Moving from child focused conversations with parties in dispute, FJC will in suitable cases deepen the interactions by adopting a child inclusive resolution process. This initiative seeks to ensure that the views of children, as affected parties, are included into the court process in a sensitive way that safeguards and aids their development. With 75% of the cases in the child inclusive pilot resulting in consensual resolution and parties/children reporting benefits, FJC will implement this process for all suitable cases in 2016.
- Pilot project on Parenting Coordination
Recognising a need to assist parents in their transition after a divorce, in particular, in the area of settling the access and care arrangements for their children, FJC is looking into a pilot project to have court appointed Parenting Co-ordinators to provide practical help to resolve child access issues focusing on the best interests of the child. 24 lawyers have undergone basic training in Parenting Coordination and will assist in the design of the scheme and for the pilot phase in the second half of 2016.
(b) Improving processes for maintenance matters - “Under the existing framework, the court may make a variety of different orders to require a respondent to meet his maintenance obligations… The courts differentiate between maintenance debtors who are genuinely unable to pay, and recalcitrant maintenance debtors who deliberately choose not to meet their obligations. I wish to thank the Ministry of Social and Family Development for its willingness to help on this front.”
- Strengthening the enforcement of maintenance
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and FJC are working on a new scheme where Maintenance Record Officers (MROs) will be appointed to investigate on claims made that a respondent is unable to pay maintenance ordered by the Court. The MRO will report to the court his findings, which is made available to the parties and open to cross examination in court. The MRO will also act as a liaison officer between the Courts, the Community Justice Centre and the MSF for needy parties to receive financial assistance in deserving cases. It is targeted that the scheme will be introduced in the second half of 2016.
(c) Engaging complexities in an increasingly global context -
“In 2015, the FJC dealt with a high number of issues that raised cross-border issues… International cases involving children pose a special challenge. Different jurisdictions may have somewhat different views on child cases. Parents who do not agree with each other may engage in protracted and ultimately fruitless litigation. The international legal framework is not yet fully developed to deal with these cases. Nor is it broadly consistent in all areas.”
- Establishment of an International Advisory Council (IAC).
Recognising the need to think ahead of the curve, generate ideas and share perspectives on the latest developments in the field of family justice, FJC will form an IAC that brings together some of the leading thinkers in the world in this regard. The intention is for the IAC to suggest solutions and innovations that could be taken to situate the FJC at the forefront of family court practice.
- Organising the International Family Law Conference
FJC will be organising an International Family Law Conference at the Supreme Court auditorium on 29 and 30 September 2016. Themed “The Future of Family Justice – International and Multi-Disciplinary Pathways”, the Conference will bring together eminent speakers both local and international from the legal, amicable dispute resolution, psychological and social science sectors to examine how family justice systems around the world have met the challenges faced in their respective contexts and to facilitate an international exchange of insights. The conversation will also grapple with the demands of family justice into the future.
See the enclosed factsheets at Annex A to E for more information on the various programmes mentioned above, Annex F summarising the other salient points covered in CJ’s speech and Annex G - an info-graphic on the new initiatives announced at the Work Plan Seminar.
About the Family Justice Courts
Established in 2014, the Family Justice Courts (“FJC”) are a restructure of our Court system to better serve litigants by bringing together all family related work under a specialised body of courts. The FJC are comprised of the Family Division of the High Court, the Family Courts and the Youth Courts and is administered by the Presiding Judge of the FJC. The cases dealt with by the FJC include those relating to divorce and ancillary matters, family violence, maintenance, adoption and guardianship, youth court, mental capacity and probate and succession. Its mission is to make justice accessible to families and youth through effective counselling, mediation and adjudication.
Ms Elyana Mohd Ishak,
Assistant Director, Communications
Tel: 6325 7039
Ms Sarah Lim,
Senior Executive, Communications,
Tel: 6325 8049
FACT SHEET #1 The Child Inclusive Dispute Resolution model
- It is widely accepted that a child benefits from contact with both his parents and court orders seek to reinforce this approach. But research has shown that it is the quality of the relationship, not its frequency or quantity that is significant in a child’s post separation adjustment and well-being. If parents engage in a continuous cycle of litigation, the conflict arising from this will be detrimental to the child.
- In July 2015, FJC’s Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) completed a successful pilot study deploying a Child Inclusive Dispute Resolution model in helping divorcing couples with children find a way forward after divorce.
- The Child Inclusive Dispute Resolution is designed as a pre-trial dispute resolution process to better assist parties to focus on their on-going parenting responsibilities, and consider with greater sensitivity the developmental issues of their children in their dispute.
- The approach incorporates a therapeutic interview with the affected children for a sense of how the parental dispute has affected them. This is then followed by a feedback session between the parents and the counsellor about the unique development needs and psycho-emotional adjustment needed for each child within the family.
- Results of the pilot study show that 75% of the families that participated reached agreement on all children issues³ .
“This settlement rate, while strong, is not the main advantage…What was more significant was that the study also found that the children perceived a reduction of the intensity of the conflict between their parents. This behavioural modification is what gives us hope that these children might yet have a nurturing future.”
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
- Given the promising results of the pilot study, the FJC have decided to implement it for all suitable cases in 2016. More court counsellors are being trained to become Child Consultants, and they will be working with Mediating Judges to implement the child inclusive resolution process.
³The pilot study was conducted with 20 families who were going through divorce mediation at the Child Focused Resolution Centre. 40 parents and 35 children participated in the study. Out of these 20 cases, 15 of them reached an agreement on all the children’s issues.
Case Study 1 – “Children taking sides”
Before Mr Tan and Ms Lim were divorced, they had many heated arguments and even had a physical altercation with each other at their home. The couple have 2 children Lisa (8 years old) and Johnny (6 years old). It was unfortunate that the children, especially the older child had witnessed much of their arguments and the fights. After the divorce, the children stayed with their Mother during the week and they stayed over at Father’s house on the weekends. Every Saturday morning, Father picked up the children from their mother’s house and returned the children back home after access. However, both parents continued to have arguments with each other whenever Father picked up the children. Overtime, the children started to show resistance in wanting to spend time with Father, and they have told their mother that they do not wish to see their Father, and access with Father ceased.
After almost 6 months of not seeing his children, Father made an application to the court for overnight access with the children. Father thought that Mother has “brainwashed” the children and Mother thought that the children did not want to go because Father did not know how to deal with them.
Adopting the Child Inclusive Dispute Resolution Model
The CAPs counsellor met up with the children adopting the child inclusive approach to better understand how the children are emotionally coping with their parent’s separation and their conflict. The CAPS counsellor also wanted to understand why there has been a change in the children’s attitude in spending time with their father, and to better understand the children’s relationship with both parents.
Having witnessed many conflicts and fights between her parents, Lisa is most affected between the two. She had felt frightened when she witnessed their parents fighting physically and felt sad whenever her parents argued in front of her. She was also angry with Father as she had perceived him to be one making her mother upset. When Lisa used to stay over at her father’s house for access, Lisa did not like it when her paternal side of her family spoke ill of her mother. All those issues contributed to Lisa refusal to spend overnights with Father. Despite her reluctance to see Father, Lisa was also missing her father deep in her heart.
He remembered all the fun things he used to do with Dad. But since he was close to his sister, he did not want to upset her, so he felt that he had to refuse seeing Father as well. Johnny shared that he missed his Father and wished that they could spend time together again.
Outcome of the session
The CAPS counsellor met up with both parents after the meeting with the children and explained to the parents about how the children were feeling about their conflict and how it has affected them emotionally. After hearing from the CAPS counsellor, the parents realised that it was their fighting and arguments that had affected the children. They were saddened to hear how their two young children have taken upon themselves to help “fix” their problem. The parents have also realised that their children love and need both of them, and needed them to be on better terms with each other.
Both parents agreed to put their past issues behind for the sake of their children. Father realised that he cannot push for overnight access for now because his relationship with the children need to heal. Mother assured and encouraged the children to reconnect with their Father. Father started to repair his relationship with the children by calling them regularly, and eventually, arrangements were made for Father to see the children every Saturday.
Case Study 2 – “The help of extended family”
Mr Lim and Mdm Chua are both serving prison terms for various offences. Mr Lim is due to be released sometime mid 2017 while Mdm Chua is estimated to be released in mid-2020. The couple’s 2 children Christy (13 years old) and Clara (10 years old) are currently living with their paternal grandmother and an aunt.
Mr Lim, Mdm Chua and their 2 children were living with the maternal grandmother before their incarceration in 2014. At the end of 2014, the paternal grandmother brought the children to stay with her without discussion with maternal grandmother as the children were not doing well in school and they were especially concerned about Christy as she will be sitting for her PSLE the following year. The children were not allowed to visit their maternal grandmother as paternal grandmother was afraid the maternal grandmother would “brainwash” and “forcefully” removed the children from her.
As the paternal grandmother was not the legal guardian of the children, she was unable to make major decisions for the children like changing schools or giving consent for school excursions. As such, the father made an application to the court for his mother to have interim legal guardianship of the children till he was released from prison. The paternal grandmother also wanted the authority to change Clara’s school as her current school was too far away from her residence. Clara had to wake up at very early in the morning to travel to school.
Adopting the Child Inclusive Dispute Resolution Model
The CAPs counsellor met up with the children adopting the child inclusive approach to better understand how the children are emotionally coping with their parent’s incarceration, the change in their living environment and the conflict between their grandmothers. The CAPS counsellor also wanted to find out about Clara’s view on the change of school and to better understand the children’s relationship with both parents and grandmothers.The mother was not agreeable for the paternal grandmother to have the legal guardianship of the children as she was upset that the paternal grandmother did not bring the children to visit her in prison. The mother was also unsure if Clara wanted to change school and wanted to respect her wishes.
Christy is a reserved and quiet child. Christy is happy living with the paternal grandmother and she is enjoying her secondary school which is within walking distance from her residence. Christy loved her maternal grandmother and missed her. She wished that she could visit and contact maternal grandmother regularly.
Christy loved both parents and she has regular visits to her father but her visits to her mother were restricted due to the grandmother’s conflict with each other. Christy shared that she disliked it when her mother spoke ill of paternal grandmother during her visits.
Clara is a bubbly and cheerful child. Clara loved her maternal grandmother and missed her. She “secretly” visited her maternal grandmother after school without telling her paternal grandmother as her school is within walking distance from her maternal grandmother’s residence. She eventually told her paternal grandmother but did not dare to tell her paternal aunty about the visits. She too wished that she can visit maternal grandmother regularly.
She does not want to change school as she has been in the school for the past 4 years and she has her favourite teacher and many best friends in the school. She was prepared to wake up early to go to school and was prepared to take the half hour bus journey home after school.
Clara too loved both parents and wished that she can visit mother more often as she missed her.
Outcome of the session
The CAP counsellor met up with both the paternal grandmother and the maternal grandmother and explained how the children were feeling about their conflict and how it has affected them emotionally. The children loved both grandmothers but were given the idea that they need to take sides and had to resort to lying on order to visit the other grandmother.
Both grandmothers shared that they used to be close and had good times together and were sad that their relationship deteriorated due to many misunderstandings. Both grandmothers agreed to put the past issues behind them and to focus on the children. They apologized to each other, realizing that they need to get along for the sake of the grandchildren. They agreed that the children will continue to stay with the paternal grandmother and visit the maternal grandmother during the weekends and during school holidays.
The paternal grandmother acknowledged that Clara is doing well in school and she has no issues waking her up and getting her ready for school. Clara does not throw any tantrums even when she has to wake up early for school and she is happy to take the bus home as she has a classmate for company. The paternal grandmother agreed to respect Clara’s wishes to remain in her current school.
The parents were also told that the children are coping well but missed them. Their wish is for them to be responsible parents when they are released and not to go back in prison in the future. The parents are also happy that both grandmothers have resolved their misunderstanding and are able work out on the arrangement of visits by the children.
Mother gave her consent at the mediation session for paternal grandmother to be the legal guardian until Father is released. The children are to remain in the schools that they are currently studying in.
FACT SHEET #2 Parenting Coordination - Scheme Design and Pilot Project
“At one time, it was thought that divorce was a transition that children could easily recover from. Current research suggests that children require more time than was initially thought to be the case to regain their emotional equilibrium after divorce; indeed it could take up to five years4 . Where there is on-going conflict between parents around the court access and care arrangements, it is even harder for children.”
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
- “At one time, it was thought that divorce was a transition that children could easily recover from. Current research suggests that children require more time than was initially thought to be the case to regain their emotional equilibrium after divorce; indeed it could take up to five years⁴ . Where there is on-going conflict between parents around the court access and care arrangements, it is even harder for children.” Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
- Parenting Coordination is a child-focused post-divorce or post-separation conflict resolution process designed for parties undergoing divorce or separation, where their relationship is marked by intense high-conflict, and there are continuing concerns about the adjustment of the children and the parents to the divorce or separation. The process had its roots in the United States, where it has proven itself useful and beneficial for parents. Other countries like Hong Kong have piloted the process as well.
- A Parenting Coordinator’s (PC) job is to assist parents in facilitating access arrangements provided in a court order. The Family Justice Courts will be working with the relevant ministries on designing a PC scheme, including determining the scope and extent of the PC’s role in this process.
- The project will have two phases.
Phase 1: PC-Lawyers
- FJC will work with relevant Ministries, agencies, lawyers and the Law Society to look into the design of the scheme and possible legislative enactments and/or amendments. The intention is for the Court to appoint a PC if a case is appropriate for and would benefit from such an appointment.
- FJC have also engaged with the Law Society and its Family Law Practice Committee (FLPC) to establish a panel of family lawyers who can serve as PCs and who will provide such services privately.
- A group of 24 lawyers have undergone basic PC training in February 2016. This group will be assisting the FJC design a PC scheme that is suited for Singapore, and also assist in the pilot.
- The scheme design and pilot phase will kick off sometime in the second half of this year.
- Phase 2: PC-Social Science/Mental Health Professionals
- FJC will liaise with the relevant organizations to engage social science and mental health professionals to be trained and deployed as PCs.
FACT SHEET #3 Enforcement of Maintenance
- There are generally two types of maintenance defaulters, those who genuinely cannot pay due to their particular difficult financial constraints and those who deliberately choose not to meet their obligations.
- Under the existing frame work, a defaulter could be subjected to the following orders by the Court in the event of an application for enforcement of maintenance:
- an Order for Attachment of Earnings where the defaulter’s employer is required to pay his/her salary or part thereof to pay the maintenance due
- a Garnishee Order directing any party to which the defaulter has moneys due or accruing to him/her to pay the said sums or part thereof to discharge the maintenance due instead
- a Financial Counseling Order referring the defaulter for counseling with regard to the defaulter’s management of his finances by agencies appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF)
- Community Service Orders requiring the defaulter to perform a certain number of hours of community service under the supervision of the MSF or the appointed agency
- an Order for the defaulter to provide a Banker’s Guarantee as security for payment of the maintenance due
- an Order for imprisonment in the event of failure to pay any arrears of maintenance
- To strengthen the maintenance enforcement regime the Family Justice Courts (FJC) is working with MSF in introducing Maintenance Record Officers (MROs).
- It is envisaged that the role of MRO to be as follows:
- to obtain information on parties’ financial circumstances
- to assist the Courts in a fact-finding process to ascertain the respondent’s ability to pay the maintenance ordered
- to participate in Court proceedings and to tender information obtained as evidence if directed by the Court
- to facilitate the provision of assistance to needy parties and to act as liaison between FJC and Community Justice Centre and MSF in this regard
FACT SHEET #4 International Advisory Council (IAC)
- The quest to improve and enhance the administration of family justice is an on-going one. There is a need to anticipate and be prepared for new challenges in the changing context and dynamics of modern families. Towards this end, the FJC is establishing an International Advisory Council (“IAC”) comprising of renowned family law experts.
- The IAC’s role will be to discuss and share perspectives on the latest developments in family law and to generate ideas and innovations that could be taken in order to situate FJC at the forefront of family court practice.
- The appointment of the IAC members commences from 1 April 2016. The IAC is chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and the members are as follows:
- Judicial Commissioner Valerie Thean, Presiding Judge for the Family Justice Courts (Vice-Chair)
- Chief Justice Diana Bryant, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia;
- Justice Jacques Chamberland, Judge of the Court of Appeal, Quebec, Canada;
- Professor Emeritus Dr. Dagmar Coester-Waltjen, University of Göttingen, Germany.
- Justice Michael Hartmann, Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal, Hong Kong.
- Sir Mathew Thorpe, former Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales.
- Professor Linda Silberman, New York University, USA.
- Dr. Robert Emery, University of Virginia, USA.
The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO Family Court of Australia
- Members from different jurisdictions were chosen based on their knowledge, experience and expertise in the field of family justice. Apart from Judges and former judges, the members include an academic and a social science expert.
- Their CVs are attached:
Diana Bryant is the Chief Justice to the Family Court of Australia. Her recent achievements include overseeing the conclusion of the Children’s Cases Program, a pilot program for a less adversarial means of hearing parenting cases, as well as implementing a Docket system throughout the Court. She is one of Australia’s two judges designated to the International Hague Network of Judges and has authored several publications on child-centred practises, among others.
Family law, as the international community might understand it is about laws that respective states put in place to deal with the consequences of the breakdown of relationships.
Family justice as a term is how courts go about the application of those laws in the most appropriate way.
There is of course an inevitable intersection between family law in the legislative sense and family justice as applied by courts and both go hand in hand.
There is also a need to acknowledge that the application of family justice will and should differentiate itself in many respects from the general justice system both civil and criminal, but particularly civil. That is because the family justice system is largely concerned with making orders in relation to children who are the product of marriages or relationships which have come to an end.
Unlike other civil litigation the family justice system operates in a milieu in which rights of the parties are subordinate to the best interests of the children concerned.
All systems of justice seek to operate as fairly and efficiently as they can and to learn from other jurisdictions. In family law and family justice however there is an added imperative to do so.
The subordination of the rights of the parties to the best interests of the child is one of those factors, delay is another. No courts like to have delays in having matters heard but delay in family law proceedings has a much more significant effect than in other civil law processes. The lives of the parties are put on hold, but they are not static. Changes and vicissitudes affect parents and children and often need attention, sometimes by courts in the period leading up to their final hearing.
These interim applications put even more pressure on the court systems, and the passage of time which passes before the hearing can constitute a significant part of the life of a young child and have adverse consequences upon their present and future relationships with one or both of their parents.
Hence courts that exercise family law jurisdiction have an added responsibility to ensure that cases are heard in a timely way and that perspectives, developments and innovations from other jurisdictions are identified, and if appropriate applied.
Traditional court processes, especially in common law countries, do not always lend themselves well to parenting proceedings, and processes from other countries and other systems of law can be applied. No system or good idea should be discarded or ignored simply because it emanates from a system of law different to our own.
Singapore has embraced this ideal and established the International Advisory Council on Family Justice bringing together experts and leading thinkers throughout the work in the field of family justice to discuss and share perspectives on the latest developments and to generate ideas and innovations. This constitutes best practice and situates the Family Justice Court in Singapore at the forefront of family court practice.
The work of the International Advisory Council (IAC) will undoubtedly benefit Singapore but the knowledge and experience gained will also be disseminated throughout the international family justice community.
The Honourable Justice Jacques Chamberland Court of Appeal, Quebec
Justice Jacques Chamberland was appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1993. He regularly takes part in the work of The Hague Conference on Private International Law, particularly with regard to the civil aspects of international child abduction. He is also a special advisor to the chair of the Judicial Committee on International Child Protection (a committee of the Canadian Judicial Council).
I feel honoured and privileged to be part of the IAC. I look forward to working with my colleagues and providing the Family Justice Courts of Singapore, from my Canadian perspective, with the best advice possible.
Professor Emeritus Dr. Dagmar Coester-Waltjen, LL.M. (Univ. of Michigan) University of Göttingen, Germany
Dagmar Coester-Waltjen is a Professor at the University of Göttingen with over 30 years of faculty experience. She achieved the status of Habilitation at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich "Internationales Beweisrecht" (conflict of laws on evidence) in 1983 and is a member of the Academia Europaea (London) and of the Academy of Comparative Law (Paris). Her field of expertise is family law, civil procedure and conflict of laws.
I am looking forward very much to participating in the International Advisory Council. I am happy to learn more about the Singapore legal system and other jurisdictions and I want to share my thoughts and knowledge on German and European law with other colleagues. In a globalized world we need to communicate with each other, understand the differences and similarities of our approaches, exchange our ideas and strive together for better solutions on the national as well as on the international scene.
The Honourable Justice Michael John Hartmann Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal, Hong Kong
Over his legal career, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann has had broad experience in international matters. Arriving in Hong Kong (from Zimbabwe) in 1983, he headed the international team in the criminal division of the Attorney General's Chambers, assisting in negotiating new extradition treaties to comply with Hong Kong's 1997 change of sovereignty. He was also one of the team who ensured that the Hague Convention on the Civil Abduction of Children was introduced into Hong Kong law in time for the change of sovereignty. As a High Court judge, Justice of Appeal and finally as a Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal, Mr Justice Hartmann has written a number of judgments on difficult areas of international family law, including such issues as relocation, and has chaired a number of judicial committees seeking to improve and rationalise family law procedures. For the past four years, since his retirement as a full-time member of the Hong Kong judiciary, he has specialised in family mediation.
Singapore is the ultimate 'global' city and has proved itself to be so in a number of areas of law, arbitration being one shining example. That is why, in seeking the most efficient and fair judicial proceedings in family matters, I believe that policy makers will benefit from doing so in the light of international advances, benefitting from the experience - good and bad - of other comparable jurisdictions.
The Right Honourable Sir Mathew Thorpe Former Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales
Sir Mathew Thorpe is an Associate Member of 1 Hare Court, from which (in its previous form) he practised as Mathew Thorpe QC before his appointment to the Family Division in 1988. Sir Mathew was Head of Chambers at Mitre Court between 1986 and 1988. His distinguished judicial career is well-known, and he retired from the Court of Appeal in the summer of 2013. From 1995 to his retirement he was Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales.
I am excited to join the International Advisory Council. It is a brilliant idea and expressive of Singapore's commitment to ensure its Family Court is a world leader. I look forward to working with the Chief Justice and Presiding Judge Thean.
Professor Linda Silberman Professor of Law, New York University
Professor Linda Silberman is the Martin Lipton Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law and Co-director of the Center on Transnational Litigation, Arbitration, and Commercial Law. She has been a member of numerous U.S. State Department delegations to the Hague Conference on Private International Law with respect to both the Hague Abduction Convention and the 1996 Protection of Children Convention. She is the author of numerous articles on those Conventions, and delivered Hague Academy lectures entitled “Cooperative Efforts in Private International Law on Behalf of Children: The Hague Children’s Conventions”. She is also known for her work on alternative dispute resolution in the family law area.
I am honored to join the International Advisory Council to the Singapore Family Justice Courts. Singapore is taking the lead in recognizing the expansion of cross-border disputes in the family law area as well as seeking international and domestic solutions to these issues. The creation of a group of experts to exchange views about how family law courts in different countries address important issues of family law – both domestic and international – will benefit not only Singapore but also family court systems across the globe.
Dr. Robert Emery Professor of Psychology and Director of Centre for Children, Families and the Law at the University of Virginia
Robert Emery, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia. He has authored over 150 scientific publications, and several books including Marriage, Divorce, and Children's Adjustment; Renegotiating Family Relationships: Divorce, Child Custody, and Mediation; and his guides for parents, The Truth about Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive and the forthcoming, Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime.
I am honoured by my appointment to the IAC.
Families and family life are changing across the world. Family change began earlier in the United States than in many countries. I hope I can contribute based on successes and mistakes in American family policy and family law practice. I also look forward to learning more about the unique experiences and challenges in family law in Singapore.
FACT SHEET #5 International Family Law Conference (IFLC)
International Family Law Conference 2016:
Theme: The Future of Family Justice – International and Multi-Disciplinary Pathways
Date: 29 to 30 September 2016
Venue: Supreme Court Auditorium, Singapore
DRAFT PROGRAMME OVERVIEW
The theme of the conference is, The Future of Family Justice – International and Multi-Disciplinary Pathways. In the face of growing diversity of family forms and structures and the need to respond to various needs of changing families and the challenges they face, this conference will enable legal and social science experts in various jurisdictions and fields to share their experiences, highlight the challenges they face, and to exchange ideas.
|Day 1 -- 29 September 2016 (Thursday)
The Honourable Judicial Commissioner Valerie Thean, Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts, Singapore
The Future of Family Justice: International and Multi-Disciplinary Pathways
The Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Supreme Court, Singapore
The International Family Law Landscape and Challenges for the Future
The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO, Family Court of Australia
|Plenary Session 1
Family Justice Systems Around the World and the Challenges
A family law system is shaped by the social, religious and cultural considerations unique to the society it serves. This session will provide an overview of the various family justice systems from differing legal traditions in the world, the trends in family law, and the respective structures to resolve family disputes in each jurisdiction. It will also highlight how each system has attempted to address the concerns and pressures created by the changes in demographics and society on their family justice system. A panel of distinguished speakers including Judges from various countries will share their perspectives.
|Plenary Session 2
International Frameworks Relating to Separating Couples
International marriages are on the rise as more individuals are moving overseas to work, live, get married and raise families. When the marriage unravels, it is no longer unusual that parties of different nationalities, cultures and legal traditions have to conduct separation or divorce proceedings in a jurisdiction foreign to one or both parties. This session delves into the challenging issues that arise in such cross-border disputes, including jurisdiction, conflict of laws issues, forum shopping, access, and difficult decisions on child relocation or abduction. Experts in this area will share their perspectives on these issues and exchange ideas on the various approaches that differing jurisdictions have taken to or can take to address them.
|Plenary Session 3:
International Mediation in Cross-Border Family Disputes
Following the discussion from Plenary Session 2, would international mediation in relation to cross-border family disputes be one of the preferred approaches to deal with this highly emotional and difficult matter? What are the challenges? Are the challenges surmountable? What are the ways to enable mediation to take place at the earliest possible juncture? The esteemed panellists will share their views as to whether conciliation between warring parents is possible.
| End of Day 1
|Day 2 -- 30 September 2016 (Friday)
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development
|Plenary Session 4:
The Role of Social Science and Family Law
The challenges faced by rapidly changing family structures demand that the law and social science work together to provide holistic solutions for complex dynamic human relationships. The use of social science research in the development of family law has been significant and recognised. Experts from the social science and legal fields will share on the influence of social science research and appropriate use of extrinsic materials in family law jurisprudence, its importance in child issues, the role of social science in the evolving nature of family law practice, and how the partnership will likely evolve in the future.
|Concurrent Session 5A
Family Violence and Child Abuse
Family violence in high conflict divorces and allegations of child abuse, neglect or abandonment often add to the complexity and delicateness of family disputes. Some of these cases might result in one parent fleeing to another country with the child or children. This session will discuss their implications, the challenges a court faces in handling multiple issues for victims, perpetrators and families in domestic violence cases and child abuse, and possible approaches that can be taken to address those issues.
Concurrent Session 5B
Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to Family Mediation
Is the traditional model of mediation for civil cases applicable to family mediation? Should the approach for family mediation be different? Panellists will share their thoughts and experiences in family mediation. Should the child be involved in the custody dispute between the parents? Professionals are divided. Panellists will share their perspectives. Participants will be invited to share their experiences, views and concerns about including children in dispute resolution.
|Plenary Session 6
The Future of Family Justice: The Evolving Role of Family Practice and Ethics
As family justice systems change to adapt to the needs and demands of changing families, it is inevitable that the practice of family law must evolve with these changes. This session will address the changing scope of family law practice and how family lawyers are adapting their practices to meet the challenges that arise, with a focus on ethical issues specific to family practice such as managing vulnerable clients and dealing with emotional conflicts.
Family Justice in a World Without Borders
The Honourable Judicial Commissioner Valerie Thean, Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts, Singapore
Summary of Other Salient Points in Chief Justice’s Keynote Address
- Apart from announcing the new initiatives to be undertaken by the FJC in addressing the current realities facing families and youth in crisis in Singapore and around the world, the Chief Justice also highlighted, in his Keynote Address, the development of family jurisprudence and efforts at law reform aimed at enhancing access to justice and our overall family justice framework.
- Development of family jurisprudence
- The welfare of the child is paramount
The Court of Appeal reiterated the view that the welfare of the child is of paramount consideration and will override any other consideration in the case of BNS v BNT  3 SLR 973 last year. The court described this as the “golden thread” that runs through all proceedings affecting the interests of children. In that case, the Court of Appeal declined the mother’s application for leave to relocate to Canada with her two children. In coming to this decision, the court had regard to the importance of maintaining the children’s close links with their father in order to ensure their continued welfare.
- Recognising the Special Needs of Family Justice – tailoring processes and jurisprudence
A family judge’s role to look to the justice and equity of each case allows for a greater discretion than in many other types of cases. Judges seek solutions that are reasonably predictable, workable and even creative. In ANJ v ANK  4 SLR 1043, the Court of Appeal introduced a structured approach to deal with the differing financial and non-financial contributions that each party puts into a relationship when dividing the assets owned by parties. The framework laid down is workable and can be applied by the parties themselves to reasonably anticipate the range of possible outcomes.
In the area of procedural justice and effective case management, Rule 22 in the new Family Justice Rules which came into effect on 1 January 2015, sets out the “judge-led process” used in family cases giving wide-ranging discretion to the family judge on procedural matters in each case.
In JBB v JBA  SGHCF 6, the High Court pointed out the need to have regard to the special features presented by family cases when determining the question of costs. Courts should not focus only on who had “won” the case like in other civil cases where costs are usually awarded to the “winner”. Instead, the court should consider the conduct of the parties and whether such an order would further increase the hostility between the parties and affect their ability to co-parent effectively.
The continuing parent-child relationship was also considered in TCT v TCU  SGHCF 3, where it was held that a summons for interim maintenance ought not to be filed in the course of a divorce where there has been no failure to maintain one’s spouse or child reasonably.
- Domestic Disputes but International Context
- In TGT v TGU  SGHCF 10, the High Court ordered a stay of a mother’s child maintenance application in favour of a more appropriate forum to hear the dispute notwithstanding that the laws in the other country were detrimental to her claim.
- In Harjit Kaur d/o Kulwant Singh v Saroop Singh a/l Amar Singh  SGHCF 5, the High Court published, for the first time, grounds of decision on the application of Chapter 4A of Part X of the Women’s Charter which allow litigants who have obtained their divorce in a foreign country to seek financial relief here.
- Law Reform
- The Family Law Review Working Group, chaired by the Presiding Judge of the FJC, Judicial Commissioner Valerie Thean and comprising academics, agency officials and practitioners, has concluded its report on the Guardianship of Infants Act. The group has made recommendations that seek to enhance the law in relation to the welfare and care of children, and to rationalize the legal framework applicable to parenting on the one hand and guardianship on the other.
- Working with FJC’s partners to strengthen the overall family justice framework –
The Women’s Charter has been amended this year to make mandatory a pre-writ parenting programme.
The Trustees Act will be amended so that Family Courts may hear applications where the trust is an executorship or administratorship.
The Vulnerable Adults Act, intended to protect vulnerable adults from harm arising from abuse, neglect or self-neglect, is scheduled be introduced in Parliament later this year.