Justice Debbie Ong, Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts (“FJC”) today announced four initiatives that would enable and bolster the adoption of therapeutic justice (“TJ”) in family law.
Family Therapeutic Justice Certification Programme
2. Pursuant to the recommendations of the RERF committee, a voluntary family lawyers’ certification programme, titled “Family Therapeutic Justice Certification Programme”, will be rolled out in October 2021.
3. This professional development certification programme is a collaboration between the Family Justice Courts, the Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”) and the Law Society of Singapore. It is a programme that all family practitioners are encouraged to attend, as it has been conceived to give members of the family bar an appreciation of the spirit and ethos of Therapeutic Justice and an in-depth view of what it means, in practical terms, to be a Therapeutic Justice advocate.
4. Conducted by the SAL, the programme comprises a series of compulsory modules and elective modules and will consist of a blend of e-learning and face-to-face sessions. The first two runs of the programme are presently scheduled to take place from October to November 2021 and from February to March 2022, with about 30 to 40 participants in each run. Topics covered will include social science perspectives in family matters, pre-court interventions and mediation advocacy. Faculty and trainers include local and international experts on Therapeutic Justice, Judges from the Family Justice Courts, experienced family lawyers, mediators, psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and other leading social science experts.
5. The programme will continue to be refined through engagement with the Family Bar. “There is significant support from the Family Bar to work towards this vision of Therapeutic Justice together with the other stakeholders,” said Kee Lay Lian and Wong Kai Yun, Co-Chairpersons of the Law Society of Singapore’s Family Law Practice Committee. In the longer term, the education, professional training and continued development of family justice practitioners will be reviewed as the culture of TJ takes root in our family justice system.
Panel of Therapeutic Specialists (“POTS”)
6. The POTS initiative is part of FJC’s efforts to improve access to the spectrum of therapeutic services available to meet the diverse needs of families who are undergoing or concluding their legal proceedings in FJC. This is especially useful because families who are involved in litigation often have complex needs and issues underlying the legal disputes.
7. The role of the panel members in POTS is to provide paid specialised clinical and therapeutic interventions for individuals and families undergoing family proceedings. The panel will comprise qualified mental health and social science professionals from the private sector, and their services will be accessed through the directions of a Judge or under a voluntary referral process, according to the needs of the parties. Details on the support scheme, including the terms and the fee structure, will be developed by the Steering Committee headed by the Registrar of FJC and assisted by an honorary Therapeutic Advisory Council (“TAC”) made up of senior professionals in the respective fields on a volunteer basis.
8. A POTS pilot is targeted to be launched in 2022.
9. The Divorce eService facilitates the preparation and filing of divorce papers for divorces proceeding on the simplified track. Divorces proceeding on the simplified track are those where both spouses are not contesting the divorce and have reached an agreement on all ancillary matters prior to the filing of the case.
10. The Divorce eService reduces the pain of form filling for lawyers and litigants by populating the litigant’s personal particulars automatically from MyInfo. This in turn affords lawyers more time for their clients and minimises administrative errors that often arise when manually filling out their clients’ personal information. The Divorce eService will also guide unrepresented litigants with step-by-step assistance to complete applicable court forms and generate the necessary court documents that will allow them to commence divorce proceedings on the simplified track divorce applications.
11. The Divorce eService will be launched on 1 November 2021.
Family Orders Guide
12. The Family Orders Guide is designed to provide guidance and reference for drafting Court orders. It contains a comprehensive catalogue of divorce-related orders, with the intention of serving as a common point of reference for Judges, lawyers and self-represented litigants.
13. It is easy to use and it saves time for lawyers and unrepresented litigants who will not have to draft Court orders from scratch. It also ensures the clarity of text and minimises disputes which may later arise over the language used, thereby facilitating a lasting and sustainable outcome for litigating parties.
14. The Family Orders Guide, launched on 29 September 2021, is available for download on the FJC website.
15. In her speech at the Law Society’s Family Conference 2021, Justice Ong emphasised the importance of embracing TJ as a “lens of care” for the sake of the children who are not parties to divorce proceedings but who are much affected by their parents’ separation. TJ is also crucial for the parents themselves in helping them to begin the journey of healing and smoothly transit into their post-breakdown lives. Building a multi-disciplinary environment for dealing with family matters, equipping legal professionals to deliver TJ, and making the journey and court processes simple and navigable are key to ensuring the successful adoption of TJ in family law.
Family Justice Courts, Singapore
29 September 2021