New Family Justice Rules to take effect in the first quarter of 2024
Amendments to the Family Justice Rules 2014 will include simplifying the rules and terms used, and streamlining the processes
At the Family Conference 2023 on 13 September, the Family Justice Courts (FJC) announced that it will be making amendments to the Family Justice Rules after a comprehensive review and redesign of the Family Justice Rules 2014. This is in line with the recommendations made in the Report of the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System and the Judiciary’s vision in enhancing access to justice.
2 The Family Justice Rules 2014 regulate and prescribe the procedure and the practice to be followed in all proceedings in the Family Justice Courts. The Family Justice Rules 2014 will be amended and the new Rules will come into force in the first quarter of 2024. The new Rules will comprise three volumes:
a. Family Justice (General) Rules;
b. Family Justice (Probate and Other Matters) Rules; and
c. Family Justice (Protection from Harassment) Rules.
Highlights of Selected Key Changes
Simplification and streamlining of the rules
3 The new Rules will be organised into Parts and are arranged according to the life cycle of a case. The General Rules comprise 28 Parts and the Probate Rules, 19 Parts.
4 The new Rules have also been simplified, with less than 800 provisions split across all three volumes – a significant reduction from the current Family Justice Rules 2014, which comprise more than 1,000 provisions.
5 In line with the Rules of Court 2021 (ROC 2021), the new Rules will simplify the terms used and generally adopt the nomenclature of the ROC 2021 so that the rules are more accessible to the public and easy to understand. Certain terms are also further simplified in the General Rules, for example, counterclaim is simplified to cross application. A summary of the simplified terms is shown in annex A.
Expansion of the simplified track for divorce and judicial separation proceedings
6 In the new Rules, the simplified track for divorce proceedings will be expanded to also cover proceedings for judicial separation, which is a court order where a married couple is legally separated but not divorced. Additionally, the simplified track will also be available so long as parties have reached an agreement on the grounds for divorce or judicial separation, even if they have not reached an agreement on the ancillary matters. This will allow parties to expedite and obtain their orders relating to dissolution of marriage on an uncontested basis, moving on to focus on the ancillary matters.
Replacing the fact and position sheet with the joint summary in ancillary matters proceedings
7 The new Rules will now require parties to file a Binding Summary setting out a summary of the parties’ respective positions. A party is bound by his or her position as set out in the party’s summary. The parties are required, in the Binding Summary, to refer to the relevant affidavit evidence, which supports their position on any given issue. Accordingly, the Court may treat those references as being conclusive of the best evidence that the parties rely on in support of their position.
Harmonising the number of affidavits to be filed
8 The new Rules will align the process for most applications. Regardless of whether an application is filed by way of an Originating Application or by way of a Summons, the applicant will file a single supporting affidavit and the respondent will file a single reply affidavit. After both parties have filed one affidavit each, the matter can then be fixed for hearing with no further affidavit to be filed without permission of the court.
9 On the amendments to the Family Justice Rules 2014, Justice Debbie Ong, Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts said: “The new Family Justice Rules demonstrate our commitment to Therapeutic Justice, which aims to enable healing and to help families find a way forward. The resolution of family disputes need not be adversarial and should be solutions focused, even when litigation is required. By making the changes reflected in the new Rules, we are harmonising the processes that would enable families to have improved access to Therapeutic Justice. We would like to extend our appreciation to the Family Law Practice Committee, Family Justice Rules Committee, Probate Practice Committee and the other stakeholders who actively participated in the consultation process leading to the development of the new Family Justice Rules.”
10 The draft new Rules are subject to change and approval by the Family Justice Rules Committee. The finalised version will be published in the Gazette before the new Rules come into force in the first quarter of 2024.
Annex A: Summary of key simplified terms
|Family Justice Rules 2014
|Defendant (no change)**
|Enforcement order for attachment of a debt
|Leave of Court
|Permission of court
|Memorandum of Appearance
|Notice to contest*
|Notice of intention to contest or not contest**
|Stay of Execution
|Stay of enforcement
|Order to attend Court or produce documents
|Taxation (of Costs)
|Assessment (of costs)
|Writ of Execution
|Writ of Summons
* Note: These terms are unique to the General Rules and differ from the ROC 2021.
** Note: These terms follow the ROC 2021.
Issued by: Singapore Courts