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Role of the Family Justice Courts

The Family Justice Courts (FJC) are part of the court system in Singapore that upholds the law and ensures justice is accessible to all. It has judicial power to hear family-related cases that involve legal issues within the family, such as divorce, probate, maintenance and family violence, among other cases. The FJC also deals with the care and treatment of young persons.

The FJC operates based on the principles of therapeutic justice. This is a multi-disciplinary approach that applies insights from psychology and social science research for more holistic outcomes.

View the vision, mission and values of the FJC.

Type of courts in the Family Justice Courts

The FJC is made up of the following courts:

  • Family Courts.
  • Youth Courts.
  • Family Division of the High Court.

Jurisdiction: what the courts can hear

The courts within the FJC deal with the following types of cases:

Family Courts

Family-related cases including:

  • Divorce.
  • Probate and administration.
  • Maintenance
  • Protection against family violence.
  • Deputyship.
  • Adoption.
  • Protection for vulnerable adults.
  • Guardianship.
  • International child abduction.

Youth Courts

The following cases under the Children and Young Persons Act:

  • Family guidance.
  • Care and protection.
  • Youth arrest (criminal cases involving youth offenders).

Find out more about the Youth Courts' approach.

Family Division of the High Court

 

Cases that can be heard in the High Court (Family Division) include:

  • Family proceedings (such as for ancillary matters) involving assets of $5 million or more.
  • Probate matters where the value of the deceased's estate is more than $5 million or if the case involves resealing of a foreign grant.
  • Appeals against decisions of the Family Courts or Youth Courts.
  • Cases involving important questions of law or test cases.
  • Cases that the High Court or a Family Court determines should be heard in the High Court (Family Division) for any other sufficient reason.

The Youth Courts' approach

The philosophy of the Youth Courts is that of restorative justice. The Youth Courts prioritise the welfare and best interests of youths. This takes the form of a multi-disciplinary approach that may involve court reviews to monitor the youth's progress.

Restorative justice in the Youth Courts recognises the potential for change and reform in young offenders and delinquent youths.

Restorative justice seeks to integrate the young offender or delinquent youth back into their families and the community. It also seeks to balance the need for effective deterrence with rehabilitation and restoration.

The Youth Courts place the welfare and best interests of youths as the first and paramount consideration. The emphasis is on identifying and preventing crime, delinquency and abuse through early intervention, assistance and care.

In suitable cases, the Youth Courts may order a youth to be removed from undesirable surroundings and make provision for their education and training. There is also protection for youths who face parental neglect.

Within the courts

Judges in the Youth Courts will discuss cases concerning children or young persons with panel advisers and court family specialists.

  • Panel advisers: Individuals and professionals in the community with vast experience working with youths, and are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). A panel adviser's role is to advise the judge on the appropriate orders to pass for the child or young person.
  • Court family specialists: These specialists from the Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provide expertise in psycho-legal and social science issues relevant to the cases discussed. They also facilitate family conferences when directed by the judge to address concerns relating to the child or young person and the family, as well as specific issues relevant to the rehabilitation and restoration of the youth to the community.

Beyond the courts

The Youth Courts collaborate closely with various agencies, stakeholders and professionals such as the MSF, Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), social workers, psychologist and counsellors.

The Youth Courts will also issue appropriate orders that will bring about a more sustained change for the betterment of families, including ordering relevant parties in the family of the affected child or youth to undergo mediation or counselling, or to participate in family support programmes by relevant organisations such as the MSF.

The court may order court reviews for youth arrest or family guidance cases where there is considerable uncertainty as to how the youth will respond to the court orders. For example, if the youth and their family are expected to undergo major transitions in the coming months, or if the youth had committed a serious offence but was granted probation or supervision to give the youth a chance to demonstrate positive change in behaviour.

Besides regular court reviews, the court may order youths in suitable cases to present their progress to the court. The youth plays a more active role and has to take full ownership for the review of their own behaviour. This is referred to as a progress presentation review.

Court reviews may also be ordered for selected child protection cases, to check one or more of the following:

  • If the child or young person involved is still in need of care and protection.
  • If the existing orders should continue, or be varied or extended.


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