Divorces in Singapore becoming less costly: Ministry of Law
Law Minister says reforms and initiatives introduced to family justice system since 2014 have helped improve situation
Divorces in Singapore are becoming increasingly less costly, less time-consuming and less prone to acrimonious disputes, figures provided by the Ministry of Law show.
More than 55 per cent of divorce cases last year were finalised in months instead of stretching to over a year.
Also, nearly 90 per cent of divorce cases referred to mediation at the Family Justice Courts were partly or fully settled.
These are an improvement over 2017, when the respective rates were 49 per cent and 85 per cent.
As a result, the cost of divorce is reduced substantially, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam in an interview with The Straits Times. Likewise, the emotional turmoil the parties go through, he added.
Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Home Affairs Minister, attributes the successes to the reforms and initiatives introduced to the family justice system since 2014.
But more are to come.
The Government is "not at the finishing line" yet in refining the system, he said earlier last month.
With the Government accepting a fortnight later the recommendations of the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System, several reforms are in the offing.
These include judges being armed with powers to disallow applications made without merit, which will prevent family disputes from dragging on, as well as the setting up of an online platform that offers divorcing couples services such as online counselling.
Also, the courts will have the discretion to punish individuals who fail to comply with court orders that give an ex-spouse, without custody, access to the children.
The changes to come will build on existing initiatives and past reforms, such as those set out in the Family Justice Act, which came into effect in 2014.
A key reform under the Act is the judge-led approach to matrimonial proceedings. It means that judges specialising in family matters lead and control the pace and direction of divorce proceedings.
Another is giving the court the power to appoint representatives to act as the independent voices of children in divorce cases.
A significant initiative introduced in 2015 is the simplified divorce track, which enables couples agreeing on all divorce-related issues to shorten the duration of the process by up to 12 months, said lawyers interviewed.
The number of divorces in Singapore has been hovering between 5,000 and sub-6,000 in the past 10 years, official figures show. They exclude Muslim divorces, which come under syariah law.
A joint survey by the Family Justice Court and the Law Ministry shows 85 per cent of lawyers found the judge-led approach has made proceedings more efficient.
Mr Shanmugan, noting that many family law practitioners support the reforms, said: "In fact, the system is working because they came on board and worked with us on the forms and processes."
The reforms and initiatives allowed the family justice system to focus better on the three main issues in divorce: the children's welfare, division of matrimonial assets and maintenance, he added.