Written by Ms Beatrice Yeo Poh Tiang, Yeo & Associates LLC
Mandatory Counselling and Mediation at the Child Focus Resolution Centre (Family Justice Courts)
Recently the Singapore Courts passed legislation which required that couples who are going through divorce proceedings and have children under the age of 21 years old go for mandatory mediation and counselling sessions if the couple disputes with each other on the divorce and ancillary matters. That is to say, if the couple has one issue unresolved, they will be sent for the mandatory counselling and mediation session. This applies to cases filed from 1 October 2014.
More recently, i.e. 1 December 2016, divorcing couples who have children and disputes in one or more of the issues in the divorce and ancillary matters may have to attend at one of the four divorce specialists agencies set up by MSF for a one-time consultation before they will be allowed to file for divorce. It would be prudent for you to seek for legal consultation due to the many changes in the legal landscape in the family law arena.
For fully amicable and uncontested divorces, the parties need only attend a one-time seminar at the CFRC centre with other couples in a classroom-setting, lasting less than an hour.
Further, also the recent development in the procedures, if the divorcing couple who has net worth of more than S$5 million of matrimonial assets, they will be ordered to attend paid mediation sessions at the Singapore Mediation Centre. The costs for the SMC mediation is fixed at S$6,000.00 per day (not inclusive of other administration charges and GST).
For normal networth families, these mediation and counselling sessions are conducted by the Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC). The CFRC functions as part of the Family Court and is an initiative designed to contend with the rising divorce cases and the negative impact on the children involved in these cases.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development believes that such mediation and/or mandatory counselling sessions will help mitigate the often negative and hostile situation and focus the divorcing parents on the wellbeing and interests of their children post divorce. Issues discussed often revolves around decisions pertaining to the parenting and care arrangements of the children, and the end result of such mediation and/or counselling sessions is an agreed parental plan on the custody, care, control and access to the children. The aforesaid are done with the help of the judge mediators and certified court counsellors.
- The disputing divorcing couple is required to attend a Family Dispute Resolution Conference (FDR Conference) where all issues pertaining to the children in the marriage will be discussed. The objective of this conference is to ensure that all matters regarding the children are made clear and to agree upon a mutual date for mediation and/or mandatory counselling;
- Parties partaking in the conference are expected to come prepared to discuss all matters relevant to the children and financial arrangements;
- A Family Counsellor will be assigned to the divorcing couple and will facilitate an Intake and Assessment Session with the couple, after which the Family Counsellor will coordinate further counselling sessions with the couple, if need be;
- A Mediation date will also be set, if appropriate and is usually mediated with the couple by a Judge-Mediator and/or Family Counsellor
- Once consensus has been reached, a draft agreement will be given to both parties where they may choose to consult with their lawyers. Such draft agreement is usually drafted by the Counsellor in layman terms which often requires redrafting by the lawyers for use in the final court order. Such agreement will be recorded as a consent order by the Judge-Mediator upon granting of an interim judgement.
- However, in the event that discussions at the CFRC fail, the case will then proceed to court, where all information shared at the CFRC will be deemed confidential and cannot be used in court
An experienced divorce lawyer who is compassionate and knowledgeable will be able to hold your hands throughout the process.