Divorce cases involving a child will lead to decisions on who wins custody of the child, who is given care and control, as well as the access order granted.
According to the Women’s Charter, a “child” is defined as a child of the marriage who is below 21 years of age. This definition is also the main statute governing child custody in Singapore under the Guardianship of Infants Act and the Administration of Muslim Law Act. Therefore, this law applies to every person in Singapore regardless of race or religion.
What is The Difference?
Child custody refers to the authority given to the custodial parent, or parents, to make major decisions for the child such as choice of school, religion and health-related matters.
Care and control is only given to one parent. This parent will be the child’s primary caregiver and will be involved in the child’s daily life while the other parent will be granted reasonable access to visit the child for a certain period. This order is necessary when the parents are separated and the court will require convincing evidence to deny this access to the other parent.
If the father had been the primary caregiver before the divorce, the court may grant shared care and control where time spent with the children will be split amongst both parents equally but this is subject to several factors including feasibility and the child’s welfare. Above all, the welfare of the child is paramount.
Care and control orders can also include a ‘penal notice’ where there are specific terms and responsibilities that the parent living with the child will need to abide by such as specific times to allow access to the other parent. If those terms are not complied with, the aggrieved parent may take the matter to court to seek recourse.
Child Custody Orders
There are about 4 types of child custody orders that are granted in Singapore courts:
- Sole custody order: only one parent is granted custody of the child. Usually granted in cases where the couple’s relationship has broken down irretrievably, or one party concedes custody.
- Joint custody order: both parents share equal custody rights over the child. This is also one of the more common custody orders granted in Singapore courts where both parents are expected to communicate with each other and reach a consensus when making decisions for the child.
- Hybrid order: one parent will be granted custody over the child but will still be required to consult the other parent on matters relating to the child’s welfare.
- Split custody order: custody of one or more siblings split between both parents. This is not very common as the court will usually encourage siblings to stay together.
When a child is under custody or care and control order, nobody other than the custodial parent can take the child out of the country for a period of more than one month. The non-custodial parent can only be allowed to bring the child overseas with the consent of the custodial parent or the court.
The non-custodial parent, usually the father, will be granted unsupervised access to the child. The access orders are meant to be fair and reasonable to serve the welfare and best interests of the child and will be determined by the court. Access periods can also be specifically on weekdays, weekends, school or public holidays.
If there is a reason to believe that the child may face potential physical or emotional abuse, or if there is a need to assess the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the child, then a Supervised order will be granted where the session will be supervised by a third party.
The court may order for Access Evaluation Reports if necessary if there is dispute between both parents regarding access times.
There have been instances where parents were denied access to the child and if you are currently in this situation, you should speak to a divorce lawyer for help.
Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Practice has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from traffic offences, family disputes to high-profile criminal cases. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.