Usually with disputes involving family members, the litigation process may not always resolve the situation. One way to help family members or related parties reach an amicable settlement in their dispute is usually through counselling.
However, did you know that in certain circumstances, the court may order that counselling be made compulsory as an attempt to resolve the case?
Mandatory Counselling Order
In cases where individuals and families are dealing with challenging legal issues, they may be issued with a court order that will require the parties to attend counselling sessions as a means to provide therapeutic support for their situation.
The counselling order is usually issued in cases involving:
- Divorce Proceedings for couples with at least one child below 21 years old
- Family violence – administered by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to keep family members safe by teaching them ways to resolve conflicts amicably, this order may also be issued with a Personal Protection Order (PPO).
- Young offender – the Youth Court may issue an order for both the youth and parents to attend counselling to resolve conflicts or for rehabilitation purposes
- Youth in need of protection or state intervention by MSF’s Child Protective Service (CPS) if it involves serious child protection concerns or cases of sexual abuse, severe injuries inflicted by a parent or signs of serious neglect. In such cases, the child may also be placed in foster care. For less serious cases, the child may be referred to a community-based Child Protection Specialist Centre (CSPC) for support and improvement on parenting, caregiving methods and counselling to strengthen the relationship between parent(s) and child.
- Pre-Abortion – under the Ministry of Health’s Guidelines on Termination of Pregnancy, all pregnant women are required to undergo mandatory pre-abortion counselling regardless her nationality to ensure she’s making an informed decision before proceeding with it.
Cases Involving Youths Below 16 Years Old
The Youth Courts may issue an order according to section 44 of the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) for youth arrest cases which can include community service or a stint at a juvenile rehabilitation centre.
The Youth Court may also add other orders for the youth and their parents or guardians too if necessary to resolve their relationship problems; assist in rehabilitating and managing the young offender and to enhance, promote and protect the physical, social and emotional wellbeing and safety of the young offender.
What To Do When You Are Issued With a Counselling Order?
For a divorce proceeding involving parents of at least one child below 21 years old, the parties will have to meet with a Court Family Specialist (CFS) from the Counselling and Psychological Services for Counselling and a court-appointed mediator to resolve any disagreements over the divorce and issues related to maintenance. These sessions only involve the couple without the lawyer’s presence.
For cases involving a Personal Protection Order (PPO) issued together with the Counselling Order like family violence, the court will inform you of the objectives of counselling and the consequences of not attending it with the date and time when you have to return for the Court Review.
A counsellor from a Social Service Agency will contact you to set your first counselling appointment. The counsellor may also conduct an interview to better understand your situation and depending on the progress made during these counselling sessions, may also decide how many sessions will be needed, if there will be a need for individual and/or group sessions with family members or with people who have similar experiences – all as long as the Counselling Order is still in effect.
Failure to abide by a counselling order is equivalent to being in contempt of court which is a punishable offence by law. In cases involving youth offenders, parents or guardians may also have to execute a bond to ensure the youth complies with the order or they will be liable for a fine of up to S$2,000.
If you need more information on this matter, it’s best to speak to a family lawyer who can guide you through the process.
Engaging a Lawyer
If you are currently in a situation that requires mediation or legal advice, it’s best to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.
Mr. Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years, from traffic offences and high-profile criminal cases to family and divorce matters. 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.