Family Justice Courts and Singapore Mediation Centre collaborate on early interventions to help couples resolve matters amicably
– The Family Justice Courts (the “FJC”) and the Singapore Mediation Centre (“SMC”) are collaborating to offer more options for parties to resolve their family disputes amicably and even before filing the divorce papers.
SMC now has a panel of CFP lawyers, and a Family Panel of mediators. The CFP lawyers have undergone a collaborative family law programme conducted by SMC and supported by the FJC, and the Family Panel of mediators have undergone a training accreditation programme designed by SMC and the FJC.
Besides using specially trained CFP lawyers, couples can also seek to settle the grounds of divorce and post-divorce issues such as division of assets, maintenance payments or custody of children through a private family mediation session conducted at SMC.
Taking place before any court action is initiated, CFP is an interest-based approach to negotiations dealing with matrimonial disputes. Parties involved in CFP enter into an agreement to attempt to settle matters through negotiations in good faith. The unique feature of CFP is that CFP lawyers involved in the negotiations cannot represent their clients in future litigation if a settlement is not reached.
In private mediation, a neutral person works with the parties to resolve their differences. The parties involved make their own decisions, usually with the help of their lawyers, and the cases are often resolved within a day. At SMC, three out of four cases are settled. “Engaging a mediator, a professional trained and assessed to have the requisite conflict resolution skills, helps resolve disputes efficiently; saving parties money, time and giving parties control over the outcome,” said Mr Loong Seng Onn, Executive Director of SMC.
Where parties are able to come to agreement on all issues between them on the divorce, whether through the CFP process, or through private family mediation, they can file their divorce papers together with a draft consent order in the FJC and their applications would be put through a simplified divorce process. This process is aimed at reducing the time needed and the stress of going through a divorce.
At the FJC’s work plan seminar this year, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon encouraged a wider use of CFP and private mediation, where parties can work together to resolve divorce issues early and in the process reduce acrimony.
“Family disputes often are multi-dimensional, carrying many issues beyond the legal aspects” said a spokesperson from the FJC. “When disputes reach a point where a divorce is being contemplated, it is prudent for the parties to consider all their options to resolve their differences. Early intervention with professional assistance may help to reduce acrimony and result in workable outcomes for all. This is especially important where there are children or extended family members who are affected by the dispute between the two parties.” FJC have, since 1 January 2015, put in place a simplified process for parties who have resolved all issues early.
CFP and private mediation are part of a larger framework of services and support programmes available for families facing divorce. These include the Primary Justice Project (“PJP”). Launched in May 2014 and administered by the Community Justice Centre, the PJP is a scheme in which litigants pay a fixed fee for basic legal services geared towards resolving all the divorce issues, before action in court is commenced.
See the info-graphic at Annex A and the enclosed factsheet at Annex B for more information on the various programmes.
Established in 2014, the Family Justice Courts (“FJC”) are a restructure of the Court system to better serve litigants by bringing together all family related work under a specialised body of courts. The FJC are comprised of the Family Division of the High Court, the Family Courts and the Youth Courts and is administered by the Presiding Judge of the FJC. The cases dealt with by the FJC include those relating to divorce and ancillary matters, family violence, maintenance, adoption and guardianship, youth matters, mental capacity and probate and succession. Its mission is to make justice accessible to families and youth through effective counselling, mediation and adjudication.
Established in 1997, the Singapore Mediation Centre (“SMC”) pioneered the use of mediation as the mainstream mechanism for dispute resolution, as well as training in negotiation and conflict management. Today, SMC offers a suite of alternative dispute resolution services which brings clarity and objectivity to complex situations. These services include mediation, neutral evaluation and collaborative family practice. Through their panel of professional mediators with legal and industry expertise, SMC is well-placed to manage difficult negotiations and unlock standstills by providing cost-effective and timely solutions. At SMC, the vision is to help all parties fully appreciate the value of mediation as a strategic risk-management tool that they can count on.
Family Justice Courts: