CHILD CUSTODY FOR FATHERS IN SINGAPORE: Does a Bias Exist Against Fathers?
CHILD CUSTODY FOR FATHERS IN SINGAPORE – A common misconception exists that, when care and control of the children is in dispute, the Courts are guaranteed to award it to the mother. This belief is so strong that there exist fathers’ rights groups in some western countries campaigning against this perceived injustice. While we do not have similar groups in Singapore, this misconception does exist and is bolstered by the fact that the statute largely governing divorce is titled the Women’s Charter.
It is admittedly true that mothers do tend to receive care and control of the children. However, there exists no principle in statute or case law that this is the starting point for the Courts. Under both the Women’s Charter and the Guardianship of Infants Act, the “first and paramount consideration” is the welfare of the child. This is also known as the “welfare principle” and it will supersede any other factor when the Court makes orders relating to the care of the child.
The logical question following is thus: “How will a judge decide what is in the best interests of the child?” This is particularly when the child has two parents who love them equally.
When applying the welfare principle, the Courts will look at a series of factors, two of which will be elaborated below:
Continuity of care arrangement
The Courts will try to preserve the child’s living arrangements, particularly if the child has been happy with where they have been living or if the child is of an age where changing their living situation can be too unsettling for them. To illustrate, the Courts may look at the location of the child’s school or if the child will be undertaking important examinations in the near future. The Courts will also look at which parent has been the primary caregiver to the child before divorce proceedings.
Which parent can offer better security and stability
While retaining the matrimonial home can be a factor in favour of a parent seeking care and control, the Courts will in general look at which parent is able to offer better security and stability. As such, if a party is the one moving out of the matrimonial home, it is advisable that they find a suitable and stable living arrangement both for themselves and the child.
It is important to bear in mind that the factors listed above are only two of a non-exhaustive list the Court will look at when applying the welfare principle. They are also not a full elaboration of what the Court will examine during proceedings. Each case is very much specific to its facts.
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CHILD CUSTODY FOR FATHERS IN SINGAPORE