WHAT CAN I DO IF MY EX SPOUSE STOPS ME FROM SEEING MY CHILD?

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WHAT CAN I DO IF MY EX SPOUSE STOPS ME FROM SEEING MY CHILD?

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Introduction

After a couple goes through a divorce, they will want to lead separate lives and not continue living in the same residence. But if there are children to the marriage, the court will have to decide which parent the child will live with.

Young children tend to lack the maturity to handle their parents’ divorce well and will require help to adjust to their new life circumstances. The Singapore courts will do their best to mitigate any negative impact on the child by ensuring that they will have a stable and structured environment following the divorce.

The courts will do so by deciding on several matters involving the children, including custody, care and control, and access.

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Distinguishing custody, care and control, and access

It is important that we distinguish custody from care and control, as confusing the two concepts is a common mistake in Singapore. Custody is the right of the parent to make major decisions for the child for matters such as religion, education, and medical treatments. Courts recognise the benefits of having both parents’ continued participation in raising their child and it is the norm for courts to grant joint custody to both parents.

On the other hand, care and control is typically granted to one parent and they will have the child living with them. They will be responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the child, such as what they eat or when they should go to bed. The parent that does not have care and control of the child will be granted reasonable access to the child. Access refers to the designated times that one can spend with their child. Access orders can specify how much time they get during the weekdays, weekends, and even school and public holidays.

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I’ve been stopped from seeing my child

If you have been divorced and your ex-spouse has been given care and control of your child, situations may where they choose to block your access to your child. They may be doing so out of spite and hoping to alienate you from your child. What are the remedies available to you to protect your access?

There are several measures you may want to consider.

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Mediation as the more peaceful approach

Firstly, you may wish to consider taking a soft approach and try to resolve the issues with your ex-spouse through mediation. This approach has the benefit of reducing conflict and tensions between parties as you try to talk things out in a peaceable manner. There are also lower time and monetary costs involved. If the mediation is successful and both parties can arrive at an agreement for access that both parties are comfortable with, this would be recorded as a mediation settlement agreement and would be binding on parties.

However, if the mediation is unsuccessful, or if your ex-spouse breaches even the new mediation agreement, then it may be necessary for you to take stronger action against your ex-spouse.

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Filing for contempt of court

You may do so by filing for a case of contempt of court against your ex-spouse for refusing you your access rights under the court order. For the application to be successful, you need to produce evidence that shows clearly that your ex-spouse has intentionally disobeyed the court order. For example, if your ex-spouse has legitimate reasons for why they couldn’t allow you access to your child for a certain period, such as illness or other emergencies, then their action would not amount to contempt of court.

If your application succeeds and the court finds that your ex-spouse is guilty of contempt of court for failing to obey the access order, they may be subject to a fine not exceeding $20,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months. Nonetheless, this is an outcome that no one would wish for, as it would only cause your relationship with your ex-spouse to further deteriorate, and may also add further stress to your child. Therefore, filing for contempt of court should be a measure of last resort, exercised only when all other avenues have been exhausted.

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Conclusion

After a divorce, you and your former partner will no longer be husband and wife, but you will always be father and mother to your child. Both scientific research and the law recognise that a child develops best in an environment where both parents are actively involved in their lives. That is why our legal system has measures in place to protect your access to your child.

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At PKWA Law, our team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore family lawyers by respected independent legal publications such as Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review, Global Law Experts and Doyle’s Guide to Singapore Family Lawyers. 

Contact us at tel 6854-5336 for a free first consultation.

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