Reducing pain of divorce

One day out of the blue in 2013, Lisa's husband of 17 years told her that their marriage was over and that he wanted a divorce. Despite their sons being just five and 13 then, he was adamant on ending their marriage.

The divorce process marked a yearlong period of pain and emotional trauma, said Lisa, a manager who did not want to reveal her real name.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon delivered the keynote address at the Family Justice Workplan seminar, where he highlighted new initiatives.

These include putting mediation and counselling at the forefront of court processes, simplifying court processes and applications, and making sure the needs of children are taken into account in divorce cases.

The Family Justice Courts (FJC) were launched last October.

They comprise the Family Division of the High Court, the Family Court and the Youth Court, which replaces the State Courts' Family and Juvenile Justice Division.

But for Lisa, 42, some of these measures could have been implemented when she was going through her divorce.

During the proceedings, her husband made several allegations, including one of her being unfaithful.

"I felt like I was maligned because these were untrue, and there was really no need for him to mention all that," she said.

Under the new Family Justice Rules which took effect this year, the judge can decide what arguments and documents are relevant to the case, and ask for only those.

Affidavits, or statements that each side makes before the court, are limited to two each.

This is aimed at shortening the process and also reducing the pain that comes with personal details being aired in court.

"I definitely wished the process could have been shortened because there was just so much waiting and the need to file various documents," Lisa said.

When her divorce was finalised last November, there came the tricky business of having to sell the house and split the takings.

Then there was the complex business of co-parenting, since Lisa and her exhusband had been awarded joint custody of the children.

She said she had also tried to go for a counselling session after the divorce, but was put off by having to travel from her Queenstown home to a counselling centre in the east.


As part of the new measures, the FJC will also be working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development on Specialist Divorce Agencies (SDA), which will be situated in the heartland, making it easier for people to seek help.

The SDAs will help manage issues related to divorce, such as counselling and mediation before the case goes to the courts, and even post-divorce, by helping former spouses co-parent.

Said Lisa: "I think the SDAs are a wonderful thing because the most difficult part of a divorce is not just going through it, but also moving on from it."


1. different tracks of divorce At an early stage in the divorce process, case conferences will be held to categorise cases into one of four tracks, which will help the courts decide how much resources to allocate to each case.

Simplified track

Where the divorce is uncontested, and all issues such as custody, care and control of the children, as well as maintenance, have been decided on. l cases involving young children Where there are issues like custody, care and control, as well as child access, mediation and counselling will be recommended and carried out by a judge mediator and a counsellor.

High conflict/complex track

Where there may be a high level of conflict, or complex issues of law involved.

International track

Where there is an international element in divorce cases, such as both parties being of different nationalities, or when there are cross-jurisdiction issues.

2. Help before and after divorce The Family Justice Courts is working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development on the new Specialist Divorce Agencies, which would help manage cases before and after divorce.

Some of the issues that it would help manage include child access after divorce and co-parenting.

This article was first published on February 5, 2015.
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