SINGAPORE – The Family Justice Courts (FJC) is planning to start a pilot programme where the same team of judges, mediators, counsellors and other professionals will work together with a couple from the start to the end of their divorce process .
Referring to the Multi-Disciplinary Team pilot programme expected to start in the third or fourth quarter this year, the FJC spokesman said: “The pilot seeks to reframe family litigation from being adversarial and rights-focused, to being problem-solving and solutions-focused.”
She explained that in divorce proceedings, the issues are less about the rights and wrongs, but more about having to address the consequences of family breakdown and helping families to move forward.
For a start in the pilot, the FJC will focus on couples embroiled in “high conflict” cases such as when there are complex child-related issues or multiple court proceedings.
The Multi-Disciplinary Team will pro-actively manage the case and bring in appropriate court processes and specialist services such as those found in the community as early as possible.
The spokesman said: “Pro-active management of the case will be done to reduce acrimony by ensuring that parties only file necessary applications.”
The pilot will last for about a year, after which it will be reviewed to see which aspects of the project can be applied more widely.
“Parties should be supported in their journey of letting go. Not letting go is a huge obstacle to moving on. Parties should be assisted with developing their skills to resolve their own disputes, to co-parent after divorce, to be familiar with how to access appropriate support services.”
PKWA Law Practice family lawyer Dorothy Tan said most cases now do not have a fixed team of judges and other professionals.
Having a fixed team means that the professionals have a deeper understanding of the family and issues involved and deeper collaboration to handle the case.
She said: “This is a more tailored approach to reduce the acrimony and to better deal with the issues at hand.”
The Multi-Disciplinary Team is part of the therapeutic justice focus which the FJC’s Presiding Judge Debbie Ong stressed in its Workplan 2020.
Therapeutic justice replaces the adversarial approach, with one that is problem-solving and families are supported holistically to help them cope with the fallout from the marital breakdown.
Justice Ong said: “It is known that a party facing divorce can be deeply affected by fear – fear of losing one’s children; fear of not being able to survive after the failed relationship whether emotionally or financially; fear, because one’s self-identity itself is threatened.
“Anxiety, fear and other emotions affect one’s capacity to make good, rational decisions.
At PKWA Law, our team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore family and divorce lawyers by respected legal publications such as Benchmark Litigation Asia Pacific, Straits Times, Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review and Doyle’s Guide.
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