PKWA LAW Family Lawyer Dorothy Tan quoted in Straits Times article “Measures to stave off ugly divorce battles long overdue”
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Measures to stave off ugly divorce battles long overdue
Source: Straits Times Article Date: 20 Sep 2019 Author: Theresa Tan
Bold effort to get couples to perhaps think twice about slugging it out in court, and think instead of the impact their behaviour could have on their children.
In law as in life, the sad and inconvenient truth is that often, the one with the most money and the will to fight wins.
And family lawyers like Ms Dorothy Tan of PKWA Law Practice see it all the time.
For example, some people file a multitude of court applications, to various ends, to “out-litigate” their former spouse, she said.
“This is so that the other party is drowned out by the legal fees and the time spent on the matter. Sometimes, they do this for revenge,” she said. “Their hope is that you get so tired you give up fighting. It is a battle of resources.”
Other family lawyers say it is common for divorcing couples to file multiple court applications to get what they want – often driven by the hurt they suffered in the marriage.
Lawyer Rajan Chettiar of the firm Rajan Chettiar has handled a case where the couple filed 30 court applications in three years.
He said: “This endless litigation clogs up the court system and it is not in the best interest of the child.”
But such ugly – not to mention unfair – battles may soon come to an end if a plan to give family law judges more power to put a stop to such unnecessary applications is implemented.
Yesterday, the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System announced a host of recommendations to reduce the acrimony in the divorce process and improve court procedures in the hope of limiting the damage to relationships.
And what they are proposing is a bold effort to get couples to perhaps think twice about slugging it out in court, and think instead of the impact their behaviour could have on their children.
The committee plans to empower judges to make substantive orders even if neither party makes the application, for example, to vary the terms of access.
This would be subject to the usual processes to ensure the party affected has a chance to be heard.
The new move could make a critical difference if the couple are fighting bitterly, say, over child access, and the judge, instead of waiting for them to resolve their differences, moves to decide what is best for the child.
Ms Tan called the proposal a game changer.
Concerning what is widely seen as an intractable problem, the committee is also addressing the bugbear of many divorced parents – being denied access to their child.
It did not state the extent of non-compliance, calling the number of cases “relatively small”, but noted that the impact on the individuals involved is considerable.
In its report, it said: “Disproportionate judicial resources are spent adjudicating these applications. Breaches of court orders damage public confidence in the family justice system and can negatively affect the child’s relationship with the access parent (parent whom he does not live with).”
Relationships can be severed, lawyers say, over a long period of not seeing one’s child.
Currently, there are sanctions to deal with breaches of access orders, but they are not easy to obtain and can be draconian, even to the extent of jailing the recalcitrant parent.
The committee is proposing more tools, such as getting a parent to compensate the other in terms of make-up access time or to put up a performance bond. If the parent defaults on providing access, the bond may be forfeited or a fine can be imposed.
Ms Tan added: “I think these measures are long overdue.”
Hopefully, these proposals, when implemented, will go a long way towards taking the sting out of the divorce process and ensuring that while the marriage has ended, the relationship – albeit in a different form – remains.
And even more importantly, that the child does not lose one parent after the marriage has ended.
Hopefully, these proposals, when implemented, will go a long way towards taking the sting out of the divorce process and ensuring that while the marriage has ended, the relationship – albeit in a different form – remains. And even more importantly, that the child does not lose one parent after the marriage has ended.