“There is a growing trend today where many fathers try very hard to obtain shared care and control of their children, which is the best alternative in most divorce cases.”
Battling for child custody can be an uphill challenge for many fathers who want to spend more time with their children. Rajan Chettiar explains this obstacle and offers practical advice for fathers experiencing custody troubles.
Q: Can I fight for custody if I’m a hands-on father who takes care of the children while my wife is often out with her friends and returns late at night?
Both parents will receive joint custody which enables you to make major decisions pertaining to your children’s live. What you are looking for is known as care and control. Singapore’s laws assign care and control to the mothers, and it is not an easy task for fathers to obtain full care and control. However, you can consider pursuing shared care and control, where the children will share time with both parents equally. To succeed in obtaining shared and control, you must have been their primary care giver before filing for custody.
If you aren’t already their primary caregiver, start by making changes to your working hours or work from home for some time before asking the Family Justice Courts to grant you shared care and control. It’s important to note that shared care and control is usually not given to children of schoolgoing age as it is difficult for them to shuttle between two homes. Some fathers ask the Court to label their time with their children as “shared care and control” and not “access,” which is, for many fathers, the best alternative to full care and control.
Q: Shouldn’t I get care and control if my wife is adulterous, neglects the children and is suspected of having mental health issues?
Complaints about spouses are often a challenge as both parties often have their own evidence and it can be hard to prove. In cases like this, the Court is likely to order a custody evaluation report by the Family Court Counsellor to assist in its decision-making process. Upon interviewing members of your family separately, the counsellor will then offer his recommendations to the Court. This confidential report serves as a guide for the court to determine a decision.
Q: So, it is not possible for fathers to obtain care and control of the children?
Unfortunately, unless the mother agrees to it or the children are at an age where they can express clearly to the Court that they wish to stay with their father, it is not possible for fathers to gain care and control.
Q: I suspect my ex-wife is depriving me of child access. What can I do to solve this?
Sadly, the law does not have good solutions for child access problems. The usual resolution is for the Court to grant an order for the picking and sending of the children to be done at the Family Services Centre. In very difficult cases, the Court will order supervised access by a Centre counsellor, who will then give the Court reports of the supervised access. The Court will then conduct regular access reviews with the parents and the children. Alternatively, you can try proposing counselling or mediation to your ex-wife as a means of resolution.
Q: Do I still need to pay maintenance since I do not get access to my children?
While this makes sense from a non-legal angle, maintenance and access are not related to each other under the law. You will still need to pay maintenance whether you are able to see your children or not.
Rajan Chettiar is a professional lawyer trained in the field of family and commercial mediation. He is also a trained collaborative lawyer and is qualified to oversee matters such as couples looking to resolve marital, child, financial and property issues before filing for divorce, or individuals seeking protection against family violence. A volunteer court mediator, Rajan offers family and commercial mediation services, including settling employment and commercial disputes to avoid litigation. Providing legal solutions for all your personal and corporate problems, he invites you to email your queries or comments to him on a no-obligation basis.