Kids involved in intense custody battles to receive legal help

The Family Court has launched a new initiative to allow independent lawyers for children whose parents are going through particularly difficult divorces.

This move was implemented to prevent parents from using their own children as pawn when fighting over child support or the division on assets.

Called amicus curiae (Latin for 'friend of the court'), the scheme was announced by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong at the annual Subordinate Courts workplan seminar last Friday. Amicus curiae refers to an individual who volunteers information to a court in order to assist its decision.

With divorce rates on the rise internationally and in Singapore, it’s not uncommon to hear of couples going through lengthy court proceedings to divide martial assets and decide child custody. However, when children feel torn between their own desires and the desires of their warring parents, it’s best for them to have their own legal representation.

Necessary in highly contentious cases

Lawyer from Guna and Associates, Miss Lalita Seenivasam explains, “In some cases where custody of a child is hotly contested, a child’s wishes are not taken into consideration and as such, the child can feel like he or she has no voice in the matter. To prevent this from happening, children in such cases need to have their own legal representation to ensure that their personal views are heard by the court.”

“I feel that this is a great move by the Family Court as  the law  is ultimately concerned with the welfare of the child and this protects the child’s wishes,” she continues.

Miss Esther Yip, a 42 year-old divorcee and mother of two says, “It’s a step in the right direction, but at the end of the day, there are other circumstances to be considered, like the child’s age and maturity level. However, I trust that the court will take all these factors into consideration before deciding which parent gets custody,” she says.

Are children ready for legal representation?

Not all parents are backing up the new initiative, like Mrs Michelle Chandra. “As a mother of three, I feel that most parents have their children’s best interests at heart and it is not necessary for children to have their own legal representation. In fact, it may even cause further stress for the child instead of helping the situation,” she reasons.

Would you consider hiring a separate advocate for your child if you and your spouse were entering a messy divorce? What’s your say?

Useful links: Divorce and your kidsHandling marital problems

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