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Divorce cases handled faster last year

The Straits Times | K. C. Vijayan | Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

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Divorce cases are being handled faster, minimising the animosity between couples and the impact on children even as the family courts retool processes and schemes to create a more robust future-ready system.

The number of divorce cases settled within the year they were filed jumped to 74 per cent last year, up from 46 per cent in 2012, said Judicial Commissioner Valerie Thean, Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts (FJC).

Speaking at the FJC's Work Plan 2017 seminar yesterday, she noted the average time to handle each case has shortened from 68.6 days in 2012 to 53.1 last year.

The average time for final judgment to be granted was reduced from 155.2 days in 2012 to 114.6 last year.

The FJC is also looking at possible new laws with other agencies that would stop one parent from breaching court orders and taking children out of the country without consent of the other.

The judge attributed the better efficiency to new initiatives from the FJC, which was set up in October 2014, such as the Individual Docketing System.

It assigns selected categories of cases to designated judges so they can be more familiar with the issues, manage the case from start to end, and ensure better outcomes for parties who may have multiple applications and proceedings in court.

The judge said the system will be extended to all divorce cases later this year, along with other initiatives such as a new Family Protection Centre and an electronic case-management system for Personal Protection and Maintenance cases.

Judge Thean's speech stressed FJC's role in meeting the various needs of families embroiled in legal disputes. There can be complex issues in joint parenting.

In one case, a child was caught between his father, who had a hoarding illness, and his mother, who rightly felt it threatened her son's living environment.

Counselling taken through FJC's Child Inclusive Dispute Resolution (CIDR) scheme helped the child understand the divorce was not his fault, and his parents that their conflict caused the child great distress.

Last year in some 80 per cent of 62 cases when CIDR was applied, "some or all children's issues were settled".

vijayan@sph.com.sg

This article by The Straits Times was published in The New Paper, a free newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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