1. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has released findings of its first-ever local study to better understand the long-term impact on children from divorced families. The Study on the Intergenerational Effects of Divorce on Children in Singapore looked at the economic and marriage outcomes of about 9,000 Singapore Citizens with divorced parents, at the point when these citizens turned 35 years old.1
2. Using aggregated data derived from multiple sources of administrative and survey records, the study found that children from divorced families faced long-term "divorce penalties" in adulthood compared to children from intact families, across a range of economic and marriage indicators. They
a) Were less likely to obtain a university degree;
b) Earned less;
c) Had lower CPF balances;
d) Were less likely to marry; and
e) Were themselves more likely to divorce among those who were married.
3. Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Masagos Zulkifli said, "Divorce is never an easy decision for anyone. Unfortunately, some marriages do end in divorce. With this landmark study, we now know that the effects of divorce on a child are not temporary, and impact the child’s future, his education and his family when he marries. This is why post-divorce, positive co-parenting is so important. At the same time, all of us can play our part. If we know someone whose marriage is suffering, do reach out and encourage him or her to seek help early. We may not only save that marriage, but also change the life of a child, for the better."
4. To enhance child outcomes and to support couples with marital strains or undergoing divorce, MSF is working with Social Service Agencies (SSAs)
a. MSF has appointed six Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs) to provide specialised support to divorcing and divorced families. The DSSAs provide a range of divorce support services such as the Mandatory Parenting Programme*, Parenting PACT, and Children-in-Between, which help parents to co-parent better, and for children to manage the psycho-educational aspects of their parents’ divorce.
*Mandatory Parenting Programme (MPP) has been renamed to Mandatory Co-Parenting Programme (CPP) from 15 January 2023
b. Muslim couples who plan to seek a divorce are required to first attend the mandatory Marriage Counselling Programme (MCP)2 which is run by the Syariah Court in partnership with community agencies. MCP aims to effect a reconciliation but if the marriage cannot be saved, the counsellors will facilitate an amicable divorce instead. For parents with dependent children, the counsellors will facilitate a post-divorce co-parenting plan. The MCP also provides an opportunity for couples to seek clarification on Muslim laws related to marriage or divorce from Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS)-certified religious leaders to further facilitate couples’ decisions on their marriage.
c. MSF will also be introducing a new online portal in late 2021 to provide support for couples with young children, who are contemplating divorce. This portal will help to provide relevant information that parents need to consider in the best interest of their children. Muslim couples will be able to access relevant pre-divorce content via the Syariah Court (SYC) website portal when ready.
d. Couples who would like to seek help for marriage, parenting and divorce issues can contact the CPH Online Counselling at www.cphonlinecounselling.sg. This is a two-year pilot programme conducted by the Community Psychology Hub (CPH) and supported by MSF. Launched in April 2020, it offers free online counselling to persons facing marital, divorce and parenting issues. Counselling is provided by professional counsellors through live chats or email, which offers anonymity and convenience to those needing counselling support. Couples who prefer face-to-face counselling may also approach counselling centres or Family Service Centres in the community for support.
5. MSF works closely with our community partners to strengthen marriage and support families at various life stages
a. Marriage preparation programmes help couples build stronger communication and conflict resolution skills, to build strong and lasting marriages. MSF offers a rebate of $140 for the completion of the Prevention and Relationship Education Programme (PREP) workshop, or $70 for other programmes conducted by approved Social Service Agencies.
b. Dedicated marriage preparation and enrichment programmes are available for minor/young marriages, remarriages and transnational marriages. These include support groups, counselling and referrals to help schemes and services.
c. MSF works with MUIS and PA MESRA to bring Family Life Education programmes, such as the Cinta Abadi (Eternal Love) enrichment programme, to mosques and other community touchpoints so that families can readily access these programmes. The programme comprises both marriage and parenting topics and aims to enhance adjustment to evolving roles and responsibilities in marriage and as parents.
d. MSF has worked with community and religious organisations to train 215 individuals, including marriage solemnisers, as Marital First Responders (MFRs). These are members of the community who provide basic marriage support to couples with marital issues and refer them to professional services where needed. MSF will continue to train more MFRs to expand the pool and render support to couples in need.
e. Ground-up efforts such as Bersamamu ("With You")3 help religious leaders and marriage solemnisers provide ongoing support to couples. Beyond solemnising marriages, the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM)’s appointed Kadis/Naib Kadis journey with their couples for up to two years. They share advice and tips with the couples on marriage and family life, encourage them to attend marriage programmes, and refer them to national programmes/services for other forms of support.
1 The study was done with more than 100,000 Singapore Citizens, of whom about 9,000 experienced parental divorce before the age of 21. The outcomes of these 9,000 Singapore Citizens with divorced parents were compared against those whose parents did not divorce.
2 The MCP is an integral part of the M3 (MUIS, MENDAKI and MESRA) Focus Area 2 on holistic support for vulnerable individuals and their families. The Syariah Court also partners the Singapore Prisons Services and FITRAH Office to support inmates and their families through the MCP.
3 Bersamamu (BM) is an integral part of the M3 (MUIS, MENDAKI and PA MESRA) Focus Area 1 on strengthening the continuum of care for marriage, parenthood and early childhood development.