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Divorce & Child Custody

Topic(s): Children & Families

Divorce and child custody are legal procedures handled by the Family Justice Courts and Syariah Court (Muslim marriages). The Ministry carries out child custody investigations when ordered by the court and provides support to single parents. Learn more about divorce support.

A divorce is the legal procedure that ends a marriage. To get a divorce, you will need to file for a divorce with the Family Justice Courts (Civil marriages) or the Syariah Court (Muslim marriages).

Civil Divorces

To get a divorce, you need to file for divorce with the Family Justice Courts and comply with the legal requirements of divorce. The law on divorce for civil marriages in Singapore is governed by the Women’s Charter.

To encourage divorcing couples to make informed decisions that prioritise the well-being of children, divorcing parents with minor children below 21 years of age and do not have a signed formal agreement pertaining to a parenting plan and all other divorce matters, will need to attend a mandatory parenting programme before they can file for the divorce.

Find out more and how to apply for the Mandatory Co-Parenting Programme.

For More Info

  • Family Justice Courts
    Established in 2014, the Family Justice Courts (FJC) are a restructure of our Court system to better serve litigants by bringing together all family related work under a specialised body of courts. FJC is comprised of the Family Division of the High Court, the Family Courts and the Youth Courts and is administered by the Presiding Judge of the FJC. The cases dealt with by FJC include those relating to divorce and ancillary matters, family violence, maintenance, adoption and guardianship, youth court, mental capacity and probate and succession. Its mission is to make justice accessible to families and youth through effective counselling, mediation and adjudication.

  • Divorce Support at Family Assist

  • FAQs on Divorce

Muslim Divorces

To file for a divorce, you need to apply at the Syariah Court (SYC) and comply with the requirements under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA). Parties applying for divorce will be required to attend marriage counselling at one of SYC's appointed counselling agencies.

Divorce may have negative effects on the affected couples, on their children, on their families and on the community at large. Hence, Islam discourages divorce.

Syariah Court (SYC)

If couples decide to proceed with divorce after attending counselling, they will be required to attend mediation. The aim is to help couples settle the ancillary issues amicably. If parties cannot reach a settlement, the Court schedules a hearing and makes the appropriate orders on divorce and related issues under the provisions of (AMLA).

More information on the SYC

Divorce support comprises specialised programmes and services that provide support and care for divorcing and divorced families through a child-centric approach. Divorced support is delivered by FAM@FSCs and two Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs).

Find out more about the programmes and services offered.

When there is a child custody dispute, the courts may ask the Ministry to conduct an investigation and produce a “Social Report” before deciding on custody matters.

Child custody proceedings are handled by the Family Justice Courts. Custody is the right to make major decisions on the welfare and upbringing of the children. Custody can be shared.

When there is a custody dispute, the courts may refer the case to MSF for social investigation. A Child Welfare Officer from the Ministry will conduct the investigation and produce a Social Report for the court.

Generally, the court will refer the case to MSF for social investigation when:

  • parents cannot agree on who should get custody

  • one parent is concerned about the other parent having access to the child

  • the Court has concerns about the custody of the child

For More on Custody Proceedings

Family Justice Courts

The Family Justice Courts (FJC) are established pursuant to the Family Justice Act which was passed by Parliament on 4 August 2014. The Family Justice Act was enacted based on the recommendations of the Committee for Family Justice which was formed in 2013 to review how Singapore’s family justice system may be reformed to address the needs of youth and families in distress.

The Women’s Charter was enhanced in 2011 and allows the Family Justice Court to utilise a wider range of measures withrespect to maintenance enforcement cases.

A referral protocol between the Community Justice Centre (CJC) and Social Services Offices (SSOs) was put in place to ensure that vulnerable families receive the necessary support they require. The protocol allows:

  • parties (both men and women) identified at the CJC to be referred to the nearest SSO for timely assistance and

  • parties (both men and women) seeking help at the SSOs to be referred to the CJC for legal assistance.

In both cases, as long as a party is in need, the SSOs and/or CJC will render appropriate assistance, e.g. cash or food vouchers. The primary concern is to ensure the family’s welfare.

From 1 July 2016, a husband or ex-husband who is incapacitated (supported by medical certification) up to the point of divorce, cannot earn a livelihood and is unable to support himself may apply for maintenance. This incapacitation must be evident throughout the maintenance application process.

The RERF Committee builds on the work of the Committee for Family Justice, and aims to further strengthen the family justice system by incorporating therapeutic and restorative justice in the resolution of family disputes. The RERF Committee's work includes considering issues such as costs, complexity and timeliness of legal proceedings, as well as how other appropriate dispute resolution methods and multi-disciplinary approaches can be utilised to promote more sustained and positive family outcomes.

The RERF Committee is co-chaired by Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts Justice Debbie Ong, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Law Mr Ng How Yue and Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development Mr Chew Hock Yong. Other members of the RERF Committee are:

(a) Professor Leslie Chew, SC, Dean School of Law, Singapore University of Social Sciences

(b) Mr Vincent Hoong, Registrar, Supreme Court

(c) Dr Sudha Nair, Executive Director, Promoting Alternatives to Violence

(d) Mr Sim Gim Guan, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Social Service

(e) Mr Alfred Tan, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Children’s Society

(f) Ms Michelle Woodworth, Co-chairperson of the Family Law Practice Committee, The Law Society of Singapore