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05 Oct 2019  (979 Views) 
Ministry of Law

More can be done to speed up settlement of divorce cases

The Family Justice Courts (FJC) have made great strides towards improving the divorce process. These include:

• making e-Litigation accessible to litigants-in-person (LIP)

• granting judges the ability to reject unnecessary applications;

• allowing judges to make a ruling based on filings without the attendance of parties and counsels.

The first levels the playing field a little better for the LIPs, the second reduces some of the malicious delay tactics, and the third eliminates the influencing role of coached courtroom theatrics in decision-making.

Indeed, divorce in our society has become a war of attrition, what with ceaseless filings of costly affidavits and lengthening of the divorce process by one party seeking to drain the resources of the other.

As Forum contributor Ian Chan Eng Kiat pointed out, attorneys should also be curbed from profiting excessively in family tragedies by fomenting acrimony between divorcing parties (Panel's recommendations for family law reforms not enough, Oct 1).

The ones who suffer the most in these wars of attrition are indubitably the children as they are left in limbo. Difficult parents who use their children as pawns will spitefully stall school and medical decisions.

Additionally, immoderate resources that could have gone to the children are wastefully diverted to a costly and lengthy divorce.

An elongated divorce also compounds the single parent's struggles by delaying both the interim maintenance and eventual division of assets; even more so if the same parent has sacrificed his or her career to care for the children.

The FJC might wish to consider the following:

• order interim maintenance early in the process so that at least the children's financial well-being is taken care of;

• swop the order of the two steps in the current process; by moving resolution of ancillary matters ahead of the divorce itself, it will motivate those eager to move on with their new partners towards a quicker resolution of the ancillary matters;

• enforcement of deadlines to deprive the less honourable attorneys of their grimy tactic of prolonging the process via recurrent tardy filings.

Truly, most divorces aren't complex and need not consume so much time or resources.

Lily Ong


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