When couples with children get divorced in Singapore, matters related to custody and care and control of any children below the age of 21 are decided by a Family Court judge.
The difference between custody and care and control is extremely important. Custody determines which parent has the final say in key decisions regarding the child’s life, such as healthcare, education, and religion. Care and control determines which parent the child will live with and be the primary caregiver – while custody can be shared, only one parent can be granted care and control.
The judge will issue child custody orders based on the “welfare principle”, which evaluates the best interest of the child, not the desires of the parent. Here, we further explore the 4 types of child custody orders under the divorce law in Singapore.
1. Sole custody order
Under the sole custody order, only one parent is granted custody and he or she is the sole decision-maker for the child. The Court often grants sole custody orders in cases where:
- Both parties are acrimonious with each other and unable to communicate amicably
- A parent has “given up” or renounced custody over the child with the aim of benefiting in other ancillary matters
- A parent is abusive or absent
Do note that the non-custodial parent may be granted visitation rights, referred to as “access”. These visits are usually unsupervised. However, in the event that the parent has a history of domestic violence, the Court may require that visits be supervised.
2. Joint custody order
Under joint custody, both parents have the authority to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing. However, this requires that both parents cooperate and communicate with each other in the best interests of the child. As compared to sole custody orders, the issuance of joint custody orders is more common in divorce proceedings.
3. Hybrid custody order
Hybrid custody orders are a combination of sole and joint custody orders. Only one parent is granted custody of the child, but the custodial parent is required to consult with the other (non-custodial) parent and obtain consent prior to making any major decisions concerning the child’s welfare or upbringing. Such decisions can include the choice of school, relocation to another country, the child’s religion, and more.
4. Split custody order
In such cases, the Court will grant custody of one or more siblings to one parent, and custody of the other siblings to the other parent. Split custody orders are considered rare in Singapore as the Court usually prefers not to split up the children in a divorce. If parents are seeking a split custody order, an explanation must be submitted in the form of an Affidavit of Assets and Means.
In the event of custody disputes, the Court may call for a Custody Evaluation Report (CER), which will be done by counsellors from the Family and Juvenile Justice Centre. A CER may be ordered if there are allegations of the child being alienated from a parent, accusations of brainwashing by one of the parents, or other very acrimonious disputes.
Engage a divorce lawyer in Singapore to protect your children’s best interests
Divorce is never easy, but it can be especially difficult if you have kids. Should you find yourself with legal grounds for divorce, it’s important to think about the best possible arrangement for your children. Give yourself a better chance of getting the outcome you desire while ensuring your children are protected as much as possible. Get in touch with our experienced divorce lawyers for more information on all matters related to divorce, including custody orders, child maintenance, and more.