Majority of divorce cases last year settled by mediation

'Encouraging' statistics thanks to support schemes, simplified processes: Family Justice Courts

Almost seven out of 10 divorce cases that went to mediation last year were resolved through the process, without the need to go to contested hearings.

The "encouraging results" were helped by support schemes and simplified processes, as well as the efforts of family court staff and partners in the community, Justice Debbie Ong, Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts (FJC), said yesterday.

The figures are an improvement from 2016, when 6.5 out of 10 cases were fully resolved through mediation, and in line with plans to make divorce proceedings less adversarial, minimising conflict for the sake of any children involved.

Speaking at the FJC's Workplan 2018 seminar, Justice Ong also noted that 15 per cent of the cases were partially resolved, meaning that fewer issues went on to contested hearings.

She was speaking at the Supreme Court in her first public speech since her appointment as Presiding Judge of FJC last September.

During the session, she laid out the court's priorities and plans for the next phase of family justice in Singapore.

Justice Ong said that even when parties make applications to court, there "will always be the possibility of mediation or non-litigious resolution at all stages in the divorce process".

The FJC is setting up an online dispute resolution (ODR) system - which will allow users to seek resolution without having to litigate - for child maintenance claims.

It will include a simulator to help parties understand the possible outcome of a maintenance claim, and a forum for both parties to negotiate.

If negotiation fails, online mediation of the claims will be provided.

"It is envisaged that ODR will help parties to resolve their child maintenance claims earlier and with less costs, ultimately benefiting the children," said Justice Ong.

Other FJC plans include a study of how elderly and vulnerable court users can be helped through the court process.

Her speech stressed the FJC's role in meeting the needs of various family members embroiled in legal disputes.

"It is important that parties recognise the role of FJC as a court which applies the law to reach a just decision between both parties; it is not an 'agency' that serves the needs of only one party," she said.

"Respect for the court's authority is necessary in the family justice system."