Singapore

Online portal to ease process of uncontested divorces: Chief Justice

Litigation Assist will help couples with documents, court orders and connect them with lawyer-mediators when necessary

Couples who are seeking uncontested divorces and are not represented by lawyers will soon be able to obtain such divorces online, without needing to attend court hearings or formally submit court documents.

An online portal, called Litigation Assist, will be launched to help such litigants-in-person with the generation and submission of documents and draft court orders, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said yesterday.

"Where appropriate, it will also connect them with lawyer-mediators who can advise and assist them with online negotiations," the Chief Justice added in his online opening speech for the annual Law Society Family Conference.

The two-day conference comprises eight webinars by panellists, including lawyers and judges, on topics about the practice of family law.

The Chief Justice said Litigation Assist would help enhance access to the family justice system.

This is in line with the family justice system's adoption of "therapeutic justice" as its overarching philosophy - where the law helps divorcing parties to repair their relationships to a functional level and to focus on their shared future, among other things.

The adoption of therapeutic justice will involve the restructuring of existing court processes, especially in the provision of more "upstream" services such as counselling and mediation for families before they apply to the court for divorce.

The perspective on the role of family law by key stakeholders must also be changed fundamentally, said the Chief Justice.

He also said that a curriculum for family court judges will be developed to familiarise them with the tools available under the new approach of therapeutic justice.

"Similarly, our practitioners must be offered training so that they may advise their clients on the most suitable course for the resolution of familial conflict, and to empower them to exercise the appropriate skills required in each situation," he said.

RESOLVE

The Chief Justice said the courts will also continue to work with other stakeholders in the family justice system, such as the social services, mental health and law enforcement sectors, to resolve family disputes.

For example, a new scheme under consideration for dealing with alleged child abuse cases may see the Family Justice Courts, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Singapore Police Force share information and formulate a triage protocol, he said.

"The goal is to help us act more quickly and accurately to sift out allegations of child abuse that have merit, from those that are being weaponised to harm the relationship between the other parent and their child."

COURT & CRIME