Singapore

Upcoming portal for those facing divorce taking shape

MSF has sought feedback from professionals and is now in phase two of its citizen engagement initiative

Mr Goh was shocked beyond belief when his wife of 11 years left home with their two young children last year and wanted a divorce.

Even though they had fought over issues big and small, and their marriage had been on the rocks for years, the 41-year-old analyst never thought that she would actually leave him.

"We have different personalities and perspectives, and our conflicts were never resolved," he said. "Over time, we had less and less patience for each other, and I gave her the cold shoulder. When she suddenly took the kids and left, I was very lost and depressed."

Mr Goh, who declined to give his full name, went for counselling - something his wife had asked him to go for, but which he had brushed off initially.

He also took an online programme aimed at salvaging marriages and picked up valuable pointers on how to better relate to and communicate with his wife. It worked and his wife is now giving their marriage a second chance.

Given his experience, he is suggesting that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) include more content on effective communication and conflict resolution in its upcoming portal, which will provide information and support to couples headed for divorce or who want help saving their marriage.

The MSF is in the midst of consulting Singaporeans who have divorced, or were on the brink of a break-up like Mr Goh, to better customise the content for its yet-to-be-named portal, which is expected to be launched late next year.

The portal will consolidate information and resources re-lated to divorce, including housing, finance and legal matters.

Among other things, it will offer self-assessment tools to help people better understand their marital situation and their children's needs, and an online counselling support service.

QUESTIONNAIRE

Last month, MSF drew up an online questionnaire to find out the needs of potential users of the portal, and it had 113 respondents who had divorced or contemplated ending their marriage. These respondents are in their 30s and 40s and all have children, an MSF spokesman said yesterday.

MSF also sought feedback from professionals such as marriage counsellors.

It is now in phase two of its citizen engagement initiative and has had in-depth discussions with about 60 participants.

Its spokesman said: "The pre-divorce journey is a deeply emotional and personal one. The feedback from participants will be crucial to refine and nuance the material sensitively so that it can properly support couples in the painful pre- divorce space.

"The feedback will also surface gaps in the content for future phases of development."

It has identified five categories of couples, based on their experiences of why their marriages failed.

They include those who had problems right from the start, those whose unions crumbled under the pressures of life, and couples torn apart by adultery. There is also a group of those who want to save their marriages.

The spokesman said: "We hope the portal will save as many marriages as possible, but also - for whatever reason that couples choose to continue with the divorce proceedings - ensure that they, and especially their children, are well supported."

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