Family Justice Courts Practice Directions

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Part V – Alternate Dispute Resolution

11. Mediation and/or Counselling Directed by Court

(1) In any proceedings before the Court, it may direct that parties attend mediation and/or counselling (pursuant to section 50 of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) or section 26(9) of the Family Justice Act 2014 (Act 27 of 2014)) to encourage parties to resolve the matter amicably and assist parties in reaching an agreement or to narrow the issues in contention. Sub-paragraphs (2) to (10) below apply to private mediations ordered by the Court, and sub-paragraphs (11) to (19) below apply to mediations and/or counselling conducted by the Court.

(1A) It is the professional duty of advocates and solicitors to advise their clients about mediation. Mediation should be considered at the earliest possible stage in order to facilitate an amicable resolution of the dispute.

Court Ordered Private Mediation

(2) With effect from 1 January 2019, the Court will no longer conduct mediation in relation to proceedings (including divorce proceedings, applications pursuant to section 121B of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) and proceedings for a grant of probate or letters of administration in respect of the estate and effects of a deceased person) which meet the following criteria:

(a) there is a contested issue relating to assets where the gross value of all known assets is S$3 million or above; and

(b) there are no contested child issues (i.e. disputes relating to the custody, care and control of and/or access to any child).

(3) The Registrar or the Judge may order that parties in proceedings which meet the criteria attend private mediation conducted by the Singapore Mediation Centre (“SMC”), unless parties have agreed upon a mediator (“Agreed Private Mediator”). The Registrar or the Judge may also make any orders necessary, including any orders pertaining to the payment of the mediation and its related fees.

(4) For mediations conducted by the SMC, the parties and/or counsel shall provide the Registrar or the Judge with the necessary information for the SMC to contact them to arrange for the mediation. The Registrar or the Judge will give directions and timelines for parties to agree on a mediation date and to exchange case information, documents and mediation briefs. The Registrar or the Judge will fix a return date for parties and/or counsel to update the Court on the outcome of the private mediation.

(5) For mediations conducted by the Agreed Private Mediators, the parties or their counsel shall inform the Registrar or the Judge of the identity of their Agreed Private Mediator, the management of the mediation and the agreed date for mediation. The Registrar or Judge may make any order necessary for the timely and efficacious disposal of the case, including fixing return dates for the parties or their counsel to update the court, and/or re-directing the case to the SMC.

(6) Parties and their counsel must personally attend all mediation sessions, unless otherwise stated by the private mediator.

(7) For nullity, divorce and judicial separation proceedings in which interim judgment or judgment of judicial separation has been granted, if the dispute is resolved at the SMC mediation or other private mediation, the parties and/or counsel may file the draft consent order for the Court’s approval in accordance with the requirements in Paragraph 116 of these Practice Directions. Alternatively, the parties may request to attend before the Court for the privately mediated agreement to be recorded as a consent order by the Registrar or the Judge upon confirmation of the terms by the parties and/or counsel.

(8) Where interim judgment or judgment of judicial separation has not been granted, if the dispute is resolved at the SMC mediation or other private mediation, the parties and/or counsel shall inform the Court accordingly on the return date given by the Registrar or the Judge pursuant to sub-paragraphs (4) or (5) above, as the case may be, and directions will be given for the setting down of the divorce on an uncontested basis on an expedited basis.

(9) For all other proceedings not covered by sub-paragraphs (7) and (8) above, parties and/or counsel may either file the draft consent order in accordance with Paragraph 116 of these Practice Directions, or have it recorded as a consent order by the Registrar or the Judge upon the confirmation of the terms by the parties and/or counsel.

(10) If the dispute is not resolved at the private mediation, the Registrar or the Judge will give the necessary directions at the return date to enable the case to proceed accordingly.

Mediation conducted by the Court

(11) For child-related proceedings, a Family Dispute Resolution Conference (“FDR Conference”) will be called to crystallise the issues of contention. All parties together with their counsel (if any) will have to attend the FDR Conference. At the FDR Conference, directions may be given in relation to the filing and exchanging of relevant documents and/or proposals. Parties will also be directed to attend mediation and/or counselling, whichever is appropriate.

(12) For non-child related proceedings, the Registrar or the Judge may direct parties to attend mediation and/or counselling, whichever is appropriate.

(13) Counsel is not expected to attend any counselling sessions directed by the Court. However, parties and counsel must personally attend all mediation sessions.

(14) For all mediation sessions, (whether child-related or otherwise) the parties and their counsel are to prepare a Summary for Mediation in the prescribed format in Form 191 in Appendix A to these Practice Directions prior to the mediation for submission and discussion during the mediation, together with all relevant documents as may be directed by the Court.

(15) Any consensus reached during counselling sessions will be recorded as a draft agreement. A copy of the draft will be given to the parties who are advised to consult their counsel (if any).

(16) For nullity, divorce, judicial separation proceedings, where interim judgment or judgment of judicial separation has been granted, any agreement will be recorded as a consent order by the Judge-Mediator at a mediation session or any other Judge sitting as a Judge in Chambers upon confirmation of the terms by the parties and/or counsel. Where interim judgment or judgment of judicial separation has not been granted, the agreement will be formally recorded by the Judge and directions will be given for the setting down of the divorce on an uncontested basis on an expedited basis.

(17) For all other proceedings not covered by sub-paragraph (16) above, any agreement reached will be recorded as a consent order by the Judge-Mediator at a mediation session Mediator or any other Judge sitting as a Judge in Chambers upon the confirmation of the terms by the parties and/or counsel.

(18) Mediation will be conducted on a without prejudice basis. All communications made in the course of mediation will be treated in strict confidence and will not be admissible in any court unless otherwise stipulated by law. If the dispute is not resolved at the mediation session, the District Judge or Registrar will give the necessary directions to enable the case to proceed to trial, and the case will be heard by a Judge other than the District Judge or Registrar conducting the mediation.

(19) Where there is a disagreement between the parties on the terms of the agreement which were recorded at mediation, either party may write in for a clarification before the Judge-Mediator.

12. Mandatory Counselling & Mediation

(1) Section 50(3A) of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) provides for mandatory counselling / mediation sessions at the Family Justice Courts. The first phase, beginning in September 2011, was for divorcing parents with any child or children below 8 years of age. The second phase, involving divorcing parents with any child or children below 14 years of age, was implemented for cases filed from 1st July 2013. The final phase was implemented for cases filed from 1 October 2014 and extended to all divorcing parents with any child or children below 21 years of age.

(2) Notice(s) of attendance for mandatory counselling/mediation sessions with location details will be sent to the plaintiff and defendant in the divorce proceedings. Attendance by the parties is compulsory. Attendance by the parties’ respective counsel, if any, is required only when specifically stated in the notification.

(3) Counsel and parties are required to attend a Family Dispute Resolution Conference (“FDR Conference”) for a preliminary discussion of the issues relating to the child or children of the marriage. The purpose is to crystallise the issues on matters relating to the child or children and to agree on mutually convenient dates for the parties to attend counselling / mediation. Any unresolved issue relating to the divorce (including any ancillary issues such as the question of maintenance or the division of matrimonial assets) may also be discussed.

(4) Counsel and parties are expected to come prepared to discuss all issues relating to or impacting the child or children.

(5) After the FDR Conference, the parties alone will attend an Intake and Assessment Session with their assigned Family Counsellor.

(6) Subsequent counselling sessions involving only the parties, may be fixed by the assigned Family Counsellor and the parties.

(7) A Mediation date will be given to the parties and counsel at the FDR Conference if appropriate for the case. It is important that parties attend on the dates given and use the opportunity to discuss and resolve the issues with the help of a Judge-Mediator and/or Family Counsellor. Counsel and parties are to prepare a Summary for Mediation in Form 191 in Appendix A to these Practice Directions prior to the mediation for submission and discussion during the mediation together with all relevant documents as may be directed by the Court.

(8) Any consensus reached during counselling sessions will be recorded as a draft agreement. A copy of the draft will be given to the parties who are advised to consult their counsel (if any). Where interim judgment has been granted, the agreement will be recorded as a consent order by the Judge-Mediator at a subsequent mediation session upon confirmation of the terms.

(9) Where interim judgment or judgment for judicial separation has been granted, any agreement reached by the parties at any time may be recorded as a consent order by the Judge–Mediator at a mediation session or any other Judge sitting as a Judge in Chambers upon confirmation of the terms by the parties and/or counsel. Where interim judgment or judgment of judicial separation has not been granted, the agreement will be formally recorded by the Judge and directions will be given for the setting down of the divorce on an uncontested basis on an expedited basis.

(10) Under section 50(3B) of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353), the court may dispense with the attendance of the parties at mediation/counselling if it deems that it is not in the interest of the parties concerned to do so (e.g. where family violence has been committed or where Child Protection Services is involved in the case).

(11) Counsel should advise his/her client of the consequences of non-attendance under section 50(3D) and (3E) of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353).

(12) Mediation will be conducted on a without prejudice basis. All communications made in the course of mediation will be treated in strict confidence and will not be admissible in any court unless otherwise stipulated by law. If the dispute is not resolved at the mediation session, the District Judge or Registrar will give the necessary directions to enable the case to proceed to trial, and the case will be heard by a Judge other than the District Judge or Registrar conducting the mediation.

(13) Where there is a disagreement between the parties on the terms of the agreement which were recorded at mediation, either party may write in to court for a clarification before the Judge-Mediator.

13. Counselling

(1) The Court may direct that parties attend counselling pursuant to section 26(9) of the Family Justice Act.

(2) Counselling is conducted to help parties manage difficult emotions related to a divorce or any other familial relationship, and facilitating a parenting agreement that preserves significant relationships and supports children’s psychological adjustment to the separation. Counselling may also be directed after orders are made to assist with the emotional aspects of dealing with the outcome of the orders particularly in cases involving the relocation of a child.

(3) Counsel may attend a counselling session if the assigned counsellor considers it appropriate.

(4) The counsellor may request that the child be included in the counselling sessions, either alone or together with the parents depending on the case, if the counsellor is of the view that it would be in the interest of the child to be involved.

(5) Any request for a change or vacation of the counselling appointment shall be made at least 3 working days before the appointed date.

(6) Counselling sessions will be conducted on a without prejudice basis. Any consensus reached during counselling sessions will be recorded as a draft agreement. A copy of the draft agreement, recorded by the counsellor and signed by the parties, will be given to the parties to seek further advice from their respective counsel (if any). The draft agreement and all communications made in the course of counselling will be treated in strict confidence and shall not be admissible in any court.

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