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In Singapore, when one talks about “custody of children”, the actual context vastly differs from what many perceive; “which parent gets the child”?

Actually, ‘custody of a child’ simply means having the right to make important decisions in the child’s life. Typically, this involves decisions on education, religion, health, surname and the country where they live and study in.

The concept of ‘custody of children’ is not about who the child lives with day to day and/or who makes the everyday decisions for the child. That understanding is referred to as ‘care and control’ of the child.

In most cases, parents by default have joint custody of their child and this continues even after a divorce. This means that both parents though divorced, have to be consulted and make joint decisions on education, health, religion and other important decisions.

Why is this so, one may ask? Well, the Family Court in Singapore takes a very serious view of not blocking or cutting off a parent from these important decisions. The court encourages parents to have a common interest and that is to ensure the child’s best interest is upheld.

The decision as to whom the child lives with, is altogether another issue and that can take the form of ‘sole care and control’ or ‘shared care and control’.

So, what then do these two concepts entail?

Sole care and control – is the traditional norm where the child lives with one parent day-to-day and the other parent is limited to visitation rights termed as “access”.

Shared care and control- which in today is becoming more common, is when the child takes turns to stay with each parent – say half weekly or every alternate week. In this arrangement, the day-to-day decisions lie with each parent, when the child lives with him/her. Hence, there is no need for any visitation rights to be spelt out in most cases.

Ultimately whether it is sole or shared care and control , the paramount consideration is the best interest of the child and not what either parent wants or thinks it should be .

That is why children related issues should be resolved therapeutically and not contested . Children are not assets to be divided but they an extension of the parents.

As a family mediator and certified family therapeutic justice lawyer, our Ms Sharanjit Kaur works closely with counsellors and therapists to help my clients thread through the rearrangement of their family so that they can heal and move on but yet continue to provide the safe and secure haven for their children.

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