Applying to be a Legal Guardian in Singapore

Last updated on April 15, 2019

There are two different types of legal guardians: a natural guardian (i.e. a parent) or an appointed guardian. Regardless of which type, legal guardians are responsible for the welfare and safety of the child.

There are several situations in which one can obtain guardianship of a child.

1. Right of Surviving Parent to be the Child’s Guardian

In the unfortunate event that one parent passes away, the other parent will obtain guardianship of the child.

2. Guardian Appointed by Deed or Will

A guardian can also be appointed in a will. This is known as a “testamentary guardian”.

To be a testamentary guardian, you are required to reside in Singapore but are not required to be a relative of the parent/child. For example, one or both of the parents of a child could appoint a close family friend as testamentary guardian after the death of the parent(s). This is valid if the appointment is by deed or in their will.

Read more about how to appoint a testamentary guardian in our other article.

3. Applying to be a Guardian

In the absence of the above, a person can apply under the Guardianship of Infants Act (GIA) to be appointed legal guardian of the child. For example, in a family where the father is deceased and the mother is frequently in and out of jail, the aunt may intervene by applying to be the legal guardian of the child.

Do note that if you wish to apply to be a guardian, you are also required to reside in Singapore but are not required to be a relative of the parent/child.

The application procedure begins with the filing of documents. Documents required include: an Originating Summons and an affidavit in support of the Originating Summons. The filing can be done electronically via the eLitigation website.

Note that there may also be other documents required depending on your situation.

If an order has already been made regarding the custody of your child but you wish to apply for an amendment of the order, you can also do so under the GIA. For example, this could occur some time after a divorce, and the Court granted your former spouse custody over the child. In addition to the above documents, you will have to provide a copy of your marriage certificate.

If you are involved in Muslim divorce proceedings, you must also file a Syariah Court commencement certificate, or both you and your partner’s written consent to the commencement of proceedings in the Family Justice Courts and a Syariah Court certificate of attendance.

It is recommended that you seek a lawyer to assist you with the filing of these documents.

(4) A Court-Appointed Guardian

The court may also appoint someone as guardian of the child, considering the welfare of the child as the most important factor in deciding whether to appoint that person.

The court may appoint someone as guardian of the child in several situations:

  • The absence of a deed or will appointing a guardian after the parents of the child have passed away
  • The absence of someone applying to be a guardian after the parents of the child have passed away
  • The court disagrees with the choice of appointed guardian after parents of the child pass away such as when the appointed guardian is incapable of taking care of the child
  • In the event of a divorce and where, for example, either parent is incapable of taking care of the child due to poor finances

As court procedures will take some time, the child will be placed in foster care in the interim. Therefore, it is best to appoint a guardian by deed or will to avoid this.