Child Custody Lawyers in Singapore: Do I Need One?
Child custody issues may arise during your marriage, during divorce proceedings at the ancillary matters stage, or after your divorce. If you are given custody of your child, you are granted the authority to make major decisions regarding your child on matters such as education, religion and healthcare.
However, child custody is not the same as care and control of the child. Unlike child custody, which can be granted to both parents, care and control is usually given to only one parent. The parent with care and control will live with the child and manage the child’s day-to-day matters.
The idea of having to fight for the right to be involved in major decisions regarding your child’s life may be overwhelming. Having a child custody lawyer on your side can help you navigate through child custody matters in Singapore with greater ease and allow you to better achieve your desired outcome.
This article will cover:
Who are Child Custody Lawyers?
Child custody lawyers are lawyers who can advise you on custody situations and represent you in court for child custody proceedings. In doing so, they will be able to assist you in various matters, including acquiring or keeping custody of your child (more below).
Child custody lawyers are typically also family lawyers or divorce lawyers. In Singapore, family lawyers handle divorce matters as part of their job scope, including the custody of your children. Divorce lawyers are family lawyers who specialise in divorce matters and will be able to assist you with child custody matters as well.
How Can a Child Custody Lawyer Help Me?
If you are facing a contentious child custody dispute in court, representing yourself may pose a number of difficulties if you are not familiar with court proceedings, child custody laws or even evidence laws.
You may find it challenging to present your case to the court effectively, and this may impact your ability to obtain or maintain custody of your child. It is thus recommended that you engage a child custody lawyer to guide you through your case.
A child custody lawyer may assist you in a number of ways, such as by:
- Explaining the types of custody orders that can be made by the court, and how the type of child custody order is determined;
- Advising you as you participate in child custody mediation and representing you in court;
- Applying for a variation of a child custody order following your wishes;
- Preparing a defence against a requested variation of a child custody order by the other parent if you disagree with the request;
- Taking action to prevent interference with your child custody rights (i.e. if you are being excluded from decision-making despite having been granted custody over your child);
- Advising you on court proceedings, as well as on how to conduct yourself in court;
- Handling other ancillary matters, such as child maintenance.
Child custody matters are understandably very stressful and emotionally draining. Your lawyer’s guidance will help you get through the entire process with as few hiccups as possible.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Child Custody Lawyer?
Depending on the circumstances of your case and the stage at which you engage a lawyer (i.e. before divorce proceedings are commenced, at the stage concerning ancillary matters, including child custody, or post-divorce when you wish to vary a child custody order), the legal fees charged by a child custody lawyer may vary.
If you engage a lawyer early, such as at the start of your divorce proceedings, the lawyer will handle more matters on your behalf and likely charge higher fees for doing so. In addition, if your child custody case is complicated and is contested in court, more work has to be done. Accordingly, the lawyer will likely charge higher fees as well.
Fees may also vary from lawyer to lawyer. However, even if you engage a lawyer with the cheapest rates for the simplest child custody case in Singapore, you will have to be prepared to fork out at least a few thousand dollars.
For more information on the costs of divorce (which includes the settling of child custody issues during the ancillary matters stage), please refer to our divorce fee guide.
What Happens If I Cannot Afford to Engage a Child Custody Lawyer?
Apply for legal aid
If you cannot afford to engage a child custody lawyer, you may consider applying for legal aid at the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB), which is available for Singapore citizens and permanent residents. A lawyer will be appointed to assist you with your child custody matters, and such assistance includes representation in court.
To qualify for legal aid at the LAB, you will have to pass a means and merits test. The means test will assess your financial eligibility and the merits test will determine if your case has a reasonable chance of success in court. Do note that under the LAB’s scheme, you will still have to pay a small sum, usually not exceeding S$1,650 (though it may be more in certain cases).
For more information on how to apply for legal aid at the LAB, visit the Ministry of Law’s website.
Represent yourself in court
Alternatively, you may choose to represent yourself in court. As mentioned previously, however, this may be a challenging process. You will have to familiarise yourself with the court proceedings and all relevant laws. You must also be able to organise your information and present what you believe is in your child’s best interest, using facts and the law to support your case.
Attend a pro bono legal consultation at a legal clinic
You may also consider going down to legal clinics and attend free-of-charge legal consultations on how you can proceed with your child custody case. Do note that you will be provided only with advice and the volunteer lawyers cannot represent you in court.
How Do I Find a Child Custody Lawyer in Singapore?
There is no fixed way to find a lawyer that is best suited for you and your case. However, to start off, you may consider relying on word-of-mouth, such as by getting recommendations from trusted friends and relatives. This way, you will be able to find out if they have had good experiences with their lawyers and/or the law firms.
It is also recommended that you do more research online and meet the lawyer(s) from the law firm in person, even if you have heard rave reviews about them. Child custody matters are significant and hiring a lawyer can be costly, so it is important that you make an informed decision when choosing a lawyer and/or the law firm.
To get started with your online research, browse our list of experienced divorce lawyers in Singapore.
What Should I Look Out For When Hiring a Child Custody Lawyer?
Once you have shortlisted some child custody lawyers, you may contact him/her via email, phone or the law firm’s website to schedule an appointment. Some lawyers are open to having a free first consultation, but be sure to clarify this before confirming your appointment.
At the appointment, ask the child custody lawyer what he/she can do for you, what you will have to do in relation to child custody proceedings, and the estimated legal fees for the services you need.
You might want to look out for a lawyer with a proven track record of representing child custody cases similar to yours. This way, you can be assured that your lawyer has experience in the relevant issues that may crop up.
Your lawyer should also be transparent in setting out legal fees and all the relevant steps in child custody proceedings. This helps you ensure that:
- Engaging his/her services is well within your means, and that
- You are fully aware of what you need to do so you can make adequate preparations for any upcoming custody battle.
However, at the end of the day, what is most important is that you are comfortable sharing everything related to your child custody matter with the lawyer. You should also feel confident that the lawyer will be able to act in your best interests. Avoid rushing to choose a lawyer – there are many child custody lawyers in Singapore, and you will definitely be able to find one who is best suited for you and your case.
For more information, you may refer to our guide to choosing a good divorce lawyer in Singapore.
Child custody disputes in Singapore can be complicated and emotionally taxing. It is recommended that you engage a child custody lawyer to ensure a smooth and efficient process, as well as to improve your chances of securing the most desired outcome that will be in the best interests of your child.
Once again, take your time to find a lawyer that is best suited for your case, so that you can rest assured that you will be in good hands.
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