What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Denies You Access to Your Child

Last updated on March 18, 2019

Featured image for the "What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Denies You Access to Your Child" article. It features a family photo torn in half, with the mother and child in one half and the father in the other half.

Your spouse was given care and control over your child following the divorce, but has repeatedly denied you access to your child. Is there any way you can seek to enforce the access order?

The Law on Access to Children following a Divorce in Singapore

Following divorce proceedings, the court will grant access orders and often fixes access times.

The Women’s Charter does not stipulate the amount of access time a parent should be given with his/her child. Instead, it merely states that the parent will be given access:

“at such times and with such frequency as the court may consider reasonable”. 

However, the Women’s Charter does not define what would be considered “reasonable”. This means that the duration and frequency of access is left to the court’s discretion.

This may sometimes include an order for the child to be sent to and picked up at Family Service Centres at stipulated times.

In addition, the court is unable to regulate whether the access orders are followed.

Types of access orders

The court is able to make 2 types of access orders:

  1. Supervised
  2. Non-supervised

Most access orders are non-supervised orders. That is, the parent without care and control of the child can have access to the child without a third-party supervising the session.

Supervised access orders are usually given for reasons such as to protect the child from potential physical or emotional abuse, or to assess the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.

Seeking Enforcement of Access Orders

1. Try to work things out with your ex-spouse

It is advisable that you approach a family mediation centre or counsellor to try to work things out with your ex-spouse.

This is especially if your ex-spouse has been unreasonable in denying access to your child, and communication with your ex-spouse has broken down.

It is important that you remain cordial and civil towards your ex-spouse, and continue maintenance payments, for the sake of your child’s best interests. At the same time, you may try approaching your ex-spouse’s friends and relatives to help you in reaching out to your ex-spouse.

2. Apply for shared care and control of your child

Alternatively, you may want to consider pursuing an application for shared care and control with your ex-spouse. This means that your child will share his/her time spent with both parents equally.

However for your application to succeed, you may ideally have to have been the primary caregiver for the child before the divorce. Furthermore, the courts are generally reluctant to grant shared care and control to where school-going children are involved, given the inconvenience they will face in moving between 2 homes during weekdays.

3. File for contempt of court

A last resort that some turn to is to file for a case of contempt of court against your ex-spouse for failing to obey the access order.

You must have compelling evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your ex-spouse deliberately disobeyed the court order. For example, if your ex-spouse was unable to obey the order due to illness or accident, this would not constitute contempt.

Getting a court judgment pronouncing your ex-spouse in contempt may also take some time. For example, it could take anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months, from the time that you first file your contempt of court application, for the court to decide on it.

If a person is found guilty of contempt of court for not complying with the access order, he/she can be fined up to $20,000 and/or jailed up to 12 months. However, this may not be an ideal outcome given that it is likely only to worsen the relationship with your ex-spouse, and may have a negative impact on your child.

Maintaining access to your child after a divorce is an important way in helping your child cope with a divorce. Unfortunately, the current law in Singapore may not provide adequate redress for parents who have been denied access to their child.

On your end, you should keep up with efforts to reach out to your child and assure your child that you are still invested in his/her life. You may also want to approach one of our divorce lawyers to explore the possible legal avenues to resolve this access issue.

Before getting a divorce
  1. Drafting a Deed of Separation in Singapore (Instead of Divorcing)
  2. Alternatives to Divorce in Singapore: A Practical Guide
  3. Process for Getting Divorced in Singapore (With Diagram)
  4. What are the Legal Grounds for Getting a Divorce?
  5. 3 Finance Questions To Ask Before a Divorce
  6. Practical Preparations for a Divorce
  7. How to Divorce Within 3 Years of Marriage in Singapore
  8. Getting a Divorce Due to “Irreconcilable Differences” in Singapore
  9. Online Divorce in Singapore: How It Works and Should You Get One?
  10. How Can I Divorce Overseas?
Divorce Fees
  1. Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Fees in Singapore
Getting a Divorce Lawyer
  1. 7 Experienced Female Divorce Lawyers in Singapore (2021)
  2. Can a Divorcing Couple Use the Same Lawyer? Pros and Cons
  3. The Complete Guide to Choosing a Good Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  4. Don’t Just Go for the Cheapest Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  5. Find Experienced Divorce Lawyers in Singapore
  6. Child Custody Lawyers in Singapore
  7. First Meeting with Your Divorce Lawyer: What to Bring
Proving Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage
  1. How to Prove Adultery for Divorce Purposes in Singapore
  2. Getting a Divorce: How to Prove Desertion
  3. How to Prove Unreasonable Behaviour
  4. How to Prove Separation for a Singapore Divorce
Application for Divorce Part I: Dissolution of Marriage
  1. Your Spouse Doesn't Want to Divorce: What to Do
  2. Procedure for Dissolution of Marriage
  3. Simplified Uncontested Divorce vs Contested Divorce in Singapore
  4. Mandatory Parenting Programme Guide for Divorcing Parents
  5. Divorce Mediation in Singapore
  6. Divorce Application: What to Do If Your Spouse Cannot be Found
Application for Divorce Part 2: Ancillary Matters (Maintenance, Assets, Custody)
  1. Guide to Co-Parenting for Divorcing Parents in Singapore
  2. Procedure for Ancillary Matters
  3. Maintenance of Spouse in a Singapore Divorce
  4. Filling in a Matrimonial Property Plan for a Singapore Divorce
  5. Dividing Matrimonial Assets in a Singapore Divorce
  6. What Happens to Your HDB Flat after Divorce?
  7. What Happens to Gifts Between Spouses During a Divorce?
  8. What Happens to Property and Assets Located Overseas Upon a Divorce in Singapore?
  9. Child Custody, Care and Control & Access: Singapore Guide
  10. Getting Divorced: Child Maintenance in Singapore
  11. Singapore Divorcee's Guide to Relocating Your Child Overseas
Post-Divorce
  1. How to Vary a Child Custody Order in Singapore
  2. How to Appeal Your Divorce Case in Singapore
  3. Divorce Certs in Singapore: How to Get a Copy and Other FAQs
  4. Transfer of Matrimonial Home to Ex-Spouse After Divorce
  5. Can Divorcees Buy or Rent HDB Flats, and How?
  6. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Provide Maintenance
  7. Variation of Maintenance Orders in Singapore
  8. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Denies You Access to Your Child
  9. Division of CPF Assets (Monies, House, Investments) After a Divorce
Expatriate Divorce
  1. Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates
  2. Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?
  3. Expat or Foreigner Divorce in Singapore: 10 Legal Issues to Consider
  4. Hague Convention: Overseas Child Abduction in Singapore Divorce
  5. Case Study: Cross-Border Child Custody and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction
  6. Can British Expats in Singapore Choose to Divorce in England?
  7. Divorce for British Expats: Approach to Matrimonial and Non-Matrimonial Assets in England vs Singapore
  8. Divorce for British Expats: How the English Courts Deal with Financial Matters
Muslim or Syariah Divorce
  1. Fasakh in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore: Grounds & Process
  2. Divorce by Cerai Taklik: Guide for Muslim Wives in Singapore
  3. Muslim Divorce in Singapore
  4. Talak in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore (and Its Effects)
  5. Guide to Divorcing by Khuluk for Muslim Wives in Singapore
  6. Applying for Nafkah Idaah and Mutaah in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore
Other divorce matters
  1. Guide to Personal Protection Orders in Singapore
  2. Case Study - Love conquers All: The Divorce That Didn’t Happen
Annulment
  1. Annulling a Singapore Marriage: Requirements and Process
  2. What Happens to Your HDB Flat After an Annulment?
Separation
  1. Separation in Singapore Via Deed of Separation and More
  2. Judicial or Legal Separation in Singapore: When and How to File
Prenuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
  1. Prenuptial Agreements in Singapore
  2. Should You Make a Post-Nuptial Agreement in Singapore?