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

Last updated on March 18, 2019

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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. How to Get a Divorce in Singapore in 2019: Process and Requirements
  2. How Can I Divorce Overseas?
  3. Mandatory Parenting Programme Guide for Divorcing Parents
  4. Online Divorce in Singapore: How It Works and Should You Get One?
  5. How to Get a Divorce Within 3 Years of Marriage
  6. Personal Protection Orders (PPOs), Expedited Orders (EOs) and Domestic Exclusion Orders (DEOs) in Singapore
  7. Prenuptial Agreements in Singapore
  8. What are the Legal Grounds for Getting a Divorce?
  9. Separation in Singapore
  10. Annulment of Marriage in Singapore
  11. Practical Preparations for a Divorce
  12. 3 Finance Questions To Ask Before a Divorce
Divorce Fees
  1. Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Fees in Singapore (Updated Sep 2018)
Getting a Divorce Lawyer
  1. The Complete Guide to Choosing a Good Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  2. First Meeting with Your Divorce Lawyer: What to Bring
  3. Don’t Just Go for the Cheapest Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  4. Find Experienced Divorce Lawyers in Singapore
  5. Child Custody Lawyers in Singapore
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. Procedure for Dissolution of Marriage
  2. Divorce Mediation in Singapore
  3. Divorce Application: What to Do If Your Spouse Cannot be Found
  4. Simplified Uncontested Divorce vs Contested Divorce in Singapore
Application for Divorce Part 2: Ancillary Matters (Maintenance, Assets, Custody)
  1. Procedure for Ancillary Matters
  2. What Happens to Gifts Between Spouses During a Divorce?
  3. What Happens to Property and Assets Located Overseas Upon a Divorce in Singapore?
  4. Getting Divorced: Child Maintenance in Singapore
  5. Maintenance of Spouse in a Singapore Divorce
  6. The Guide to Child Custody, Care and Control, and Access in Singapore
  7. How Does the Court Divide Matrimonial Assets in a Singapore Divorce?
Post-divorce
  1. What Happens to Your HDB Flat after Divorce?
  2. Variation of Maintenance Orders in Singapore
  3. Division of CPF Assets (Monies, House, Investments) after a Divorce
  4. Divorce Certificates in Singapore: How to Get a Copy and Other FAQs
  5. Transfer of Matrimonial Home to Ex-Spouse After Divorce
  6. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Denies You Access to Your Child
  7. What Happens If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Provide Maintenance?
Expatriate Divorce
  1. Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?
  2. Expat or Foreigner Divorce in Singapore: 10 Legal Issues to Consider
  3. Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates
  4. Hague Convention in Singapore: Overseas Child Abduction in Divorce
  5. Case Study: Cross-Border Child Custody and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction
Muslim or Syariah Divorce
  1. Muslim Divorce in Singapore
  2. Applying for Nafkah Idaah and Mutaah in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore
Other divorce matters
  1. What Happens to Your HDB Flat after an Annulment?
  2. Case Study - Love conquers All: The Divorce That Didn’t Happen