New reforms to family justice system to make proceedings simpler and ‘less acrimonious’: MinLaw

SINGAPORE: Authorities are exploring ways to make family proceedings in court “less acrimonious”, simpler and more efficient, with some legislative changes expected later this year, the Ministry of Justice (MinLaw) said on Thursday (March 3rd).

He is working with the Department of Social and Family Development and Family Courts on changes, which include improvements to the process for enforcing payment of support orders.

The new process will take an ‘inquisitorial approach’ – that is, where the court is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case, compared to a system where the court’s primary role is to be an impartial arbiter.

“This will be particularly helpful to parties representing themselves in proceedings,” MinLaw said.

Announcing the decision in Parliament, the second Minister of Law, Edwin Tong, said: “Take for example the case where the enforcement party has difficulty in determining the financial situation of the other party. (This) is not an uncommon position.

“We will give the courts the power to question the parties and obtain information directly. This facilitates a simpler and more efficient process, and gets right to the heart of the issues. »

Mr. Tong added that authorities were considering “additional enforcement mechanisms” to bolster compliance. Legislative changes are expected later this year to implement some of the improvements.

SIMPLIFYING THE ENFORCEMENT OF CIVIL JUDGMENTS

As part of efforts to improve the judicial system, Mr. Tong also outlined potential changes to simplify and streamline the enforcement of civil judgments.

The changes come in response to comments that “the time, effort and cost of enforcing a judgment in certain cases, particularly where there is a lower value judgment which may be disproportionate to the sum of the judgment,” he said.

Proposals being considered include “the introduction of new powers to punish and deter” non-compliance with court orders.

Additionally, if a party continues to fail to comply, the courts may be given more powers to track and trace the assets of the party who must pay the debt.

Such changes aimed at streamlining the application would particularly benefit small and medium-sized businesses and in-person litigants, he noted.

“These are complex changes. We are exploring the options and will engage stakeholders, get their feedback, refine some of the proposals we have in mind, and provide more details in due course.