Article Despite MOH guidelines, some divorced parents making use of circuit breaker to deny former spouses access to children


Staff member
Published13 APRIL, 2020

SINGAPORE — Jane (not her real name) was supposed to meet her son once a week as part of court-ordered custodial arrangements following her divorce with her ex-husband five years ago.

But when Singapore started its circuit breaker on April 7, her ex-husband denied her access to their child.

The one-month-long circuit breaker saw schools and non-essential workplaces closed, with individuals told to stay at home as much as possible, in a bid to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.

New laws recently passed to restrict movements, as part of the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, took effect a day later.

The Ministry of Health released guidelines on April 9 stating that children of divorced parents are allowed to take turns to live with either parent, although any movement and travel should be kept to a minimum.

Access arrangements can also continue, other than visits that have to be supervised.

These guidelines have also been written into the Act.

When Jane showed her ex-husband the guidelines from MOH, he allowed her to meet her son only once every fortnight, whereas the court had granted her the right to visit him once a week.
“He is using that statement in the MOH guidelines — to keep travel to a minimum — and twisting that whole rule,” said Jane, whose identity is kept anonymous as her ex-husband is said to be abusive.

Jane also said her ex-husband told her that she can only pick her son up in a rented car, on the basis that this will limit their son’s exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“He would rather not keep him safe by driving him in his own car. He wants to disrupt my life, by making me find a rental car to pick him up,” Jane said.

Another divorced parent, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Lim out of fear of retaliation from her previous husband, is in a similar predicament.

Her former spouse has denied her access to see their three children, which she is entitled to every alternate Sunday based on the court order from their divorce, even after Mrs Lim informed him of MOH’s guidelines.

“He is angry about why MOH still allows access. He said he wants to make a complaint,” said the 32-year-old customer service officer.

Despite them having every legal right to see their children, both Jane and Mrs Lim have decided to acquiesce to their ex-husbands’ demands out of fear that if they insist on their rights, their former spouses would impose further restrictions.

“The Covid-19 outbreak was the perfect thing for him to manipulate the law,” said Jane.

Mrs Lim said she broached the topic of arranging make-up access once the circuit breaker period is over with her ex-husband but he said to leave that discussion till later.

However, she does not have high hopes that it would come through.

“He is very crafty and may deny me access in the future. He has been psychoing the kids to indirectly tell me that they have grown up and don’t need my access anymore. So I’m guessing he will be taking this opportunity to do so,” she said.

The potential for estranged former spouses to abuse the custodial system was highlighted by Ms Catherine Rose Yates, a divorced parent who is running a support group for divorcees.

She said that members of her support group have had their access denied on the basis of the new laws restricting movement.

Ms Yates said that some have also used the reduced access as a basis to decrease maintenance payments to their former spouses.

“(The new law) is a huge chance for parties to use this to abuse the system and use the child as a pawn in their personal arguments and that is something that is a real concern,” said Ms Yates.

Family lawyers TODAY spoke to earlier said they have received a higher number of queries from their divorced clients who were unsure as to whether prior custodial arrangements could still continue during the circuit breaker period.

Before MOH guidelines were released, different lawyers had their own interpretations of what the new restrictions entailed.

Some believe that access arrangements could go on as per normal, while others said otherwise.

Ms Yates said the situation was “very sketchy” before the guidelines were released, but there is greater clarity now.

However, this does not stop some from continuing to abuse the system and family lawyer Rajan Chettiar said he expects a rise in court applications from parents who feel that their former spouses have breached court orders.

Another group of parents particularly affected would be those who are going through divorce proceedings and hence do not have the court order detailing the childcare arrangements.

Family lawyer Gloria James-Civetta said one of her clients had her kids taken from her before the circuit breaker period, and her husband now says he is unable to return them due to the new laws.

As she has no court order yet, the police were not able to help her get her children back.

Ms Carrie Gill, partner at law firm Eversheds Harry Elias, had advised her clients to act sensibly when discussing and making decisions regarding access arrangements.

“Parents should be open and communicative with each other of their concerns and worries. The health, well being and safety of the children must be the most important consideration,” she said.

However, for Jane, there is little she can do except to avoid angering her former spouse.

“I am not at my own liberty. I just have to listen to every rule and whim of his so that I can see my son,” she said.



SINGAPORE - One divorced father said he was anxious that he would not be able to see his children again, even after the circuit breaker period ends. His ex-wife has denied him child access during this time.

Another divorced father who has lost his job amid the coronavirus outbreak, worries that he will not be able to pay the monthly maintenance amount and be taken to court by his ex-wife.


Well, I don't have access to the online copy but only print copy. The earlier article cites examples of nasty husbands, while the latter cites examples of nasty wives.....COVID-19 or not, some things never change.....
Well, I don't have access to the online copy but only print copy. The earlier article cites examples of nasty husbands, while the latter cites examples of nasty wives.....COVID-19 or not, some things never change.....
Agree...some things never change.