COVID-19 Pandemic: Family Disputes during a Pandemic

As Singapore and our lives comes to a standstill during this period Circuit Breaker (“ Circuit Breaker Period”), what can we do if we are caught in the following family disputes?

A. On Custody and Access

What to do when a non-custodial parent wishes to have access to the child during the Circuit Breaker Period and if the custodial parent refuses access?

Answer: If there is a Court Order allowing access to the non-custodial parent, that parent has the right of access as per the Court Order, whether it is an Interim Order or an Order of Court made at the conclusion of a divorce.

However, instead of arguing back and forth over access arrangements during this pandemic situation, both parents should communicate and make arrangements for access where it is possible.

Under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 which came into effect on 10 April 2020, Section 4(3) states that, “An individual may leave the individual’s ordinary place of residence only to the extent necessary for any of the following purposes:

(e) to transfer temporary custody or care of a child pursuant to any agreement regarding the access rights of a parent of the child, or in discharge of a legal obligation.

The non-custodial parent has the right of access to the child but he or she should also pay consideration to the child’s safety and the risk of any transmission of virus while commuting to and from the custodial parent’s residence. Where possible during this Circuit Breaker Period, it would be best to stay at parties’ respective homes and arrange for Skype calls or other forms of video calls as a good alternative to reduce any exposure of the virus to the non-custodial parent and young child.

However, if an alternative access arrangement is not possible or not agreed, you may consider calling the Police for assistance or contact any of our lawyers for further legal advice.

B. On Family Violence

What to do if a family member is committing family violent to you at home during the Circuit Breaker Period?

Answer: If you have an existing Personal Protection Order (“PPO”) or an Expedited Order (“EO”), if there is a breach of such an order, please contact the police for assistance.

If you do not have a PPO or an EO against the said family member, and are experiencing domestic violence, please contact the police for immediate assistance and/or to make a police report. This is especially so when you are facing immediate threat to your well-being and/or the situation is serious and imminent. If you are experiencing or is a victim of domestic violence, do reach out to any of our family lawyers and we will advice you accordingly of your options. During this period of great instability and uncertainty, everyone deserves to live in a safe home that free from violence.

Disclaimer: Kindly note that the opinion rendered above only serves as a general advise and the circumstances for each case differs. Should you require any further advice or clarification on the above, please do not hesitate to contact any of our legal experts by booking an appointment through ask@arlc.com.sg or contact us at +65 6240 6901.