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COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 and its impact on child access

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Ministry of Health has confirmed via a FAQ on their website on 9 April 2020 that child access arrangement is allowed and can continue.

 .divorce lawyers Singapore

COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 and its impact on child access

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 Updated on 10 April 2020 to reflect MOH’s FAQ dated 9 April 2020

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The COVID (Temporary Measures) Act was passed by Parliament on 7 April 2020. Under Section 34 of the Act, the Minister may make regulations (called “control orders”) for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, delaying or otherwise controlling the incidence or transmission of COVID-19 in Singapore.

The Minister for Health made the control order on 7 April 2020, which comes into force on 8 April 2020.  The control measures will last one month until 4 May 2020.

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From 8 April to 4 May 2020 – You can only leave the house in these 12 situations

Under section 4 of the Regulations, every individual must stay at or in, and not leave, his or her ordinary place of residence in Singapore.

The Bill lists only 12 situations an individual may leave his or her home, as well as anything reasonably connected with the items on the list.  These 12 situations are:

(1) to work for or with an essential service provider, a specified school or an early childhood development centre

(2) to procure any goods or services from an essential service provider or a specified school

(3) to obtain — (i) medical treatment for a suspected Covid-19 infection at a hospital, medical clinic or any other place, designated by the Director for the treatment of Covid-19; or (ii) medical treatment that is of a pressing nature

(4) to engage in any recreational activity in an open-air stadium, public path or public park alone or with any other individual who lives with you.

(5) where an individual works for or with an essential service provider, to bring the individual’s child or children to a place where the child or children are to be cared for.

(6) to assist any individual who has a physical or mental disability, or is below 12 years of age or above 60 years of age, with his or her daily needs.

(7) to report for enlistment or service under the Enlistment Act.

(8) to report to any law enforcement officer or to attend at any court in accordance with any warrant, summons or order made under any written law or order of a court.

(9) to be present at any place in accordance with a requirement under any written law.

(10) to seek or render help in an emergency.

(11) to move to another place of accommodation.

(12) to leave Singapore.

It also states that individuals must not allow others to enter his or her home except in very limited circumstances, including the provision of an essential service.

Under section 6, unless otherwise permitted under these Regulations, a person must not meet another individual not living in the same place of residence for any social purpose.

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Offence

For first time offenders, the penalty is a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both. For second or subsequent offences, the penalty is a fine of up to $20,000, or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

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Impact on Child Access Arrangements

Given that Parliament expressly listed only 12 situations where an individual may leave his or her home from the period 8 April to 4 May 2020, some parents are naturally concerned about the impact the new law has on child access arrangements.

Ministry of Health has provided guidance on their website on 9 April 2020 that access is allowed and can continue:

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Q I am divorced and my children take turns to live with me and my ex-spouse. Can this arrangement continue? 
This is allowed. However, do keep changes to a minimum, where possible, to lower the risk of transmission across different households.
Q I am separated/divorced and my spouse/ex-spouse has care and control of my child(ren). I see my children as per access arrangements. Can these access arrangements continue?
Yes, access arrangements may continue, other than Court-ordered Supervised Exchange and Supervised Visits (SE/SV). However, due to the current situation, the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies have suspended the SE/SV. Parents who are affected may contact the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) via email at dssaprogrammes@msf.gov.sg or via phone at 63240024.

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If access is not possible during this period, it is hoped that the parent with care and control will allow generous phone and video calls between the child and the parent who is unable to have access. To make up for the loss of access during the one month circuit breaker period, both parents may also come to an agreement on ‘make up’ access time when the control measures expire on 4 May 2020.

Parents would do well to heed the words of the Family Court statement dated 7 April 2020 that:

“In the midst of the Circuit Breaker measures, parents should act sensibly and safely in all arrangements made for their children.  Turning to the court should be the last resort.  Parents should communicate with each other or through their lawyers regarding existing orders relating to access.  They should work together to find practical and suitable solutions to access issues, bearing in mind the best interests of their children and the need to comply with the measures put in place by the government.” 

If there was ever a time for divorced parents to pull together and act in the interests of the children, it is now.

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Links:

Covid-19 and child custody arrangement in Singapore

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