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Pro Bono: Children and Youth Issues

Children and Youth Issues: Introduction


The legal regulation of the child may concern the following areas:

  • Parent and Child: There are two broad areas - (1) the law regulating aspects of the parent-child relationship; (2) law regulating the status of persons under the age of majority.
  • Guardianship and Custody: The law of guardianship and custody regulates the living arrangements that the adults who are involved in the upbringing of a child make and how the adults conduct themselves in the upbringing of the child.
  • Adoption: Adoption is a legal process that irrevocably severs the relationship between the biological parents and their child, and simultaneously replaces it with a relationship between a new set of parents and the child.

Apart from the Women's Charter 1961 (2020 Rev Ed), there are a number of specific statutes regulating aspects of the relationship between the parents and their child. These are of general application to all persons in Singapore, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. They include:

  • Adoption of Children Act 1939 (2020 Rev Ed): Its enactment facilitates legally-recognized adoption through creation of a parent-child relationship via an adoption order granted by the Court.
  • Children and Young Persons Act 1993 (2020 Rev Ed) (CYPA): Offers a child and young person broad protection from acts of "ill-treatment" and regulates juvenile justice.
  • Family Justice Act 2014 (2020 Rev Ed): Regulates the jurisdiction of the Youth Court that is empowered by the CYPA and which falls under the umbrella of the Family Justice Courts.
  • Guardianship of Infants Act 1934 (2020 Rev Ed): Regulates the law of guardianship and custody, and is supplemented by the Women's Charter and principles from common law and equity.
  • Legitimacy Act 1934 (2020 Rev Ed): Provides conditions under which a child, whose relationship with her parents was not legitimate at birth, subsequently acquires legitimacy by her parents marrying each other.
  • Maintenance of Parents Act 1995 (2020 Rev Ed): Provides for the duty for a grown able child to maintain their aged parents. Duty to maintain a child is conversely provided for by the Women's Charter.
  • International Child Abduction Act 2010 (2020 Rev Ed): Statutory mechanism based on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980, in response to the unreasonable exertion of parental authority of abducting one's child away from the child's habitual residence
  • Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Act 2013 (2020 Rev Ed): Legislation on the status of a child born with assisted reproduction technology, specifically providing for who is 'mother' and 'father' of the child.
  • Women's Charter 1961: There are several provisions dealing with child law, particularly Part 10 Chapter 5 on 'Welfare of Children'.

According to the learned author, the driving principle underpinning the law of parent and child is "parental responsibility" under s 46(1) of the Women's Charter, which has origins from common law as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1577 UNTS 3 (1989) (UNCRC).

Concern for the 'welfare of the child' is ubiquitous in the law relating to children, as expressed through legal principles espoused by the Adoption of Children Act, CYPA, Women's Charter, Guardianship of Infants Act and the ratification of the UNCRC.

(Source: Leong Wai Kum, Elements of Family Law, 3rd Ed (2018))

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