COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 and How It Affects Child Access Arrangements
(UPDATED AS OF 10 APRIL 2020)
As a result of the enactment of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 (the “Act”) and the amendments made thereafter, every parent (either separated or divorced) will inevitably have questions on how the Act will impact their current Court Order or agreement on child access arrangements.
On our analysis of the Act and the latest amendments, the following sections are pertinent to note:-
Section 4 – Restrictions on leaving or entering place of residence
(3) Subject to paragraphs (3A) and (3B), an individual may leave the individual’s ordinary place of residence only to do directly with all reasonable speed, any or a combination of one or more of the following:
a. to work for or with an essential service provider, a specified school or an early childhood development centre;
b. to procure any goods or services from an essential service provider, an early childhood development centre or a specified school;
c.to obtain –
- 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
- medical treatment that is of a pressing nature;
d. to engage in any recreational activity alone or with any other individual who lives with the firstmentioned individual on a public path, or in a green or an open space that is managed or maintained by the Government or a public body and is accessible to the general public without payment of any fee;
e. to transfer temporary custody or care of a child pursuant to any agreement regarding access rights of a parent of the child, or in discharge of a legal obligation;
f. to assist any individual who has a physical or mental disability, or is 12 years of age and below, or 60 years of age and above, with his or her daily needs, where there is no other assistance available to the individual
g. to report for enlistment or service under the Enlistment Act (Cap. 93);
h. 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;
i. to the extent necessary to comply with an order of a court or a direction given in exercise of a power under any written law;
ia. to attend a funeral or funeral wake;
j. to seek or render help in an emergency;
k. to move to another place of accommodation;
l. to leave Singapore;
m. to do anything reasonably connected with and for the purposes of the matters in sub-paragraphs (a) to (l).
(4) An individual must not permit any other individual to enter his or her ordinary place of residence for any reason other than –
- to enable an essential service provider to supply goods or services;
- for any purpose connected with paragraph 3(e), (i) or (k);
- to receive any assistance mentioned in paragraph (3)(f); or
- to receive help in an emergency mentioned in paragraph (3)(j).
Related Article: Co-parenting in a Pandemic
Section 6 – Prohibition on social gatherings
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.
Care of Children with Grandparents
On 9 April 2020, Health Minister Mr Gan Kim Yong (“Minister Gan”) who co-chairs the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on COVID-19 clarified at a press conference that parents will no longer be allowed to drop their child off daily at the grandparents’ residence. This is because the elderly are more susceptible to potential infections of the Coronavirus and the complications that may follow; there is a need to protect the seniors and reduce any contact time. Where it is inevitable that the help of the grandparents is required to care for the child(ren), arrangements should be made for the child to stay with their grandparents during this entire Circuit Breaker period.
Further, Minister Gan had stated that the Singapore Government will provide assistance to parents working in essential services in placing their child in childcare facilities.
Following the most recent update, the stance taken by the Singapore Government is clear - every individual is encouraged to stay home to curb the widespread community transmission of COVID-19. As Minister Gan highlighted “the key message is really stay at home, go out only for essential activities such as to buy food or seek urgent medical attention.”
More Clarity with respect to Court Orders in relation to custody, care and control and access
It is clear from Sections 4(3)(e) and (i) of the Act that parties with existing Court Orders in relation to the children’s custody, care and control and access can continue any arrangements pursuant to the terms of the Orders.
In light of the above, it appears that:-
- One should stay home as much as possible unless it is for an essential activity such as buying food or seeking urgent medical attention and pursuant to the provisions of the Act.
- Care and control and access arrangements can continue. However, given that all individuals are encouraged to stay home to minimise the widespread community transmission of COVID-19, parents are highly encouraged to co-parent and agree on any changes to child arrangements in the interim, taking into account the child’s welfare and best interests.
- The parent with Access can leave the residence to assist the child at the care and control parent’s residence with the child’s daily needs, if the child has a physical or mental disability or is below 12 years of age.
Related Article: Impact of Coronavirus on Divorce & Child Custody in Singapore
Parents are encouraged to communicate and make arrangements for remote access wherever possible and to provide make-up access during the Circuit Breaker period.
In the event the Access parent takes your child away and refuses to return the child, you have the right to call the Police for assistance as he/she is not stated as the parent with Care and Control in the existing Court Order.
We acknowledge that the circumstances of each family unit differ. As such, please note this advice rendered is in its most general form. If you have any specific questions on your child access arrangements, please do not hesitate to contact us for further clarity.
Related Article: Coronavirus & its Impact on Child Maintenance Order in Singapore