DISCLAIMER: The information on this page relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.
On December 28, 2010, Singapore acceded to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which entered into force between the United States and Singapore on May 1, 2012. U.S. citizens who travel to Singapore place themselves under the jurisdiction of local courts. U.S. citizens planning a trip to Singapore should bear this in mind. For more information, please see the Embassy of The Republic of Singapore website.
The U.S. Department of State Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) posts country-specific information on Singapore at the State Department website.
THE LEGAL SYSTEM
The Singapore legal system is based on British Law. Muslim Singaporeans may also choose to have their cases heard in the Syariah Court. Custody and divorce cases are heard in Family Court or the Syariah Court. For more information on the Syariah Court please visit http://app.syariahcourt.gov.sg/syariah/front-end/SYCHome_E.aspx.
Foreign custody orders and judgments are not enforceable in Singapore unless recognized by a Singapore family court. Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Singaporean court may wish to retain an attorney in Singapore.
Parents who are legally married share the custody of their children. Singaporean law does allow for divorce. If parents are not married, under Singaporean law, custody is granted to the mother unless there are known facts of inappropriate behavior, mental or social problems.
RETAINING A LOCAL ATTORNEY
The U.S. Embassy in Singapore maintains a list of attorneys who practice in the areas of divorce, family law, and child custody matters. Please see: http://singapore.usembassy.gov/list_of_attorneys.html.
This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms on the list. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.
The Singapore Legal Aid Bureau provides legal advice and aid to persons of limited means. While legal aid is ordinarily available only to citizens or permanent residents of Singapore, it is also provided to citizens or residents of contracting states who are involved in applications under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Persons seeking assistance must complete and submit Form 1 – Application for Legal Aid for matters relating to the Hague Convention, and show that they are financially eligible and that their case has merit. Further information about the Legal Aid Bureau is available at http://app2.lab.gov.sg.
CHILD PASSPORT & CITIZENSHIP MATTERS
Singapore confers citizenship in several ways. Children born outside of Singapore to Singaporean citizens may acquire citizenship if one parent is Singaporean and meets one of several requirements laid out under Article 122(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.
For complete details on acquiring Singaporean citizenship, please see Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) website at: http://www.ica.gov.sg/page.aspx?pageid=132.
Either parent may apply for a Singaporean passport for his/her child, but will need the other parent’s consent to collect the passport after it is issued. An ex-spouse must provide a letter of consent if the child is under joint custody.
Singapore does not recognize dual citizenship for people over the age of 21. Singapore does not allow a child to be entered on his/her parent’s passport and travel in the region is not allowed on a national ID card.
The decision whether to grant or refuse a Singaporean passport lies with the Controller of Immigration.
The Singapore Ministry of Law has established a Community Mediation Centre that provides mediation services free of charge for family disputes. Mediation services for custody disputes are also available through the Singapore Mediation Centre, Family Law Mediation Pilot Project. For detailed information on mediation services in Singapore, please follow the link: http://app2.mlaw.gov.sg/.
HAGUE ABDUCTION CONVENTION
The Convention entered into force between the United States and Singapore on May 1, 2012.
Singapore's Central Authority is The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS): http://app1.mcys.gov.sg/.
For information about eligibility for relief under the Convention, application forms, and checklist, see:
http://travel.state.gov/abduction/solutions/possiblesolutions/possiblesolutions_3851.html. You can download the application, along with instruction for completing it at:
If you decide to request return of an abducted child under the Convention, you should submit an application for return as soon as possible. You do not need a custody order to begin the application process.
We suggest that you call the U.S. Central Authority at 1-888-407-4747 and ask to speak to the Singapore country officer prior to starting the application process.
The U. S Central Authority will forward complete and eligible Hague Abduction Convention applications to the Singapore Central Authority (SCA).
Submit your application and supporting documents to:
U.S. Central Authority
Office of Children's Issues
U.S. Department of State
2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
SA-29, Fourth Floor
Washington, DC 20037
A petitioning parent may also file an application directly with the Singapore Family Court, or apply directly to the SCA for assistance. An applicant may wish to retain the services of an attorney to assist them with completing and filing a Hague application.
If a child has been removed to or retained in Singapore, the Singapore Central Authority (SCA) will facilitate locating the child, requesting a voluntary return, and, when necessary, protecting and caring for the child while the Hague proceeding is pending.
The Singapore Family Court, which is under the authority of the Subordinate Courts of Singapore, hears Hague Convention cases. After the application is filed with the Family Court, the court sets a date for, and conducts, a hearing. The petitioning parent must attend the court hearing unless represented by counsel. While the application for return is pending, any interested person may seek an injunction to prevent any other person from taking the child out of Singapore. After the hearing, the Family Court announces a decision on the application.
The losing party may appeal a Hague decision to the High Court of Singapore by filing a Notice of Appeal within one month from the date of judgment or order appealed against.
The length of time for a Hague Convention case in Singapore will vary, depending upon such factors as whether the child can be located, when a case can be ready for hearing, the time taken for a hearing and decision by the Family Court, and whether one of the parties files an appeal with the High Court.
The applicant bears his/her legal costs unless her/she is eligible for legal aid. The applicant may also have to bear other costs associated with the application of return of the child such as the cost of travel and accommodation. The SCA does not charge any administrative costs in liaising with other authorities/agencies or in assisting with the completion of a request form.
Once the Family Court issues a return order, the Singapore Central Authority will immediately begin to facilitate the safe
return of the child back to the country of habitual residence and will liaise with that country’s Central Authority concerning
If the parent retaining the child refuses to comply with a return order, he/she will be in contempt of court. The petitioning parent may then initiate proceedings against the violator. A party found to be in contempt of court can be fined or jailed, or both.
Singapore courts do not always recognize U.S.custody decisions. The parent must petition the court to accept and enforce the U.S. court decision.
Local court orders are directly enforceable and may be appealed.
There is a Syariah court in Singapore that can exercise jurisdiction in family law matters when both parties are Muslims, or when the parties were married under the provisions of Muslim law.
Custody decisions are made in the best interest of the child. Singapore has codified custody laws and they are available online in English in the Women’s Charter, http://statutes.agc.gov.sg or on the Law Society website, http://www.lawsociety.org.sg/public/you_and_the_law/custody_and_maintenance.aspx.
According to Singapore’s International Child Abduction Act of 2010, parental child abduction is a criminal offense in Singapore. For more information please visit http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/. Before filing criminal charges, parents should, in consultation with legal counsel, consider the potential impact on the return of the child. Filing criminal charges in the United States could adversely affect a Hague application for return of the child. For more information, see:
The Family Court or Syariah Court determines visitation and access rights in custody cases. Syariah Court considers the family situation in determining visitation and access rights. There are enforcement mechanisms in place access rights if there is a Singapore court custody decision. For more information please visit http://app.subcourts.gov.sg/family/faq.aspx?pageid=3689.
EMBASSY CONTACT INFORMATION
U.S. Embassy Singapore:
U.S. Embassy Singapore
27 Napier Road
Tel: (65) 6476-9100 (Same contact number for after-hours emergency)
Fax: (65) 6476-9232
Embassy of the Republic of Singapore, Washington DC
3501 International Place, NW
Washington, DC 200008