The High Court stated in AZB v AZC  SGHCF 1 that “The parenting of children is one of the most central family obligations regulated by the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) (“the Women’s Charter”). This responsibility can be found in s 46 of the Women’s Charter, which succinctly encapsulates the most fundamental obligations of a couple entering into the marriage institution. Section 46 of the Women’s Charter provides that “[u]pon the solemnization of marriage, the husband and the wife shall be mutually bound to co-operate with each other in safeguarding the interests of the union and in caring and providing for the children.
Professor Leong Wai Kum has observed in her book Elements of Family Law in Singapore (LexisNexis, 2nd Ed, 2013) at p 236 that “parenting can be considered the pinnacle of co-operation by any two persons.” This joint responsibility of co-operative parenting continues to be placed on both parents even when their own married relationship has ended in a divorce. As parental responsibility does not end even when a marriage does, fundamental to parental responsibility is the law’s expectation that parents must continue, post-divorce, to “place the needs of their children before their own” (see the Court of Appeal decision in BNS v BNT  3 SLR 973 at , citing TAA v TAB  2 SLR 879 at ). Numerous cases have demonstrated that in practice, parents undergoing the divorce process often cannot appreciate that their children’s needs include having a good relationship with both parents. 3 The discharge of parental responsibility requires the hard work and personal sacrifices of both parents in reducing conflict and minimising their acrimony, if any, between themselves. Research has usefully highlighted the adverse effects of parental conflict on children of separated families (see generally Christy M Buchanan and Kelly L Heiges, “When Conflict Continues After the Marriage Ends: Effects of Postdivorce Conflict on Children” in Interparental Conflict and Child Development: Theory, Research and Applications (John H Grych and Frank D Fincham eds) (Cambridge University Press, 2001) ch 13 at pp 337–362; Christina Sadowski and Jennifer E McIntosh, “On laughter and loss: Children’s views of shared time, parenting and security post-separation” (2015) Childhood 1 (“Children’s views of shared time, parenting and security post-separation”); and Robert D Hess and Kathleen A Camara, “Post-Divorce Family Relationships as Mediating Factors in the Consequences of Divorce for Children” (1979) 35(4) Journal of Social Issues 79)”.
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