As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, many governments have implemented travel restrictions into the country in the hopes of slowing the transmission of the Coronavirus. Singapore is no stranger to such travel restrictions.
As of 23 March 2020, in order to reduce the risk of imported cases, the Singapore Government has prohibited all short-term visitors from entering into or transiting through Singapore.
In light of these restrictions and as a parent with a child studying in Singapore, you may find yourself in the unfortunate position of being unable to enter Singapore to see your child. On the other hand, your child may not be able to enter into the country where you and your spouse are and/or you may not want to subject your child to unnecessary travel. You may thus be wondering about the care of your child in your and your spouse’s absence.
Can I appoint a temporary guardian for my child in Singapore?
If you have friends or family members living in Singapore, you may wish to speak to them to make arrangements about the care of your child in the event you or your spouse are uncontactable. Such arrangements will have to be based on goodwill and trust unless parties are willing to make formal arrangements under a Deed or Will.
Pursuant to Section 7 of the Guardianship of Infants Act, parents have the power to appoint a guardian for their child after their death by Deed or Will. While the parents of the child remain alive, the appointed testamentary guardian must act jointly with the parents in making decisions for the child.
The Singapore Courts have not had the opportunity to consider the enforceability of a letter or document conferring temporary guardianship of a child to another. In determining issues on guardianship, the position taken by the Singapore Courts has always been that parental responsibility cannot be and should not be simply delegated away.
In the event you do choose to enter into a formal agreement with a third party regarding the care of your child, you should also be mindful that in determining child-related issues, the Singapore Courts regards the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration. This means that the agreement will not be enforceable if the Court deems it to be against the interests of the child.
Related Article: Frequently Asked Questions on Guardianship in Singapore
Who will make medical decisions for your child in your absence?
A child under the age of majority is unable to make medical decisions for themselves as they are deemed to lack the requisite capacity by virtue of their young age. As the parents of your child, in the absence of a court order stating otherwise, you and your spouse enjoy joint custody of the child under Singapore law and will have to be consulted with respect to the child’s major decisions, such as the undergoing of medical treatments and procedures.
In the event that your child is required to undergo emergency medical procedure but you and your spouse remain uncontactable, the Court may order that an approved welfare officer or another person appointed by the Court step in to make decisions for the child. Ultimately, the aim of any decision made by the Court, welfare officer, or other persons, is to protect and enhance the well-being of the child.
Related Article: Covid-19 and Co-Parenting in Singapore
What happens if my child is issued with a Stay-Home Notice or Quarantine Order in Singapore?
Due to actual or potential contact with a Coronavirus patient, your child may be issued with a Stay-Home Notice or Quarantine Order. A Stay-Home Notice requires your child to stay in a designated place for 14 days, while a Quarantine Order is a legal order that is issued under the Infectious Diseases Act.
The conditions of a Quarantine Order are stricter as it requires the served individuals to be placed in isolation. Your child can serve out his/her period under the Quarantine Order in his/her Singapore residence, at a Government Quarantine Facility or hospital.
It is important to remind your child to adhere to the conditions of the Notice or Order as a breach of a Notice or Order carries serious consequences. The following are possible penalties that your child may face:-
- Being prosecuted under Section 21A of the Infectious Diseases Act and being liable to pay a fine and/or imprisonment;
- Having his/her Student Pass revoked; and/or
- Being subject to disciplinary action in school, such as being suspended or dismissed from school.
Related Article: Maintenance Obligations Amid Economic Crisis due to Covid-19