In Singapore law, a ‘legal guardian’ is defined as a person who is responsible for the welfare and safety of a child. There are two different types of legal guardians:

  • Natural Guardian: Parents

  • Appointed Guardian: Appointed by the court, a deed or will

The child’s parents are also guardians by default, but if one parent passes away, the other parent will become the child’s guardian. 

It is also possible to apply to be the legal guardian of a child under the Guardianship of Infants Act (GIA). In the event where there was no deed or will appointing a guardian after the child’s parents have passed away, a legal guardian can also be appointed by the court. 

Appointing a Guardian by Deed or Will

Also known as a “testamentary guardian”, it is possible for a guardian unrelated to the parent or child to be appointed via a will to be the legal guardian of the child under section 7 of the Guardianship of Infants Act (GIA). This can include a distant relative or even a close family friend appointed in a deed or in the parent’s will. Whether both guardian and child are based in Singapore, or overseas with the court’s permission, they will be required to live together. 

Guardian application process

If you wish to apply to be appointed the legal guardian of a child, you may do so under the GIA provided you are living in Singapore. You are not required to be a family member, or directly related to the child or parent.

Generally, it is best to go through this process with a family lawyer. The documents you will need to get started will be the Originating Summons and an affidavit to support it. The lawyer may also ask you for other documents that may be required, depending on your situation.

In a previous article, we explained how child custody works in Singapore after a divorce. In this context, if you are looking to amend an existing court order regarding custody of your child, you may be able to do so under the GIA by providing your lawyer with additional documents like your marriage certificate, for example.

What is a court-appointed guardian?

There are several possible situations where the court may make the decision to appoint someone as the child’s guardian. One scenario is the absence of a deed or will appointing a guardian if the child’s parents have passed away.

For court-appointed guardians, the duration of the whole process will depend on how complicated the circumstances are. Throughout this time, the child will be placed in foster care. To prevent this scenario from happening, it is always advisable to appoint a guardian by deed as soon as you can.

Engaging a Lawyer

If you are currently in a situation that requires drafting legal documents like deeds and wills, mediation or legal advice, it’s best to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.

Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from traffic offences, high-profile criminal cases – to family and divorce matters. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.