The Respondent's Guide to Defending A Personal Protection Order Application in Singapore

The Respondent's Guide to Defending A Personal Protection Order Application in Singapore

You’ve received a summons to appear in Court because someone in your family has filed a Personal Protection Order application against you. In this situation, the family member that filed the application against you is known as the ‘Complainant’ and you are known as the ‘Respondent’.

You’ve never received anything from a Singapore Court before and this intimidating-looking document states that you have to attend a Court mention in the Family Courts on a date and time sometime soon. You’ve also received an Expedited Order (“EO”) that states that in the event you breach the EO, the police may get involved and you may be charged for breaching the EO.

This is generally the situation most Respondents initially face when they receive a PPO summons for the first time. It’s not a great scenario to be involved in and you’ll now need to evaluate your options if you wish to defend yourself against the Complainant’s allegations.

Elements to Prove

In order to succeed in obtaining a personal protection order, the Complainant will have to prove two things if the matter goes all the way to trial:-

  1. An act of family violence has been committed / is likely to be committed against a family member; and
  2. A PPO is necessary for the protection of that family member.

What Is Family Violence

Family violence is defined in the Women’s Charter as the commission of any of the following acts:-

  • To willfully or knowingly place, or attempt to place, a family member in fear of hurt;
  • To cause hurt to a family member by an act which is known (or ought to have been known) to result in hurt;
  • To wrongfully confine or restrain a family member against their will; or
  • To cause continual harassment with intent to cause anguish (or in the knowledge that it would be likely to cause anguish) to a family member.

However, family violence does not include the correction of a minor child (below the age of 21) or any lawful force needed for self-defence.

How Should I Assess The Complaint Form?

As a starting point, you would want to assess the relevant information in the Complaint Form that was filed by the Complainant.

Generally, you will be able to see who the PPO application intends to protect as well as the Court orders that the Complainant is seeking (such as Personal Protection Orders and Domestic Exclusion Orders). Other orders the Court may grant include Expedited Orders and Counselling Orders.

In particular, you would read through the latest incident of family violence alleged as well as the past incidents of family violence. Generally, the larger the number of alleged past incidents, the more incidents you will have to defend yourself against.

You should be quick to identify if there are any frivolous allegations within these incidents and to take note of these incidents that have been stated within.

Do My Actions Constitute A Commission Of Family Violence?

It’s a cliché to state but it really depends. No two PPO cases are exactly the same and there are generally a large number of considerations for the Court to take into account before they make a decision.

However, do note that acts of family violence that take place outside of Singapore can still be considered by the Court for the purpose of the PPO application. This is to make certain that the Complainant’s application for a PPO is not dismissed simply because the act of family violence was not committed in Singapore.

The Court assesses if the two-stage test mentioned above is fulfilled on the balance of probabilities. It is important to note that both stages of the test have to be fulfilled if a protection order is to be issued against the Respondent.

Is The PPO Necessary?

In Yue Tock Him @ Yee Chok Him v Yee Ee Lim [2011] SGDC 99, it was held that a PPO should not be treated as a punitive measure to punish the respondent for acts of violence committed in the past.

Instead, a protection order should serve the purpose of restraining the respondent from committing family violence in future.

As such, even if family violence has been committed or is likely to be committed, the Court still must assess whether a PPO is necessary before it will grant relief.

This is determined by whether there are likely to be any further acts of family violence committed against the particular family member, in the event that a PPO is not granted.

To do so, the following non-exhaustive factors are considered:-

Did the Complainant continue to live with the Respondent?

The Courts have considered that granting a PPO would not be necessary if parties continue to cohabit with each other or even share the same bed.

However, it should be noted that this would not necessarily mean that the PPO would be revoked as sometimes one party continues to cohabit with the other party out of fear, or the need to keep the family together.

Are the Parties still living together or likely to remain in Contact?

If it is clear that the parties are not ever likely to be in contact again, the Courts may find it unnecessary to grant a PPO.

What is the Original Cause of the Conflict and has it been Resolved?

Family violence usually arises from an underlying dispute. If the dispute remains unresolved, and there is a chance that such a dispute might occur again, the Court will most likely see it fit to grant a PPO.

For example, one possible scenario in a family violence case is when one of the spouses withholds access to the children from the other spouse and the other spouse commits family violence in trying to get access to the children. In a situation like this, the Court will need to consider if the cause of the conflict (the access arrangements) has been resolved if it is to decline granting relief to the Complainant.

The Severity of the incident of Family Violence

If the nature of the incident is highly severe, the Court will likely find it necessary to grant a PPO, even if it is a once-off incident.

The Respondent’s perspective of the Violence

If the respondent appears to be unable to learn from earlier warnings or orders issued by the Court, this will also justify the necessity of granting a PPO.

Again, it should be reiterated that the above serves as a general guideline, whether the application of the PPO will be approved by the Courts depends on the special facts of your case.

Disputed Incidents Occurring After The Filing Of The Complaint Form

Another important point that ought to be highlighted concerns disputed incidents which allegedly occur after the application was filed.

In Teng Cheng Sin v Law Fay Yuen [2003] 3 SLR(R) 356, it was held that the judge in the lower court should not have allowed evidence of a disputed incident which took place after the application was made.

That said, the Singapore Courts may look at the factual situation as well as the practicalities of the matter as well. In general, if there are alleged disputed incidents of family violence that occurred after the initial PPO application was filed, the Court may still take these incidents into consideration if the Respondent is not taken by surprise and has enough time to provide an appropriate response.

What Should You Do If You Wish To Dispute The PPO Application

It’s generally a good idea to check in with a lawyer to go through your matter in detail. While hiring a lawyer is not compulsory, it may be helpful to retain one to find out the intricacies of the law and procedure.

Your lawyer can also assist in formulating the appropriate strategies to consider depending on the specific facts and nature of the PPO dispute.


If you have received a Summons to a Respondent and are contemplating your options with respect to disputing a Personal Protection Order being made against you, we can assist. 

You can find out more about our bespoke Personal Protection Order defence packages and make an appointment with us here.

Alternatively, you may wish to get in touch by contacting us at 6550 6359 or through our contact form below and we will follow up with you regarding your matter.

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Filed under: Divorce
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