Lim Slott v Wong Chiew Huong

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeTan May Tee
Judgment Date31 October 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGDC 45
Citation[2000] SGDC 45
Published date19 September 2003

Judgment

GROUNDS OF DECISION

Background to the dispute

1. The Plaintiff and the Defendant are the parents of the child, Lim Xuen, born in Australia on 21 August 1998. The Plaintiff who is the mother, is a Malaysian citizen with Permanent Resident status in Singapore. She met the Defendant when they were colleagues in 1996. They married in 1997. This was the Defendant’s second marriage. The couple left for Australia immediately after the marriage as the Defendant was pursuing further studies there. The parties resided in Australia from August 1997 to February 1999 and the child was born there.

2. Upon their return to Singapore, the family stayed with the Plaintiff’s brother and sister-in-law in their flat in Yishun. Differences soon arose in their marriage leading to the Defendant’s departure in mid-July 1999. He left to stay with his father in Holland Avenue.

3. Although the Defendant was no longer in the same household, he returned to see the child practically everyday. The Plaintiff had arranged for the child to be cared for by a baby-sitter living in a neighbouring block during her working hours. There were numerous disagreements between the parties over the access that the Defendant should have to the child culminating in an incident on 16 October 1999, a Saturday evening. According to the Plaintiff, the Defendant had wanted to bring the child for an outing to Suntec City. It was already 7.00 pm and the Plaintiff was concerned that the child, then only 14 months old, might be tired out. She refused to allow him unless he agreed to return the child to her the same night by 9.00 pm. The Defendant then became hostile and left with the child after telling the Plaintiff that he would keep the child over the weekend.

4. The Plaintiff attempted to take the child from the Defendant’s arms and a violent struggle ensued along the common corridor of the HDB flat. The Defendant refused to give up the child and the Plaintiff had to relent when the child started crying uncontrollably and the neighbours were alerted to the commotion. The Defendant did not return the child to the Plaintiff that night. Neither did he inform the Plaintiff of the child’s whereabouts leading her to make a frantic search among his relatives. She had no news about the child until she received a phone call from the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. It transpired that the Defendant had brought the child to a doctor and made allegations of child abuse. The child was subsequently warded in the KK Women and Children’s Hospital and referred to the Child Protection and Welfare Service of the Ministry of Community Development for the alleged abuse. Some bruises were found on the child which the examining paediatrician considered to be minor. Investigations by the Ministry revealed that the injuries were likely to have been sustained when the parties were engaged in a tussle over the child. The parties were counselled on the adverse consequences of their disputes on the child and no further action was taken by the police.

My orders

5. The Plaintiff then filed this Originating Summons for custody. It came on for hearing before me on 20 March 2000 when after hearing the arguments from both sides, I adjourned the matter for investigations by the Ministry of Community Development and for a welfare report to be furnished. The report was completed in August and the matter restored for hearing on 18 September 2000 at the end of which I made the following orders:

(1) The Plaintiff to have sole custody, care and control of the child.

(2) The Defendant to have access to the child:

(a) every Tuesday and Thursday from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm

(b) alternate weekends from Saturday 6.00 pm to Monday 8.00 am commencing 30 September 2000

(c) alternate public holidays from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm commencing with Deepavali on 26 October 2000

(d) on the child’s birthday from 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm

(e) on his birthday from 9.00 am to 9.00 pm

(3) The child to be picked up by the Defendant on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the babysitter’s home and to be returned to the Plaintiff at the Neighbourhood Police Post at Block 795 Yishun Ring Road. Except for the alternate weekend overnight access when the child shall be returned to the babysitter on Monday mornings, for all other access days, the child shall be picked up and returned to the Plaintiff at the Neighbourhood Police Post at Block 795 Yishun Ring Road. During overnight access, the Defendant shall be with the child at his residence at Block 796 Yishun Ring Road # 06-3376 or at his father’s residence or at any other place the location to be notified to the Plaintiff before taking the child.

(4) The Defendant to return the child’s passport to the Plaintiff by 20 September 2000.

(5) The Plaintiff shall have the liberty to bring the child with her to visit her parents in Kuantan, Malaysia during the weekends that the child is with her.

(6) Except for (5), neither party shall bring the child out of Singapore unless both parties consent or with the leave of the Court.

(7) The Defendant to pay the Plaintiff the sum of $360.00 per month as maintenance for the child with effect from 1 October 2000 and thereafter on the 1st day of each month, payment to be made direct to the Plaintiff’s bank account, details of which to be provided by the Plaintiff’s solicitors to the Defendant.

(8) Parties shall have liberty to apply.

(9) Costs fixed at $2,000.00 to be paid by the Defendant to the Plaintiff.

6. The Defendant who attended in person at both hearings before me has since engaged solicitors and filed an appeal against my orders.

Principles governing custody

7. The Plaintiff’s application for custody was filed under the Guardianship of Infants Act (Cap 122). The sections which are directly relevant are sections 3, 5 and 11. These are:

3. – Where in any proceedings before any court the custody or upbringing of an infant … is in question, the court, in deciding that question, shall regard the welfare of the infant as the first and paramount consideration and save in so far as such welfare otherwise requires the father of an infant shall not be deemed to have any right superior to that of the mother in respect of such custody, … nor shall the mother be deemed to have any claim superior to that of the father

5. – The court may upon the application of either parent or any guardian appointed under this Act, make...

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