TAN v TAO

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeSowaran Singh
Judgment Date05 February 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 21
Citation[2015] SGFC 21
Docket NumberD 2608 of 2013, DCA No. of 2015
Publication Date23 June 2015
Plaintiff CounselMr. Zaminder Singh (M/s Hilborne Law LLC)
Defendant CounselDefendant (in person)
SubjectCatch words: "Family Law,ancillary matters,discovery,children: custody, care, control and access,maintenance for children and spouse,division of matrimonial assets and home".
District Judge Sowaran Singh: Background

The parties married in May 2009 and have two daughters from the union. The girls are 5 and 2+ year old1. The wife2 was described as being a 40 year old housewife and an Australian citizen. The husband was described as being a 45 year old trader. Both parties have tertiary qualifications. On the 23 May 2013 the wife filed for a divorce based on the husband’s unreasonable behaviour. The husband filed a Defence and Counterclaim in June 2013. On the 17 September 2013 Interim Judgment (IJ) was granted on both their claims based on the unreasonable behaviour of the other. The ancillaries were adjourned to Chambers. The ancillaries were heard on the 22 December 2014 and 20 January 2015 and the court made its orders at the conclusion of the hearing. The husband has now on the 29 January 2015 appealed against the orders that that were made at the conclusion of the ancillary hearing.

The Previous Proceedings

Whilst waiting for the ancillary matters to be heard, the parties had filed several other applications in the interim period. A dispute over the children especially the older girl surfaced soon after the divorce was filed in May 2013. On the 18 June 2013 a consent order was entered into by the parties who were represented by counsel. Under this order the husband was to have interim access to the children from 7pm to 9pm every weekday and from 9am to 9pm on every Saturday. The wife’s maid was to accompany the children during the Saturday access. The husband was to send and fetch the older girl to school every weekday. Neither party was to take the children out of the jurisdiction. These orders were made without prejudice to either party’s position on the issue of care and control at the hearing of their respective applications in SUM 7515/2013 (filed by the wife on the 28 May 20133) and in SUM 8269/20134 (filed by the husband on the 10 June 20135).

At the hearing of these SUMs on the 20 August 2013, the court ordered that interim care and control of the children be granted to the wife with access to the husband from 7pm to 9pm on weekdays and from 9am to 9pm on Saturdays. The husband’s mother or sister was to assist him during the Saturday access. The husband was to continue to fetch and send the older child to school every weekday and neither party was to take the children out of the jurisdiction. Both parties filed appeals against these orders in RAS 131/2013 (by the husband) and RAS 132/2013(by the wife).

On the 30 September 2013 the learned Judicial Commissioner allowed in part the wife’s appeal in that he ordered that each party was to have the right to send and fetch the older child to school on alternate weeks beginning with 7 October 2013. He also ordered that the nursery/child care of the older child be changed to one that was nearer to the wife’s home. He also dismissed the husband’s appeal. The husband was not living in the matrimonial home at Thompson but with his mother in Marine Parade and the older girl was in a child care facility in Marine Parade.

Thereafter followed another spate of applications and appeals. Whilst the wife wanted the older girl to be placed in a child care centre in Thompson, the husband resisted taking the girl out of the centre in Marine Parade. On the 30 April 2014 the court ordered in SUM 5333/2014 (brought by the wife) that the husband return the child to the wife by the 1st May 2014 and pay costs of $400.The husband filed an appeal on the 12 May 2014 in RAS 99/2014 against this order. This appeal was subsequently withdrawn.

On the 22 May 2104 the wife filed another application in SUM 7372/2014 (ex-parte) that the older girl be withdrawn from the child care centre at Marine Parade and for the wife to collect the child within 3 days from this centre. This application was granted on the 27 May 2014 and the husband has filed an appeal against this decision in RAS 118/2014 on the 4 June 2014. This appeal was dismissed on the 20 October 2014.

The matter had become acrimonious6 with the husband alleging that the wife was not taking good care of the girls and the wife denying these allegations. It is neither helpful nor necessary here to state in any great detail the various allegations and counter allegations by the parties. It appears that on the 29 May 2014 the older child went back to the wife but the husband was not able to have access to the children as the wife claimed that she was fearful that he would not return the child/children back.

On the 13 June 2014, five SUMS’ that had been filed by the husband and the wife were heard together. These were as follows: SUM No. 17061/2013(filed by the wife on the 19 December 2013) SUM No. 278/2014(amended7: filed by the husband on the 3 March 2014) SUM No. 7192/2014(filed by the wife on the 22 May 2014) SUM No. 7372/2014(ex-parte filed by the wife on the 22 May 2014) SUM No. 7586/2014(filed by the husband on the 30 May 2014)

By this time8 the husband did not have counsel acting for him. Essentially, the husband wanted the older girl to remain in the Marine Parade child care centre (SUM 278/2014 and SUM 7586/2014)) whilst the wife wanted her to be taken out and enrolled in the Thompson centre (SUM 17061/2013). The husband wanted to be the one sending the child to and from her school, as well as care and control of both girls from Wednesdays to Sundays until 12noon. He also wanted the younger child to be placed in the same centre (SUM 278/2014).The wife wanted to give the husband only supervised access at the Centre for Family Harmony (SUM 7192/2014). There were also other applications by the husband (in SUM 7586/2014) asking for committal proceedings against the wife, access to the children every day from 5pm to 9pm with overnight access on Fridays. He also wanted the wife to consult the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to determine her mental condition.

The Hearing on the 13 June 2014

On the 13 June 2014, after hearing both parties (the husband appeared in person), the court called for a Social Welfare Report (SWR) and in the meantime gave the husband access to both girls from 4pm to 9pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as well as from 9am to 9pm on Saturdays. The parties were also ordered to attend the Parenting Workshop under Project Impact at their own cost. A penal clause was also inserted to ensure compliance with the orders.

The Hearing on the 28 August 2014

At the resumed hearing on the 28 August 2014 the court had before it the SWR that had been put up. The court took into account the SWR and having regard to all the facts and circumstances made the following orders: - there was to be no change in the access times given to the husband on the 13 June 2014 namely from 4pm to 9pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as well as from 9am to 9pm on Saturdays. - neither party shall make any negative remarks to the children about the other party. - the parties may vary these access arrangements by mutual agreement in writing. - the penal clause for both parties was to remain.

The court was satisfied that the children were happy and comfortable living with the mother and any change in these care arrangements would not be healthy for them. The court was also satisfied that there was no risk to the children when they were with the father and that he too ought to have regular contact with them.

It was unfortunate that both parties had lost trust in each other on account of the preceding events. The wife was fearful after having got the older girl back from her school on the 29 May 2014 to allow further access to the husband. The husband was bent on having things go his way. This internecine conflict was affecting the children who felt triangulated and hurt. The court is alluding to these issues here in the hope that the parties will take a step back and realize the damage they are doing to the children. In the same vein the court also took time to counsel both parties at length.

Other Subsequent Applications

Subsequently numerous other applications and appeals against some of the decisions were filed by the husband. It is not critical to allude to all of them here in detail except to note that as at the 21 October 2014 the 5 outstanding matters9 were in SUM’s 13508/2014 (discovery), 135329/2014(on the children’s issues), 13548/2014 (on maintenance issues10), 14139/2014 (discovery) and 14469/2014(also on the children’s issues). There were also several appeals filed by the husband in respect of other earlier SUM’s. However, all these appeals had been concluded including the two in RAS 118 and 121/201411.

The Case Conference held on the 21 October 2104

With the launch of the Family Justice Courts and the coming into force of the Family Justice Act (No.27 of 204), this case was appropriately put into a docket system. With a view to helping the ancillaries and the 5 outstanding SUMS’s (“the Summons”) that had been filed to move forward efficiently a Case Conference (CC) was held on the 21 October 2104. At this CC directions were given for the filing of another round of affidavits by the 11 November 2014. The parties had filed their Affidavits of Assets and Means previously in November 201312.The ancillaries included the issue of the children’s custody, care and control as well as access. The other matters were the division of the matrimonial assets/home and maintenance for the wife and children.

A hearing was also scheduled for the 3 December 2014 to deal with all the outstanding summonses that had been filed by the husband. The parties were directed to submit their list of questions that they wished to ask each other orally at this hearing in writing in their affidavits that were to be filed by the 17 November 210413. This was done so as to allow them to prepare themselves for these questions and the relevant documents they required in support thereof. A second hearing date on the 22 December 2104 was also allocated...

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