TCX v TCY

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeSim Khadijah Bte Mohammed
Judgment Date08 May 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 60
Citation[2015] SGFC 60
Docket NumberDivorce No. 1849 of 2013, FC Summons No. 161 of 2015
Hearing Date10 March 2015
Plaintiff CounselMs Gomez Winnifred (Gomez & Vasu LLC)
Defendant CounselMs Alina Sim (Axis Law Corporation)
Subject MatterFamily law,Custody order,Imposing condition to joint custody order,Sole custody
Published date22 May 2015
District Judge Sim Khadijah Bte Mohammed:

This was an application filed by the Defendant father to vary the Interim Judgment (“IJ”) dated 24 September 2013 in order to impose a condition in relation to the order for joint custody. The application was precipitated by the parties’ son’s decision to enrol in the International Baccalaureate (“IB”) Programme at School A, instead of attending School B under the mainstream GCE ‘O’ Level syllabus. In his Summons, the Defendant prayed for the following: The IJ be varied in that the Plaintiff be directed to ensure that the parties’ son attends school at School B forthwith; Alternatively, the IJ be varied in that the Defendant be granted sole custody of both children of the marriage; Both children do attend counselling forthwith; and The Plaintiff to pay the costs of and incidental to the application to the Defendant.

I heard submissions by both parties’ Counsel on 10 March 2015 and delivered my decision and brief grounds on the same day. In my decision, I dismissed the Defendant’s application and ordered costs against the Defendant, fixed at S$1,200 (all in). The Defendant seeks to appeal against my decision. In the circumstances, I now set out the full grounds for my decision on 10 March 2015.

Background

The parties were married on 2 September 2000, and have 2 children – a son aged 13 and a daughter aged 12. The Plaintiff mother filed for divorce on 12 April 2013 on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour on the part of the Defendant. The Defendant did not contest the divorce and parties agreed on joint custody of the children, with care and control to the Plaintiff. The IJ (containing the order for joint custody, with care and control to the Plaintiff) was granted on 24 September 2013. The remainder of the ancillary matters (“AMs”) are contested and the hearing of the AMs is on-going (as at the date of this decision).

As the parties’ son would be enrolling in Secondary School after his Primary School Leaving Examinations (“PSLE”) in 2014, the Plaintiff accompanied her son to visit 15 different schools which he was interested in attending, including School A and School B. The Plaintiff and the son also spoke to several teachers and administrators at the different schools so as to help the son make an informed decision about his choice of school. The Defendant was not involved in the process of decision-making, nor did he indicate an interest in being part of the same. Having consulted his own teachers and considered the options available to him, the son eventually decided on School A as his first choice and School B as his second.

The son’s PSLE results were released on 21 November 2014. Unfortunately, the son did not perform as well as he had hoped. On 14 December 2014, the Defendant took the children out to lunch and the son informed the Defendant that apart from the regular secondary schools, he had also applied to School A. The Defendant enquired as to how the son had applied for School A and the son explained that he was required to take a test and attend an interview. The Defendant did not express any objection to the son’s application to School A at that juncture and it is the Plaintiff’s case that the Defendant had known about the son’s application to School A even prior to 14 December 2014. According to the Plaintiff, the Defendant had not expressed any objection to the son’s choice of school throughout the period of awaiting the PSLE results and the school selection process, and had indicated that he would respect the son’s choice.

On 15 December 2014, the Defendant followed up with the son through Whatsapp messages, requesting to know of the outcome of the son’s application to School A. The son replied that the results were not out yet. Again, the exchange of messages gave no indication that the Defendant objected to the son’s application to School A.

On 19 December 2014, the results for posting to regular secondary schools were released, and the son was informed that he had been accepted to School B. The son accordingly informed the Defendant of the same.

On 22 December 2014, as the son had not yet heard back from School A, the Plaintiff accompanied the son to report at School B. When they returned home, however, they received the offer of enrolment from School A. The son was overjoyed and informed the Defendant through Whatsapp of the good news. The Defendant neither congratulated the son nor objected to the news of the son’s application and enrolment at School A.

On 23 December 2014, the Defendant sent an email to the Plaintiff registering his objections to the son’s enrolment at School A. That same day, the Plaintiff’s solicitors received a letter from the Defendant’s solicitors on the same subject matter. This was the first time the Defendant made known his objections to the son’s enrolment at School A. The Plaintiff informed the son of his father’s objections and the son messaged the Defendant via Whatsapp requesting to know the reason for his objections. In particular, the son requested to know why the Defendant was now objecting to his enrolment at School A when he had known of the son’s application previously and did not object to the same. Instead of addressing the son’s queries, the Defendant told the son to “[a]sk your mummy”.

On 24 December 2014, the Defendant asked the son why he was enrolling at School A when the Defendant was not supportive of his decision. The son explained that he had discussed the matter with his teacher and she felt that he was suitable for the IB programme at School A. The Defendant then told the son that he would speak to the son’s teacher, but the Defendant went much further than that.

First, the Defendant emailed School A on 26 December 2014 expressing his objections to the son enrolling there. In his email, the Defendant purported to reject the offer of enrolment from School A. Secondly, the Defendant emailed the son’s primary school and the Ministry of Education on 30 December 2014 to register his objections to the son attending School A. In his email, the Defendant emphasised that School B was a good school and that he had joint custody and should be consulted on matters relating to the son’s education.

Thirdly, the Defendant proceeded to call School B every day during the first few days of the school term in 2015 to check on whether the son was attending school there. Fourthly, the Defendant sent numerous emails to the principal of the son’s primary school. When the son’s former form teacher called the Defendant, he demanded to know why the teacher had given an Evaluation and Recommendation Letter on the son’s abilities and suitability for the IB programme. He also demanded that the school issue a letter to him stating that the son was suited for the mainstream GCE ‘O’ Level course but the school did not accede to his request.

The Defendant’s actions caused the son immense distress and...

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