CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeSharon Lim
Judgment Date25 May 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 66
Citation[2015] SGFC 66
Docket NumberD 3097 of 2012, SUM 30543 of 2013
Hearing Date24 November 2014,04 May 2015
Plaintiff CounselMs Dorothy Chai [M/S DOROTHY CHAI LAW PRACTICE]
Defendant CounselMs Daljit Kaur d/o Harbans Singh [M/S N S KANG]
Subject MatterCatch Words: Family Law,Access to child-Variation of consent order
Published date09 July 2015
District Judge Sharon Lim: Introduction

The plaintiff wife and defendant husband were married on 16 June 1998. They have one child, a daughter, aged 9 years old. Interim judgment for the divorce was granted on 13 May 2013 on the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant had behaved in such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with each him.

Prior to the hearing of the ancillary matters, the parties had reached a settlement on the issue of custody, care and control of and access to the child. This consent order was recorded in the interim judgment in May 2013. However, soon after that, in November 2013, the defendant filed this application to vary the terms of the access orders. The summons was eventually fixed together for hearing with the ancillary matters. The defendant sought unsupervised and overnight access to the child, extended hours of access and greater information on her school activities and progress. I directed a specific issues report to be prepared by the Counselling and Psychological Services of the Family Justice Courts to assist me on this matter. In the meantime, I dealt with the remaining ancillary matters that were the subject matter of an earlier appeal. This has since been completed.

Having read the affidavits and the submissions of the parties, as well as the report, I declined to vary the consent order substantially on account of the best interests of the child. I extended the access hours but decided that the access should continue to be supervised by the plaintiff. The defendant was dissatisfied with my orders and appealed. I now give the reasons for my decision.

Brief background facts

The plaintiff wife is 45 years old and works as an executive secretary. The defendant husband is 44 years old. He was most recently a general worker who earned $1,250 gross per month. However, his counsel updated at the ancillary matters hearing that the defendant was unemployed.

The circumstances leading to the breakdown of the marriage in this case were difficult for the family. The defendant experienced business failure after some years of success and also gambled heavily and borrowed money from moneylenders during that period. This led to a dire financial situation for the family, as the defendant was faced with demands from loansharks to repay the debts incurred. The defendant’s employer also commenced bankruptcy proceedings against the defendant. The defendant was eventually declared bankrupt in April 2012.

The defendant attempted suicide in January 2012, but thankfully, his attempt failed. However, he did not return to the matrimonial home, and left Singapore for some time. The plaintiff and their child did not hear from the defendant for almost 11 months. He remained uncontactable, save that he sent them a soft toy and a letter through his father. The defendant re-established contact only after the plaintiff filed for divorce.

The parties had agreed on the following custody, care and control, and access orders when interim judgment was granted: That parties shall have joint custody of the only child of the marriage namely, B, with care and control if the child to the Plaintiff; That the Defendant to have access every Friday evening with the timing to be agreed between the parties; The access shall be supervised by the Plaintiff until such time as the child is comfortable for unsupervised access; There shall be no overnight access until the child is comfortable with overnight access;

Parties to attend the Parenting Workshop.” Parties’ submissions

The defendant sought to vary clauses (b), (c) and (d) above as follows: “i. From 6 pm on Friday to 9 am on Saturday. The Defendant to pick up [redacted] from school on Friday, and drop her for tuition by 9 am on Saturday. On Sunday, from 10 am to 5pm. On half of the public holidays from 9 am to 7pm. on even years (commencing from the year 2014) from 4.30 pm on the eve of Chinese New Year to 9 pm on the first day of Chinese New Year; on odd years (commencing from the year 2015) from 4.30 pm on the first day of Chinese New Year to 9 pm on the second day of Chinese New Year. Half of the school holidays, with liberty to take B out of the jurisdiction with at least 7 days of prior notice of the itinerary and accommodation details being given to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff to provide me with details of taking [redacted] out of the jurisdiction with at least 7 days of prior notice of the itinerary and accommodation details being given to the Plaintiff. Half of the PSLE papers marking holidays. On B’s birthday, from 11 am to 4pm if it falls on a non-school day. Otherwise, from 6.30 pm to 9 pm. Telephone access on the days that B is not with the Defendant for 15 to 30 minutes. On Father’s Day, from 11 am to 8 pm. That the Plaintiff furnishes to the Defendant copies of B’s school calendar, school report book, progress reports, any notices or letter pertaining to school activities, including notices of PTA meetings, within 2 days of receipt of documents via email; and A list of B’s tuition and activities together with the timings and fees/charges paid.”

In support of his application, the defendant relied on parts of various affidavits that were filed for the purpose of the ancillary matters hearing. In short, although the original orders were made by consent, the defendant questioned the plaintiff’s refusal to allow him unsupervised and overnight access. He also complained that his access times had been curtailed and that the present access timings were too short for him and the child to bond meaningfully. The defendant complained that the child was afraid to accept gifts from him and claimed that the plaintiff had instilled fear in the child. The defendant complained of numerous occasions of alleged acts of alienation by the plaintiff. These included the child having to seek permission from the plaintiff to tell the defendant that she had gone on stage to receive a certificate for doing well in school; the child changing her mind about overnight access after speaking to the plaintiff; and, the plaintiff and the child walking ahead of the defendant during access. This had destroyed the bond between the defendant and the child. There was no longer any necessity in the present case for supervised access as there is no allegation that the defendant has verbally or physically abused the child and it has been some time since the defendant had returned...

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