TGV v TGW

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeSowaran Singh
Judgment Date13 October 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 131
Citation[2015] SGFC 131
Docket NumberD216 of 2010, SUM Nos. 6632, 8508, 8523 of 2014, SUM 3081of 2015
Publication Date30 October 2015
Plaintiff CounselMr. Tan Thong Young John (Pereira & Tan LLC)
Defendant CounselMr. Salem Bin Mohamed Ibrahim/Ms. Iman Marini Binte Ibrahim (Salem Ibrahim LLC)
SubjectCatchwords - Family law- access to child
District Judge Sowaran Singh: Background

The Plaintiff is the father (the father) of the child (“Y”), a girl who is now 9+ years old1 and the Defendant is the mother (mother). They married in September 2003 but have been divorced since 14 April 2010 when the Interim Judgment (IJ) was granted based on their having lived separately for 3 years with consent of the other party. The father (Malaysian citizen) was described2 being a 38 year old financial controller and the mother (citizen of Philippines) as a 41 year old banker. They would be older now and probably 44 and 47 years old. The ancillaries’ orders were made by consent (the CO) on the 28 November 2011and Final Judgment (FJ) granted on the 7 December 2011.

Under the terms of the CO they had joint custody of Y with care and control to the mother. The access to the father was specified at paragraphs 5 (b) sub-paragraphs (i) (a) to (g) and (ii) to (vii) of the CO. His access was only to be in Singapore/Malaysia and supervised. When the CO was entered into the child was 5+ years old. The CO provided for the supervised access terms3 to be reviewed when the child turned 8 years of age. These essentially related to the child’s nanny accompanying the child during the father’s access periods at his expense. In the event that the nanny could not do so the mother was to provide an alternative escort. On overseas trips to Malaysia the mother was at liberty to follow separately on such trips and stay at the named hotels in Kula Lumpur and Malacca with the father paying for her lodging and her airfare4.

The Applications in Brief

On the 12 May 2014 the father applied in SUM 6632/2014 to vary certain terms of the CO as Y had now reached the age of 8 years. He wanted to delete two relevant clauses so that his access would be unsupervised. He also wanted to add a clause to the effect that the mother should not arrange for any tuition for the child during his access periods and for the clause confining his access to Singapore and Malaysia to be deleted. Slightly more than a month later on the 17 June 2014 the mother also applied in SUM 8509/2014 to vary the terms of the CO. She wanted her time with the child during the year end school holidays to commence on the 20 December so that she would have adequate time to take the child to visit her parents in Philippines over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. On the same day the mother also applied in SUM 8523/2014 for orders that the Y be examined by child psychiatrist. On the 10 July 2014 by consent the learned Assistant Registrar granted the prayers in this SUM5 for the appointment of the expert. Subsequently, on the 24 July 2014 the learned Deputy Registrar made an order that one Dr Axxx Wxxx (Dr AW/the expert) a senior consultant psychiatrist was to be the appointed expert6. The expert’s affidavit was duly filed on the 27 July 2015 and his report dated 1 July 2015 was exhibited to the father’s affidavit7.On the 4 August 2015 the mother informed the learned Assistant Registrar that she wished to cross-examine the expert. At the Case Conference on the 20 August 2015 the court fixed the matters for a hearing on the 29 September 2015 including any new SUM for cross-examination of the expert that the wife might choose to file.

A few days before the hearing on the 25 September 2015 the mother filed her application in SUM 3081/2015 for the cross-examination of the expert on his affidavit8 and opinion. In addition to her supporting affidavit the mother also filed on the same day another “Supplementary Affidavit” which she said was done pursuant to directions granted by the Deputy Registrar on the 4 August 2015. In this affidavit she exhibited audio recordings and transcripts of 3 matters namely: a) an incident on the 21 October 2013. b) a conversation on the 8 July 2015. c) a conversation on the 13 July 2015. She did not elaborate what these recordings were about in her affidavit, but explained them in her submissions9.

The Parties Submissions in Brief The Father’s Submissions

In his written submissions10 the father pointed out that at the time the CO was entered into he had no permanent residence in Singapore and Y was still very young and dependent on her nanny to take care of her. He had then believed, having regard to the circumstances, that it would be best for the nanny to accompany the child during his access periods. These circumstances were different now. The child will soon be 10 years of age11 in February next year and quite capable of taking care of herself. It would be in her best interests to begin the process of weaning herself from the “unhealthy attachment12 to the nanny who would definitely leave the mother’s employment one day.

The expert he said was appointed on the mother’s application and his report dated 1 July 2015 had been tendered. The purpose of his report was to consider whether the current access arrangements should remain or be changed in the best interests of the child. The report revealed that the child appeared to be relaxed and comfortable with the father and showed no fear or displayed any avoidance behaviour towards him. The interaction between them was animated, reciprocal and warm. They chatted freely together and the child liked to be in close proximity with the father. Based on the expert’s findings it was in the interest of the child to have unsupervised access to the father. Citing authorities13 the father urged that supervised access should not be ordered unless it was necessary for the protection of the child.

He pointed out that the mother’s opposition was based on her position that the child was fearful of the father and did not wish to be alone with him. The child wanted the nanny to accompany her during the access with the father. However, the expert’s report showed that the child had no fear of the father. The transcripts of two conversations that the mother exhibited to her third affidavit of conversations with the child on the 8 and 13 July 2015 were to reinforce the mother’s assertions. These two conversations were “set up” after she received the report14. The child was more likely to say what the mother wanted to hear to avoid getting the mother becoming angry with her. When the mother asked the child why she wanted the nanny and her (the mother) to tag along the child’s reply was “It’s nice, and I am used to it15. This again contradicted the mother’s claim that the child was afraid of the father. He submitted that the mother’s real purpose was not to protect the child by having supervised access but to punish him (the father).

The mother kept harping on previous incidents when he had lost his composure and broke into an outburst. As pointed out by the expert these outbursts were directed at the mother and not the child. There was no clinical evidence that the child had been traumatised by the event that took place when the child was 5 years of age. The three incidents cited by the mother were brought on by her provocations and they were far in-between.

The Mother’s Submissions

In her written submissions16 the mother pointed out that under the CO the access review was not obligatory. The father she said was being “opportunistic17 in applying for a review of the CO which required that his access to the child be supervised. The events that had occurred since then did not justify a review. There had been no material change of circumstances. She went on to describe in detail several incidents that had taken place in particular on the 28 August 2011, July 2012 (at the Kuala Lumpur airport), 21 October 2013, 2 May 2015 and 1 June 2015. For the 28 August 2011 incident she had applied for a Personal Protection Order (PPO) in SSxxx/2011 but agreed to withdraw it on the father’s undertaking not to commit family violence against her and the child. She submitted that these incidents showed that the father had not changed his behaviour. It was on account of his uncontrollable temper that he had agreed to the terms of the CO for supervised access. He had not denied these incidents although he had sought to give “smart answers and self-serving justifications18. If anything his behaviour had worsened with the increased incidents. There was, therefore, no basis to change the need for supervised access.

She said that the recording of...

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