JudgeSuzanne Chin
Judgment Date14 December 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 146
Citation[2015] SGFC 146
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
Published date24 January 2016
Docket NumberDivorce Petition No.1062 of 2014
Plaintiff CounselMr Gulab Sobhraj [Crossbows LLP]
Defendant CounselMrs Aye Cheng Shone [A C Shone]
Subject MatterAccess to child Supervised access Division of Assets Maintenance
Hearing Date08 October 2015,15 October 2015,27 October 2015
District Judge Suzanne Chin: Introduction

This is my decision in respect of the ancillaries hearing in the divorce proceedings between the Plaintiff wife (“the Wife”) and the Defendant Husband (“the Husband”). At the start of the hearing, the parties advised that they had reached settlement on the issues of custody and care and control of the child and I recorded a consent order reflecting the agreement of the parties. As such, the hearing before me concerned the disputed ancillary matters: division of the matrimonial assets, access to the child and maintenance for the Wife and child.

After hearing from the parties, I made the following orders in respect of the disputed issues: Access to the Defendant as follows:

a. Weekday access every Wednesday from 5.30pm to 8.00pm;

b. Every Friday from 5.30pm to Saturday 8.00pm;

c. Alternate public holidays from 9.30 am to 8.00pm;

d. On even years starting from 2016, from 5pm on the eve of Chinese New year to the first day of Chinese New Year 8.00pm. On odd years starting from 2017 from the first day of Chinese New Year 8pm to the second day of Chinese New Year at 8p;

f. On Father’s day and Amber’s birthday. Parties to work out timing.

g. For the first half of the June and December school holidays.

h. For all access sessions, the Defendant is to be accompanied by his parents or by one of his parents throughout until the child turns 5 and a half years old.

i. Telephone and skype access on a daily basis.

In full and final settlement of all issues relating to the division of property: that the Plaintiffs rights, interest and share in the matrimonial property known as and situated at xxx (“matrimonial flat”)which is in the joint names of the Plaintiff and the Defendant, shall be transferred to the Defendant within three (3) months from the date of Certificate of Making Interim Judgment Final upon the Defendant paying to the Plaintiff a sum equivalent to 59% of the value of the matrimonial flat or refunding to the Plaintiff all sums withdrawn from her CPF account in respect of the property. The parties shall cooperate to arrange for a third party valuation of the property and the Defendant shall bear all costs and expenses relating to such transfer. This Order is made subject to the Central Provident Fund Act (Cap. 36) ("CPF Act") and the subsidiary legislation made thereunder made in respect of the Member's CPF moneys, property, investments. The Board shall give effect to the terms of this order in accordance with the provisions of the CPF Act and the subsidiary legislation made thereunder. The Registrar or Deputy Registrar of the Family Justice Courts under section 31 of the Family Justice Act (Act 27 of 2014) is empowered to execute, sign or indorse all necessary documents relating to matters contained in this order on behalf of either party should either party fail to do so within seven (7) days of written request being made to the party. That each party shall retain his or her own other assets that are in their respective names. The Defendant shall pay to the Plaintiff a sum of $1.00 as wife monthly maintenance and a sum of $900 as child maintenance with effect from 1 November 2015 into the Plaintiff’s xx account no xxx“ No order as to the Plaintiff’s claim for Private Investigator’s costs.

The Wife was dissatisfied with my orders and has filed an appeal against all of my orders. I now give my reasons for my decision.

Brief background facts

The parties were married on 20 November 2005 and have a daughter who at the time of the hearing was 4½ years old. The Wife is 39 years old and is employed as a xxx while the Defendant is 40 years old and works as a xxx.

The Wife commenced divorce proceedings on 11 March 2014 on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. The Husband filed a defence and counterclaim asserting that it was not his unreasonable behaviour but the Wife’s unreasonable behaviour which had led to the breakdown of the marriage. Eventually the parties agreed to proceed on an uncontested basis and Interim Judgement was granted on 18 September 2014 on both parties’ unreasonable behaviour. This was a marriage that had lasted for 9 years.

Access to the child

As the issues of custody and care and control had been agreed to, the only child issue before the court was the question of access. The Wife wanted the current access arrangements to continue such that the Husband was to be granted access to the child once a week on a Saturday from 12pm to 6pm, supervised by her. She was also not agreeable to giving any overnight access to the Husband as she maintained that this would interfere with the child’s homework routine and would be disruptive to the child. Her position was that access should be supervised until the child attains the age of 6 years of age and in support of her contentions that supervised access be ordered, she asserted that the child was prone to falling ill, unable to eat on her own, was not toilet trained and still using diapers. She also contended that the Husband had no patience with the child and could not be trusted to watch over the child. In addition, she asserted that he had been reckless and negligent in the care of the child and did not regard the child’s interests as a priority. She cited an instance when the child had been left alone with the Husband, where the child had suffered a fall and hurt her knees and insisted that the Husband had been oblivious of the fact that the child had hurt herself. In essence, her position was that she did not trust the Husband to watch over the child and felt that he needed to work “towards gaining [her] trust. She also asserted that the Husband had not made any “attempts to redeem himself.

The Husband on the other hand was asking for unsupervised weekday access on Wednesdays from 5.30pm to 8.30pm and overnight access from Friday 5.30pm to Saturday 8.30pm. He said that he had not been allowed to bond with or take care of the child as the Wife was always around during access. He also contended that the Wife had in the past restricted his access to the child unless he acceded to her bidding. In illustration, he explained that during access, the Wife would dictate how his access time with the child would be spent and had on occasion even insisted that the Husband take her grocery shopping to purchase groceries for the child. He contended that groceries that were purchased were not only for the child and he ended up paying for whatever she had wanted to purchase.

It is trite law that on the issues relating to a child, that the paramount consideration is the welfare and best interests of the child. Taking into consideration the totality of the evidence before me, I was of the view that there was no reason for access by the Husband to be supervised. The Wife had not raised any allegations of abuse by the Husband and her sole basis for asking for the access to be supervised by her appeared to be the fact that she did not trust the Husband with the child. The Wife seems to think that the Husband’s rights to access was somehow linked to his lack of “attempts to redeem himself” in her eyes. This is not the case and the Wife needs to understand that when the court considers issues relating to a child, it is not the interests of the parties but the interests of the child that are the central focus. In this case, I considered the child’s best interests and was somewhat concerned that the child at 4½ was still unable to do simple tasks like feeding herself or going to the toilet. In the circumstances, it was clear to me that it would in fact be every much in the interests of the child to be allowed to become more independent and spending time with a parent with a different parenting styles would benefit her. I would mention however that I am aware of the fears and concerns of the Wife and while I do not unnecessarily agree with them, I did take this into account in my orders and directed that during the husband’s access time, he is to be accompanied by either both or one of his parents until the child turned 5.

On the issue of weekday access, I did not agree that the Husband should be deprived of weekday access just because the child needed to do her homework. In the case of ADD v ADE [2014] SGHC 80 (“ADD”), the High court felt that the child’s interaction with both parents was more important than issues of tuition schedule. While it is not the child’s tuition schedule which is in issue here but interference with her homework schedule, the principle is the same. Firstly, a child of this age should not be made to do homework on a nightly basis and secondly, the child’s homework schedule should...

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