CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeAzmin Jailani
Judgment Date12 December 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] SGFC 114
Citation[2018] SGFC 114
Docket NumberD 201/2009, SUM 550/2018, SUM 1395/2018.
Hearing Date15 August 2018,17 August 2018
Published date19 December 2018
Plaintiff CounselMs Alexia Ang [William Poh & Louis Lim]
Defendant CounselMs Amanda Neo [Belinda Ang Tang & Partners]
Subject MatterFamily Law,Variation of Ancillary Orders,Relocation
District Judge Azmin Jailani: Introduction

SUM 550/2018 (“SUM 550”) and SUM 1395/2018 (“SUM 1395”) were applications by the plaintiff-mother and defendant-father respectively to vary ORC 14179/2010 dated 17 August 2010 (“ORC 14179”). ORC 14179 was the order made on all ancillary matters after interim judgment was granted on 10 February 2010.

The plaintiff filed SUM 550 on 5 February 2018. Thereafter, the defendant filed SUM 1395 on 20 April 2018.

The provisions in ORC 14179 parties sought to vary relate to (1) the custody, care and control, and access of, and (2) maintenance for the two children of the marriage, M and N.

In summary, the plaintiff sought sole custody over the children, maintain the care and control orders in her favour, and proposed revised access terms. As regards maintenance, she essentially sought an upward variation of maintenance. On the other hand, the defendant objected to the variation in custody, sought to vary the care and control orders in his favour, and correspondingly proposed his own access terms. On the basis that he was granted his prayers, the defendant’s prayer for maintenance were such that the plaintiff was to pay him a monthly maintenance sum, with parties equally sharing certain expenses. I would pause here and note that on the defendant’s own prayers, the monthly amount he was seeking from the plaintiff was greater than the amount he was ordered to pay under ORC 14179.

While seemingly a typical application for variation, at the heart of both parties’ respective applications was the plaintiff’s underlying objective to obtain an order allowing the children to relocate with her to the United Kingdom (“UK”). Parties’ prayers in relation to custody, care and control, access, and maintenance were merely ancillary to the core dispute as to whether the children be allowed to relocate to the UK.

On 15 and 17 August 2018, parties’ respective counsels appeared before me to present their respective cases. After reviewing parties’ evidence and submissions, I gave my decision on 13 September 2018. In this regard: I essentially granted the relocation of the children to the UK. In light of these orders, and after considering parties’ respective positions and concessions, I made various consequential orders relating to the defendant’s access; I modestly varied the amount of maintenance payable; and In light of the foregoing, I dismissed SUM 1395.

For ease of reference, the entirety of my orders is reproduced below: Paragraph 5(a) of the Order of Court dated 17 August 201 is varied as follows: There be joint custody of the children to the Plaintiff and Defendant, with care and control to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff be allowed to relocate the children to the United Kingdom. Such relocation will take place only after 31 December 2018. In the event of a disagreement, the Plaintiff shall have authority to determine and/or endorse documents for and on behalf of the Defendant in connection with the children’s relocation to the United Kingdom, as well as the children’s administrative, education, and healthcare matters whilst in the United Kingdom. The access arrangements with the Defendant after the children have relocation will be as follows: Liberal email, telephone and/or video calls subject to the children’s school work schedule. In any event, the plaintiff shall ensure that the children communicate (via telephone and/or video call) with the defendant for at least one hour once every two days. The Plaintiff shall bring the children back to Singapore no less than 5 weeks in a school year during their school holidays. Of the 5 weeks, 3 weeks will be fixed during the children’s summer holidays. Costs of bringing the children for the 3 weeks will be borne by the Plaintiff. For the remaining 2 weeks, the costs of bringing the children to Singapore shall be borne equally by the Plaintiff and the Defendant. For the first two years (i.e., 2019 and 2020), the Plaintiff’s reasonable travel expenses (specifically a 3-star rated hotel in Singapore, and economy class airfare) in accompanying the children to Singapore shall be borne equally by the Plaintiff and Defendant. Thereafter, such costs will be borne solely by the Plaintiff. Insofar as the children will require handling services for minors when the Plaintiff is not travelling with them, such costs shall be borne equally by the Plaintiff and the Defendant. With regard to [M], the travel arrangements for (B) & (C) shall apply until her completion of tertiary education in UK. With regard to [N], the travel arrangements for (B) & (C) shall apply until he returns to serve National Service, unless he commences tertiary education in UK. In such a situation, the travel arrangements shall subsist until the completion of such tertiary education in UK. The Plaintiff shall provide the Defendant with weekly updates on the children’s health, academic progress, and other social developments by email or messages. The Defendant shall have access (including overnight access) to the children in the United Kingdom when he visits, provided that he bears his own travel expenses, and provides the Plaintiff with his travelling itinerary at least one calendar month before his departure date. The duration of the children’s ability to have access (including overnight access) with the Defendant will be subject to the children’s school schedule. Up to the time the children have relocated to the United Kingdom, the access arrangements shall be as per the Order of Court dated 17 August 2010, save that the access arrangements at paragraph 5(a)(i) of the said order shall no longer apply forthwith. Paragraph 5(e) of the Order of Court dated 17 August 2010 shall be varied as follows: The Defendant is to pay a sum of $1100 per month as maintenance for the two children of the marriage with effect from 1 October 2018. Payment shall be made into the Plaintiff’s POSB Savings Account No. xxx. After the completion of the relocation and upon the Plaintiff providing the necessary details, the Defendant will make payment to the relevant bank account from the month following from the date such information is furnished by the Plaintiff. If the bank account provided by the Plaintiff is a foreign account, payment by the Defendant shall be nett of all applicable transaction and bank charges. With regard to the children’s orthodontic treatment, Parties shall jointly determine the estimated costs of the children’s orthodontic treatment from the National Dental Centre. The Defendant’s share of the costs shall be the upper limit of the estimated cost for one child. SUM 1395 is dismissed. Defendant to pay Plaintiff costs of and incidental to the applications, with such costs fixed at $2000 (inclusive of disbursements).

Dissatisfied, the defendant filed HCF/DCA 97/2018 on 12 September 2018 appealing my decision to relocate the children and the dismissal of SUM 1395. The defendant did not appeal against my decision regarding the children’s maintenance.

In light of the foregoing, I now provide my grounds of my decision.

Background Parties

Parties were married on 4 February 2002.

M, a girl, was born on 8 June 2004. Her younger brother, N, was born on 29 July 2006. At the time I delivered my decision, M and N were 14 and 12 respectively. M is in secondary school, whilst N was in Primary 6, taking his PSLE. By this time, N would have completed his PSLE and received his results.

The plaintiff filed for divorce in January 2009. The divorce was uncontested. Interim judgment was granted on 29 January 2010. Ancillary matters were resolved via ORC 14179 on 17 August 2010. Final judgment was entered on 21 September 2010.

ORC 14179

The salient orders of ORC 141791 forming the subject matter of these proceedings were as follows: Paragraph 5(a) – where parties had joint custody of the children, with care and control to the plaintiff. Paragraphs 5(a)(i) to 5(a)(vii) - the defendant’s access arrangements to the children. Of particular mention is paragraph 5(a)(vi), which provided that neither party were to take the children out of jurisdiction other than provided for in the existing access terms or with leave of court; and Paragraph 5(e) – that the defendant would pay the plaintiff a sum of $700 as maintenance for the 2 children; namely $400 for M and $300 for N.

Documents filed by Parties

For the purposes of these proceedings, parties submitted the following documents:

S/N Documents filed by Plaintiff Documents filed by Defendant
1. Plaintiff’s affidavit dated 9 February 2018 (“PA1”) Defendant’s affidavit dated 20 April 2018 (“DA1”)
2. Plaintiff’s affidavit dated 17 May 2018 Defendant’s affidavit dated 7 June 2018 (“DA2”)
3. Plaintiff’s written submissions dated 13 August 2018 (“PWS”) Defendant’s written submissions dated 13 August 2018 (“DWS”)
4. Plaintiff’s bundle of authorities dated 13 August 2018 (“PBOA”) Defendant’s bundle of authorities dated 13 August 2018 (“DBOA”)
5. Plaintiff’s supplementary submissions dated 17 August 2018 entitled Summary on relocation (“PWS2”)
6. Plaintiff’s supplementary submissions dated 17 August 2018 entitled Defendant’s position on access (“PWS3”)
Circumstances leading to SUM 550

I now turn to the circumstances which led to the plaintiff commencing SUM 550. From a review of the documents, the two main events which initiated the move were the plaintiff’s marriage to her present partner, Y, and Y’s employment in the United Kingdom.

Sometime in 2014, the plaintiff met Y, who was a British citizen living in Singapore. At the material time, Y was divorced, and was working and living in Singapore with his 4 children who were under his care and control. Y has been living in Singapore since 2007....

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