VLO v VLP

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeGoh Kiat Yi
Judgment Date29 June 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] SGFC 68
Citation[2021] SGFC 68
Docket NumberDivorce No 3732 of 2019; OSG 162 of 2018 (Summons No 2205 of 2020)
Published date06 July 2021
Hearing Date23 March 2021,04 March 2021
Plaintiff CounselMr Teo Jin Huang (M/S I.R.B Law LLP)
Defendant CounselMr Malcus Poh (M/S Chung Ting Fai & Co)
Subject MatterFamily Law,Ancillary matters,Care and control,Division of matrimonial assets,Wife maintenance,Child Maintenance,Relocation
District Judge Goh Kiat Yi: Introduction

The present matter concerns the ancillary proceedings between the Plaintiff Father (“the father”) and the Defendant Mother (“the mother”) and a variation of a prior order for care and control and access made in earlier guardianship proceedings. As my ancillary orders on the child are final orders, both counsels rightly accept that it was unnecessary to make any orders for the variation application. I accordingly make no order for Summons 2205 of 2020.

Parties agree to have joint custody of their only child. The ancillary matters in dispute are care and control of the child, the division of matrimonial assets, child and wife maintenance. Additionally, the mother also prays for leave of court to relocate to Taiwan with the child.

Having heard parties, I made final orders as set out in Annex A. The key aspects of my order are as follows: Parties shall have shared care and control of the child. The mother’s prayer for relocation is dismissed and the mother shall be restrained from removing the child from Singapore until further order. The father shall pay the mother $133,000.00 in full and final settlement of the division of matrimonial assets. The father shall pay child maintenance of $750.00 and bear the bulk of the child’s expenses which include, inter alia, his medical, dental and education related expenses on a reimbursement basis. The father shall also bear the child’s share of accommodation expenses and utilities when he is the mother’s care. The father shall pay wife maintenance of $700 and bear her share of her accommodation and utility expenses for a period of 24 months.

Both parties have appealed against my orders. In essence, the father’s appeal relates to the financial matters (division of matrimonial assets and maintenance) and the mother’s appeals concerns the child matters (care and control, relocation and the related consequential orders). I therefore set out my full grounds of decision in respect of all the issues.

Background

The father is 33 years old. He is a citizen of China and a permanent resident of Singapore. He works as a trader.1

The mother is 33 years old. She is a citizen of Taiwan and has been in Singapore on a long-term visit pass. She works as a shop assistant.2

Parties were married in Singapore on 26 July 2016.

Their only son (“the child”), was born in 2017 in Singapore and will turn 4 this year. He was a citizen of China at the time of his birth taking after the father’s citizenship.3 However sometime in 2018, the child became a citizen of Taiwan on the mother’s application.

Unfortunately, the marriage broke down very shortly after the birth of the child.

Procedural history The proceedings in OSG162

After the breakdown of parties’ relationship, the mother left Singapore to Taiwan with the child on 7 February 2018. The child was eight months old at the time. Despite being in different countries, the parties remained in communication on issues regarding the marriage and the child. Sometime in May 2018, the father travelled to Taiwan to meet the child. Parties then discussed the possibility of the child returning to Singapore with the mother eventually agreeing to bring the child back to Singapore in August 2018.

Prior to her return, the father commenced FC/OSG 162 of 2018, the primary application under the Guardianship of Infants Act (Cap. 122) for custody, care and control of the child (“OSG162”). The father also took out an injunction application to restrain the mother from taking the child out of jurisdiction upon her return.

The applications were served on the mother after she arrived in Singapore and the injunction was fixed for an urgent hearing which the mother attended in person. Parties reached an amicable resolution on the day of the hearing and recorded a consent order before the court dated 13 August 2018 (“the first consent order”). In summary, the first consent order provides that: The father shall withdraw the injunction application. The mother agrees to participate in OSG162. The mother agrees to bring the child back to Singapore by 15 December 2018. While in mother and the child are in Singapore, the Plaintiff agrees to bear all the child’s expenses, provide for the Defendant’s reasonable accommodation, living costs up to a certain sum, amongst other things.

After entering into the first consent order, the mother returned to Taiwan with the child and appointed her present solicitors. The mother continued to participate in OSG162 and a second consent order was entered on interim child arrangements following mediation at the Child Focused Resolution Centre in October 2018 (“the second consent order”). In short, the second consent order provides that: The child shall reside with the mother when he returned to Singapore with the father having the liberty to spend time with the child liberally. The father shall apply for Singapore permanent residency status for the child and the mother shall render her co-operation in relation to the application. Parties shall take steps to enroll the child in childcare/ kindergarten in Singapore. The substantive issues of custody, care and control and access in OSG162 were adjourned to be dealt with on a contested basis.

In accordance with the first and second consent orders, the mother brought the child back to Singapore on 15 December 2018. Unfortunately, parties relationship continued to be rocky with disagreements over issues of access to the father and payment of maintenance for the mother and child. The mother intimated on several instances that that she would return to Taiwan with the child.

On 21 March 2019, the mother allegedly told the father that the child and her were going to leave for Taiwan soon. The father called several airline companies and discovered that the mother had purchased two air-tickets to Taiwan departing on 26 March 2019.

This prompted the father to commence another injunction application to restrain the mother from taking the child out of jurisdiction. The application was granted on an ex-parte basis on 25 March 2019 (“the injunction”). As the child’s visit pass in Singapore was expiring, the father also applied and obtained an order on 2 April 2019 for him to renew the child’s immigration documents.

The mother and child continued to remain in Singapore as a result of the aforesaid orders.

The setting aside application and the final determination of the OSG162

The mother subsequently commenced an application to set aside the injunction and the matter was heard by me together with the substantive issues of care and control in OSG162 on 5 July 2019. I declined to set aside the injunction but ordered the mother to have care and control of the child with specified unsupervised overnight access to the father.

I gave parties detailed reasons for my decision which is reproduced in the father’s submissions (“the OSG decision”).4 Essentially, I found the mother to be a flight risk as she took the child out of jurisdiction in February 2018 without the father’s consent. Despite the first and second consent orders, the mother had consistently threatened the father that she would leave for Taiwan and not return. Further, she did not inform the father that she had booked the flight tickets on 26 March 2019.

I also found that it was not in the child’s interest to set aside the injunction as the mother did not comply with her obligations under the consent orders and made it difficult for the father to have access to the child liberally. I also found that it was the parties’ intention to have the child in Singapore and it would be in the child’s interest and stability to remain in Singapore and not constantly be subject to the possibility of being uprooted.

I granted the mother care and control of the child as I found that she was the primary caregiver of the child since his birth with unsupervised overnight access to the father.

Neither party appealed against my decision of 5 July 2019.

Other proceedings

Other proceedings concerning interim maintenance for the mother and child were also dealt with in the meantime.5 The mother then filed further proceedings to vary the injunction to allow the child to travel with her to Taiwan which was dismissed. The mother appealed against my decision and full grounds were released in VLO v VLP [2020] SGFC 79 (“VLO”).6 The mother subsequently withdrew her appeal.

The father commenced divorce proceedings in August 2019 and the interim judgment was granted on an uncontested basis on 10 March 2020.

Documents filed in the present proceedings

Parties have filed the following affidavits in the present proceedings:

Plaintiff Father Defendant Mother
1st Affidavit of assets and means (PAOM1) 1st AOM (DAOM1)
Voluntary Affidavit (PVA) Supplemental affidavit (DSA1)
2nd AOM (PAOM2) Voluntary Affidavit (DVA1)
Plaintiff’s supplementary affidavit (PSA1) 2nd AOM (DAOM2)
3rd AOM (PAOM3) 2nd Supplemental Affidavit (DSA2)
Affidavit of Translator 1 (PTA1) 3rd Supplemental Affidavit (DSA3)
Affidavit of Translator 2 (PTA2) 1st Affidavit of Translator 3 (DTA1)
1st Affidavit of Translator 3 (DTA2)
1st Affidavit of Translator 3 (DTA3)
1st Affidavit of Translator 3 (DTA4)
1st Affidavit of Translator 3 (DTA5)
Written submissions (Plaintiff’s submissions) Written Submissions (Defendant’s Submissions)
Plaintiff’s bundle of authorities (PBOA) Defendant’s bundle of authorities (DBOA)
Documents filed in the prior proceedings

I also set out the documents filed in earlier proceedings as they are germane to the present issues.

Plaintiff Father Defendant Mother
Affidavit dated 7 August 2018 (PA1) Affidavit filed on 15 April 2019 (DA1)
Supplemental affidavit 10 August 2018 (DA2)
...

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