JudgeAzmin Jailani
Judgment Date15 October 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] SGFC 107
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
Hearing Date31 May 2021,22 September 2020
Docket NumberDivorce No 1428 of 2019
Plaintiff CounselPatrick Fernandez / Tan Wee Tim Cheryl (M/s Fernandez LLC)
Defendant CounselChong Xin Yi / Lena Tan (M/s Gloria James-Civetta & Co)
Subject MatterFamily Law,Ancillary Matters,Division,Custody,Care and control,Maintenance
Published date22 October 2021
District Judge Azmin Jailani: Introduction

This decision deals with the ancillary matters between the plaintiff-wife and the defendant-husband.

After considering parties’ documents, submissions, and oral arguments, I made my orders on 31 May 2021 and provided parties brief reasons for the same. In this regard, I broadly made the following orders: Parties to have joint custody of the two children of the marriage (the “Children”). The plaintiff to have care and control of the Children. As regards access, I ordered a hybrid plan of supervised access and exchange on the weekends supported by a Divorce Support Specialist Agency (“DSSA”), with brief periods of ‘unsupervised’ access where the father was allowed 2 hours of ‘private’ time with the Children without the plaintiff being within their direct visual sight. I further provided for specific access on certain special occasions. I also provided for related orders dealing with, among other things, (i) parties’ enrolling for a tailored counselling programme administered by the DSSA, (ii) there being no third parties during the defendant’s access time, (iii) notice requirements, and (iv) conditions for the plaintiff should she take the Children for overseas travel. As regards division, I ordered that parties’ identified matrimonial assets (other than the matrimonial home) be divided in the ratio of 64.5 : 35.5 in the plaintiff’s favour. As regards the matrimonial home, as elaborated below, the purchase of the house was not completed as at the time the ancillary matters were heard. As such, I ordered for the matrimonial home to be surrendered/returned to the HDB, and parties be refunded of any sums paid in the proportion of their respective contributions towards the purchase price. As regards spousal maintenance, I ordered that there be no maintenance for the plaintiff. I pause here and note that there is no dispute that the plaintiff was not seeking maintenance against the defendant. As regards maintenance for the Children, I ordered the defendant to pay the plaintiff a fixed monthly sum of $1100, for both parties to continue paying for the Children’s insurance policies they were currently maintaining, and also provided for a reimbursement mechanism if they were to receive benefit payments from the policies which they were not specifically maintaining. Finally, I made a general order that the plaintiff inform the defendant whenever the Children are ill and/or have been sent to seek medical attention.

Dissatisfied, by way of HCF/DCA 73 of 2021, the plaintiff appealed against the entirety of the above orders. This was somewhat odd given that some of the orders made were agreed between parties, or were reliefs the plaintiff herself was not pursuing (i.e., spousal maintenance).

Against the backdrop of the foregoing, I now provide full grounds of my decision.

Background The parties and the Children

Parties were married on 2 May 2015. There are two children to the marriage. The elder daughter was born in June 2016 (“Child 1”). The younger son was born in July 2018 (“Child 2”).

The divorce proceedings and other related proceedings

Following the breakdown of their relationship, the defendant stopped living with the plaintiff and the Children sometime in January 2019. Since then, it was the defendant’s position that there was immense difficulty in him having access with the Children.

In March 2019, the plaintiff commenced divorce proceedings against the defendant. During the course of the pleadings, the defendant commenced his counterclaim in August 2019.

Thereafter, through correspondence and discussions involving parties and their respective counsels, parties were able to come to a consensus on the pleadings for the divorce on 30 January 2020. On that basis, interim judgment was granted on 4 February 2020, with the married dissolved on both the plaintiff’s claim and the defendant’s counterclaim of unreasonable behaviour. I also pause here and wish to give credit to both parties’ counsels for facilitating parties’ eventual resolution of the divorce, allowing them to focus on the ancillary matters.

As of the date of interim judgment, the marriage lasted less than 5 years. If we were to factor in the period when the defendant stopped living with the plaintiff in January 2019, the union really only lasted less than 4 years.

While parties and counsel were able to agree on the divorce, the road to this resolution was not smooth, as parties were involved in numerous related proceedings. I highlight these proceedings below as they have some bearing on the ancillary matters.

MSS XXX/2019

MSS XXX/2019 was the plaintiff’s application for interim maintenance. At the time she made the application, she sought maintenance for both herself and the Children. However, at the substantive hearing, the plaintiff was no longer advancing a claim for maintenance for herself. Even for the purposes of the ancillary matters, the plaintiff similarly highlighted, as late as her written submissions, that she was not asking for maintenance for herself.

As for child maintenance, after hearing parties, I ordered, on 9 January 2020, that (a) the defendant pay fixed monthly maintenance of $950, (b) such order be backdated to 31 January 2020, (c) the arrears from backdated maintenance be repaid in monthly instalments of $500, and (d) that both parties solely maintain the insurance policies they have respectively purchase for the Children.

SS XXX/2019

SS XXX/2019 was the plaintiff’s application for a personal protection order for herself and the Children. After hearing parties on 13 August 2020, I granted a protection order for the plaintiff, but dismissed her application for the Children. As regards the Children, I was not satisfied that the plaintiff had satisfied the thresholds for such an order to be issued for the Children.

In addition to granting the protection order for the plaintiff, I also ordered parties to attend mandatory counselling. Parties successfully completed their counselling programme, with counselling order formally discharged on 15 April 2021.

OSG X/2019 (“OSG X”) and OSG Y/2019 (“OSG Y”)

In February 2019, shortly after the plaintiff commenced divorce proceedings, the defendant commenced OSG X essentially for (a) joint custody of the Children, (b) “reasonable [unsupervised] access”, and (c) other supplemental prayers relating to the manner of access, a prohibition against the plaintiff’s family members being involved, and overseas access.

After the defendant commenced OSG X, the plaintiff commenced OSG Y essentially for sole custody, with the defendant only permitted to have supervised access with the Children.

I dealt with both applications collectively and in February 2020, ordered that (a) parties have joint custody over the Children, (b) the plaintiff have care and control over the Children, and (c) the defendant have supervised access in terms of physical access via a DSSA, and separately video access.

As regards physical supervised access via the DSSA, I included a provision stating that the relevant DSSA be at liberty to terminate such sessions if either party displayed disruptive or abusive behaviour towards any of the DSSA staff. I found it necessary to make this supplementary order because leading up to these orders in February 2020, parties had gone through numerous rounds of mediation. Part of the orders made at mediation was for the DSSA to facilitate access in the interim. During these sessions, it was unfortunate that the DSSA had made the decision to terminate such sessions sometime in November 2019 on account of, inter alia, the defendant’s conduct. This is not substantively in dispute. It also bears mentioning briefly that the DSSA itself had even considered it necessary to even escalate this matter to the relevant authorities.

Whilst not the subject of the present appeal, I was prepared to accept, to some extent, that the defendant’s conduct stemmed from his anxiety (which in turn translated to some hostility) with what he subjectively considered to be barriers to him having access to the Children. This is especially given his own contentions of issues with access since January 2019. That said, in no uncertain terms does this court condone or acknowledge the lapse in the defendant’s judgment in channelling his frustrations towards the DSSA’s staff. It was perhaps fortunate that upon the discovery of this development, the defendant’s counsel, Ms Chong, was able to manage her client.

To that end, and notwithstanding the above incident, I was still minded for there to be supported access, and for the DSSA to resume its work with the parties. This was not so much for the parties themselves, but more for the Children, to provide an environment to allow the defendant to interact with his children.

After the conclusion of those related proceedings, I was grateful that with the assistance of parties’ respective counsels, the level of contentiousness tapered down over for the ancillary matters. That said, it was unfortunate that there were some isolated instances where ex-parte communications were being sent to the court.

Procedural history of the ancillary matters

After interim judgment was granted in February 2020, parties filed the respective affidavit of assets and means in March 2020. After reviewing their respective affidavits, parties indicated their intention to seek further discovery and interrogatories on the matters raised therein. Further directions were made in this regard.

Thereafter, the defendant commenced SUM XXX/2020 for discovery and interrogatories for 23 categories of documents/information. After hearing parties, I partially allowed the defendant’s application, and made consequential directions for the plaintiff to submit a disclosure affidavit pursuant to my orders. I also gave consequential directions for the filing of the 2nd round of affidavit...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT