CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeNicole Loh
Judgment Date01 November 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] SGFC 114
Citation[2021] SGFC 114
Docket NumberDivorce No 1641 of 2020
Hearing Date15 October 2021,05 October 2021
Plaintiff CounselMs Foo Siew Fong and Deseree Oon (Harry Elias Partnership LLP)
Defendant CounselMr Yap Teong Liang (T L Yap Law Chambers LLC)
Subject MatterFamily Law,care and control and access to the children, relocation, maintenance of wife and maintenance of children
Published date09 November 2021
District Judge Nicole Loh: Introduction

The parties in this case divorced after about 11 years of marriage. They have 2 daughters, 11 years old and 10 years old as at the date of the ancillary hearing.

Parties agreed to have joint custody of the children. Parties had signed a pre-nuptial agreement wherein it was agreed there would be no joint assets during the marriage. In a divorce, each party were to keep their respective assets. At the Ancillary hearing, both parties confirmed they agreed to this order.

The issues to be decided were: Care and control of the children; Access to the children; Relocation for the children; Maintenance for the children; Maintenance for the Wife; and Cost.

I made the following orders: The Husband to have care and control of the 2 children and the children shall relocate to Indonesia; The Wife shall have access to the children as follows: Liberal remote access through Whatsapp video call, FaceTime or any other electronic means to be arranged directly with the children through their respective mobile phones; Access every alternate week from Sunday 8pm to the following Sunday 8pm in Jakarta during school term; Entire mid-term school breaks; Half of the Children’s summer and winter school breaks, timing to be mutually agreed at least 2 weeks’ in advance. If access is to take place either in Malaysia or Singapore, the Husband shall accompany the children until they are old enough to travel independently. The Husband shall bear the flights for his and/or the children’s round-trip to and from Malaysia or Singapore; Either parent is at liberty to take the children overseas when the children are with them provided the flights, itinerary and contact details are forwarded to the other parent at least 2 weeks prior to the trip; The Husband to solely maintain the children; The Husband to pay for the following: 2 round trip flights (on a non-budget airline to be chosen by the Husband) between Singapore/Malaysia to Jakarta for the Wife monthly (date of flights to be decided by the Wife); Rental for a 2 bedroom unit at xxx Apartment Jakarta (or an alternative accommodation elected by the Wife at the same cost); No maintenance for the Wife; Husband shall pay maintenance of $2,200 per month from March 2020 to October 2021 for the children. Arrears of $14,000 for this period shall be paid in monthly instalments of $2,000 with effect from December 2021; and Each party to bear their own cost.

The Wife has appealed against all of the above orders.

Facts The parties

The Husband is an Indonesian citizen and the Wife is an Australian citizen. The children hold dual citizenship, i.e. Indonesia and Australia citizenship. The couple married in Indonesia on 21 March 2009 and lived in Indonesia until March 2011. Due to some legal issues relating to the Husband’s family business, parties moved to Singapore in March 2011. Their elder child was slightly more than 1 year old then. The Wife gave birth to the second child a few months later in Singapore.

Since March 2011, the Wife and children have been living in Singapore. She was employed and lived in Singapore based on an employment pass. The children were on dependent passes linked to her employment pass. The Husband shuttled between Indonesia and Singapore during this period.

Background to the dispute

The Husband filed for divorce in April 2020. Around the same time, movement and travel restrictions in the region were being introduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Husband then remained in Singapore since April 2020 as he feared his inability to re-enter Singapore due to restrictions. Since then, parties put in place an interim arrangement wherein the children will live with each parent on an alternating 4 day period.

It is undisputed that the Husband was solely maintaining the family throughout the marriage. He did this through direct payment of expenses, fund transfers to the Wife and provision of a supplementary card. In February 2020, the supplementary card was terminated and the Father provided $1,500 monthly for the children’s expenses.

The Wife resigned from her employment in February 2021. As a result, her employment pass was cancelled. She is currently on temporary short-term visit pass. When the Wife’s employment pass was cancelled, the children’s dependent passes were also cancelled. They were able to remain in Singapore as they were studying at [School S] with student passes. However, because of their mother’s residency status in Singapore, the student passes were cancelled on 13 August 2021 and they stopped schooling at [School S]. They are also currently in Singapore based on short-term visit passes.

The Wife has found a job in Singapore but this is on the condition that she obtains an employment pass. At the time of the hearing, she has a pending S Pass application. When the children were unable to continue studying [School S], she wanted to register the children in [School A] and claimed that [School A] could apply for student passes for the children. However, because the Husband objected to the enrolment of the children in [School A], the Wife could not complete the registration process. Instead of discussing and reaching a mutual agreement on the children’s schooling, the Husband (despite his own objections about the Wife’s making unilateral decisions on the children’s schooling) registered the children unilaterally into [School B] in Indonesia. Despite the Wife’s objection, the children remain registered at [School B] and currently attend lessons remotely during the 4 days when they are with the Husband. The state of the children’s education as a result of both parties’ unwillingness to reach any compromise for the sake of the children was wholly unsatisfactory.

The parties’ cases

The Husband’s case is that the family’s stay in Singapore was never intended to be permanent. His extended family who also came to Singapore in March 2011 had already returned to Indonesia by 2012. He claims he wanted to return but the Wife kept refusing. He maintains that Indonesia is their home. Since March 2011, as his father retired, he no longer earned an income from the family business and he remains unemployed to date. He relied on his savings and pre-marital assets to financially support the family in Singapore but is unable to continue to do so as he has exhausted his savings and pre-marital assets. He is of the view that it is time to return home to Indonesia and he will be able to provide for them fully in Indonesia as he now has a job waiting for him. He objects to maintenance for the Wife as he is of the view she is self-sufficient and he does not have the means to maintain her either.

The Wife’s case is that she has been the main caregiver of the children since birth. According to the Wife, the Husband only began to be more involved with the children from April 2020 when he was based in Singapore, not for the children but to avoid being stuck in Indonesia due to travel restrictions. She disagreed that the Husband has no financial means and sought orders for the Husband to fully maintain the children (backdated to March 2020) as per their pre-nuptial agreement and for $1,500 monthly maintenance for herself. She objects to any relocation of the children as Singapore has been their home for 10 years.

Care and control of the children and relocation

The Wife sought care and control of the children because she was the primary caregiver of the children during the marriage. The Husband only visited the children during the marriage. She also claimed that both parties had already agreed that Singapore would be their home and is the best place to raise the children. Hence the children are already very well settled in Singapore and uprooting them to Indonesia is not in their best interest. She was of the view that the Husband’s case for relocation was premised only on his desire to save money in maintaining the children in Singapore and is not based on the children’s best interest. She also believed the children will not be safe in Indonesia as the Husband was facing legal problems which resulted in their urgent departure from Indonesia to Singapore in 2011. She was concerned that she will have little rights or recourse in Indonesia with regard to the children.

The Wife’s intention is that she will remain in Singapore with the children and the children will study in [School A]. She maintains that the Husband will be able to afford maintaining the children fully in Singapore. This will provide less disruptions to their lives as they have always been cared for by her in Singapore and Singapore is their home.

The Husband’s case is that he has always been an involved parent with the children notwithstanding he flew in and out of Singapore frequently. He claimed that there was no agreement that Singapore was meant to be the permanent home for the family but it was the Wife who refused to return to Indonesia when the rest of his family did in 2012. He claims that he is unable to fully maintain the children’s expenses in Singapore but will be able to do so in Indonesia because accommodation will be provided for in Indonesia by his parents, cost of living is lower and that he is better able to provide a stable home for the children compared to the Wife.

Because the Husband’s claim for care and control is essentially tied to his relocation application, I considered the issue for relocation together with the issue of care and control.

This issue of care and control and relocation was also made against the backdrop that all parties including the children are currently on short-term visit passes. The passes were being extended on the basis of the ancillary proceedings. I was informed that the Wife’s short-term visit pass would be expiring on 5 November 2021 whereas the Husband’s and the children’s short-term visit passes would be expiring on 9 November...

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2 cases
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