Case Study: 3 Stories of Divorce & Child Custody
(Names and some identifying facts have been changed)
1. John’s Story: Where care and control of an infant daughter was awarded to the father

John was 24 and Ann was 20 when they met on Tinder. When Ann fell pregnant just a few months later, parties decided to get married. Unfortunately, the relationship was marked with frequent quarrels from the start and did not improve after the birth of their daughter, Mary.

Though the plan was for Ann to move in with John to live with his mother and siblings, Ann dragged her feet on this, preferring to raise Mary with the help of her own mother.

John tolerated this arrangement for some time, visiting Ann and Mary daily after work. However, he became increasingly unhappy when Ann would control the time he had with Mary. Often, he would be on his way to Ann’s home when she would text to let him know that she was busy or had taken Mary out. Things came to a head during a Christmas dinner at John’s home when an argument ensued and John refused to return Mary to Ann.

Ann applied for an order under the Guardianship of Infants’ Act for Mary to be returned to her care and for her to have custody and care of Mary. Mary was 9 months old at the time.

Parties attended mediation where we managed to persuade John to consider a shared care arrangement where Mary would spend equal time with each parent. However, Ann rejected the proposal.

At the hearing, the Court accepted our argument that Ann was gatekeeping and preventing John from spending time with Mary. The Court also noted that Ann was studying part-time and did not have any care plan in place. On the other hand, John’s mother had taken a sabbatical and they planned to hire a domestic helper to help care for Mary whilst he was at work. Finally, though the Court noted that usually very young children are placed in the care of the mother, this was not the default position and the Court would still consider what was in the child’s best interest. As such, the Court awarded care of the child to John.

2. Jasmine’s Story: Where the mother was granted sole custody, care and control of the children

Jasmine and Carl were in a relationship and decided to move to Singapore together. Life was good and they decided to take the next step by tying the knot in a beautiful ceremony in Bali. Soon after, Jasmine became pregnant with Jane. Jasmine felt that Carl became more distant during her pregnancy and this became even more obvious after Jane’s birth. However, Jasmine was very much committed to the marriage and constantly made excuses for Carl’s behaviour.

When she became pregnant with their second child, Carl’s behaviour worsened. By this time, it was obvious that he had a drinking problem. Jasmine would find bottles of alcohol which Carl had hidden around the house. His emotional abuse worsened and there were also instances of physical violence. Jasmine was overwhelmed, having to essentially care for 2 young children on her own whilst trying to keep her marriage intact.

She first approached us to write a letter to her Carl, reiterating her commitment to the marriage but insisting that he had to seek help. When he ignored her letter, we were instructed to commence divorce proceedings. Carl left the matrimonial home when he was served the divorce papers. However, a few months later, he promised he had changed and asked to return. Jasmine agreed and we withdrew the divorce.

Just 4 months after that, Jasmine came back to us with instructions to commence divorce proceedings again. All Carl’s promises were mere lip service and he had quickly reverted back to his old ways. The tension at home was affecting the children and Jasmine felt that she had done all she could to save the marriage. Once again, Carl left home when he was served the divorce papers and refused to participate at all in the divorce proceedings. He also made no effort to see the children save for the occasional video calls.

Whilst this caused some difficulties to Jasmine, we obtained an order for substituted service and took all the necessary steps to push the matter forward. Throughout this process, Jasmine established a routine for the children and whilst life as a single mother was challenging, she found she was at peace without Carl in her life. At the ancillary matters hearing, the Court accepted our argument that Jasmine should have sole custody and care of the children due to Carl’s disappearance from the children’s life.

3. Dan’s Story: Where the father was granted care and control of the children of the marriage, including a daughter who was not his biological daughter

Dan and Nadia’s short and tumultuous marriage soon ended in a highly acrimonious divorce soon after moving to Singapore. Nadia had a daughter from a previous relationship who was brought up by Dan as his own daughter. The couple also had a daughter together. Soon after applying for custody of the children, Nadia fled Singapore with the children back to her home country. As there was no Hague Convention Treaty in place, Dan had no recourse to seek the return of the children even though he was awarded care and control of them in the Singapore proceedings.

After about 2 years, Nadia decided to return to Singapore and allowed Dan to re-establish contact with the girls. However, about a year later, parties’ relationship deteriorated and Nadia again sought to prevent Dan from any contact with the girls. In various application filed in Court, Nadia succeeded in having the care and control order reversed in her favour. However, Dan was given liberal access. He was contented with that as it was never his intention to cut out the mother and simply wanted to have regular scheduled time with the girls.

Things took a turn for the worse when Dan agreed for Nadia to return to her home country to visit her family with the children. This was to be for a period of about 30 days. However, Nadia took this opportunity to remain out of Singapore, refusing to return with the girls. After making efforts to negotiate with her for several months, Dan instructed us to apply for an injunction for the girls to be returned to Singapore. We succeeded as the Court agreed that Singapore was their habitual residence. The mother could not simply uproot the children without the father’s consent. Further, it was clear she had no plans, wanting instead the freedom to decide on her own what was best for the children and having no qualms in cutting off contact with Dan when she saw fit.

Despite the Court Order, Nadia refused to return.

Dan took the next step of applying for care and control to once again be made in his favour on the basis that the mother was unable to act in the children’s best interests and had repeatedly defied Court Orders. Dan also commenced contempt of court proceedings. At the hearing, the Court agreed with our arguments and granted care and control of the girls to Dan.

Unfortunately, at time of writing, the girls remain out of Singapore. However, the mother has in the past few weeks indicated her consent for the children to return to Singapore and has cooperated thus far with the necessary immigration applications. We look forward to the day when the girls are returned to their father and regain some semblance of normalcy in their lives.

If you find yourself facing a similar situation or would like to find out more about how we can help you, please contact us for a confidential consultation.

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