Court rejects bid by wife to curb hubby's time with kid

Court rejects bid by wife to curb hubby's time with kid

A LAWYER who tried to stop her estranged husband from spending more time with their toddler had the tables turned on her yesterday, when a judge doubled the time allowed between father and daughter.

Giving the man five hours a day, six days a week to spend with the girl, Justice Choo Han Teck said that he deserved the chance to show his love for her, so that she, in turn, would be able to love him back.

"In this case, the best interests of the child stand starkly in the face of the court," he said.

"In the absence of impediments, the child should be given as much time as possible to be familiar and comfortable with her father - given that her mother has care and control."

This is believed to be the most time a parent without custody here has been allotted to spend with his infant child, according to reports.

Justice Choo warned that children stand to lose when one spouse blocks access to children out of spite, which is often the case when a divorce is acrimonious.

"They fail to see... they are impoverishing the child's experience in his or her growing years," he said in judgment grounds released yesterday.

The couple - she is an in-house counsel and he a university lecturer - married in 2009 and split up last year.

Both are contesting the divorce on grounds of unreasonable behaviour, which the husband filed last August.

The duo cannot be named to protect the child, who is 20 months old.

The wife, 37, had been given care and control of the girl in Family Court, while her husband, 40, was initially allowed to see her three times a week. The husband's lawyer Foo Siew Fong appealed to the High Court for greater access, as he said the man had flexible work hours so he could look after the child, and that he wanted more time to bond with the child.

The woman's lawyer Simon Tan pointed out, however, that the access terms had been amended twice before, and should not be further disturbed.

Justice Choo - noting that more often than not, children involved in such cases are much older - held the child's age and the father's flexible working hours in his favour.

Bringing up the child was the parents' responsibility, and the woman's grandparents and maid played only secondary supporting roles, he said.

"With 'quality time' from both parents, the interest of the child should be well looked after."

As the mother already had both "quantity and quality in abundance" when it came to time spent with the child, he added, "the child should be given a chance to be looked after and loved by him so that she can grow up to love him in return".

vijayan@sph.com.sg

This article was published on May 15 in The Straits Times.

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