Singaporean woman wins tussle to keep son here

Singaporean woman wins tussle to keep son here

A Singaporean woman will get to keep her two-year-old son here, after a district court rejected her estranged husband's bid to have him relocated to Switzerland.

The German father, who moved to Switzerland with his job, had tried to claim that his son had been wrongfully taken out of the country by his mother last August and should be returned there under the International Abduction of Children Act.

But District Judge Sowaran Singh found that evidence showed the boy's habitual residence was in Singapore.

"The child was in Switzerland for only a brief period and his connection with that country was at best tenuous and fragile," he said last week in judgment grounds.

The parties cannot be named to protect the child's identity.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted at the Family Justice workplan seminar yesterday that about 15 per cent of family disputes involved non-Singaporean parties - increasingly reflecting the international nature of society here.

"The most challenging are those where parents wish to reside in different jurisdictions after the divorce and cannot resolve for themselves which jurisdiction the children are to reside in," he said.

The boy was born here in 2012.

His parents married that year before his father relocated to Switzerland as he could not find a suitable job here.

The court heard that he had not been with his son for more than half the boy's life as he was in Europe working or looking for a job.

The couple's relationship started to crumble and the boy's mother moved to Switzerland with him in an effort to patch things up.

Defended by lawyer Michelle Woodworth, she argued that the deal was for her to live in Europe for two to three years so that her husband could get job experience, then return to Singapore.

The husband, represented by lawyer Koh Tien Hua, denied they would reside in Switzerland for only two to three years.

Their relationship deteriorated further and she left Switzerland with their son last August after six months there.

The court found that, along with e-mail and other evidence provided by the mother, the father's actions "showed that he had clearly and unequivocally consented to the removal of the child from Switzerland".

In dismissing the father's application, the judge urged both parties "to put aside their differences and work together in harmony for the child's future".

He added: "They must view each other as veritable partners and not adversaries if they want the young boy to grow up into a confident and outstanding man."

vijayan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on February 4, 2015.
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