No court order on access to teen: Judge

A court has declined to order that a father be given access to his 14-year-old daughter, ruling that she was old enough to decide if she wanted to see her dad.

Her father, 45, an economics professor, had split with her university don mother, 42, and the teen had refused to see him for more than two years.

The couple, both working at the same university, married in China in 1993 and obtained an interim divorce judgment last year, pending a settlement of ancillary matters, including child access.

The man is a Canadian citizen and his former wife has New Zealand nationality. Both live in Singapore.

The man's lawyer, Jinny Tan, claimed that the former wife had denied him access to his daughter, while the former wife's lawyer, Carrie Gill, denied this and countered that the teen did not want to see him.

Ms Gill argued that access should be arranged between father and daughter by themselves, as she is a teen now, and should not require a court access order.

Justice Choo Han Teck, in judgment grounds released earlier this week, agreed and refrained from making a court access order. The Straits Times understands that a decision to refrain from making a court order on access is rare.

The couple had joint matrimonial assets worth more than $5 million, including two properties here and assets abroad.

Justice Choo ruled that a 50:50 division of the couple's assets would be "just and equitable", noting they had remained wedded for almost 20 years.

He made it clear there was no magic formula to compute the difference between both parties in terms of their financial and non-financial contributions to the family upkeep.

" An equal division is also probably the closest (that) the courts can give effect to the parties' declaration in their matrimonial vow of treating both of them as one," said Justice Choo, adding that the court will treat equality as justice in the absence of a better formula.

The court rejected the former wife's bid for her former husband to pay more than $700,000 in lump-sum maintenance for herself.

"Maintenance of an ex-wife supplements the division of matrimonial assets and is awarded only to even out any remaining financial inequities after division," said Justice Choo.

He noted that the wife earned more than $10,000 monthly as an assistant professor and can work for a long time.

Lawyers say the maintenance decision reflects the court's recognition of changes in societal norms, with wives usually self-supporting nowadays.

The case follows two earlier High Court decisions in April where women lost their bids to get maintenance.

Both had enjoyed financial independence and their marriages were brief, lasting between six and seven years.

One woman sought $120,000 in lump-sum maintenance while another wanted $6,500 monthly.

In the first case, the court found she had not depended on the husband during their six years of marriage and earned more than him as a regional sales manager of a multinational firm.

In the latter, Justice Belinda Ang ruled that the applicant "has to appreciate the new realities that flow from the breakdown of a marriage and should not expect to get all she asks for".

The judge also noted that she was an able and enterprising woman with "good business acumen".

This article was first published on Oct 11, 2014.
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