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BNS v BNT [2015] SGCA 23

Outcome: Appeal dismissed. 


1 The wife appealed against the High Court’s decision that it was not in the children’s best interests to allow the relocation. 

Court’s Decision:

2 The Court of Appeal held that in considering relocation applications, the welfare of the child is paramount and this principle ought to override any other considerations: at [19]

3 The relocating parent’s reasonable wish to relocate is relevant only to the extent that it is found that there will be a transference of his or her insecurity and negative feelings onto the child. It is the child’s welfare that lies at the heart of the inquiry, and not the interests of the relocating parent (or either of the parents): at [20]

4 The court also emphasised that even where the primary caregiver is able to establish that she reasonably wishes to relocate in the best interests of the child, that is no more than a factor to be weighed in the overarching inquiry into the child’s welfare. It is not a singularly determinative factor which necessarily triumphs all other relevant consideration. There may well be other relevant factors bearing on the child’s welfare which may tip the balance against relocation: at [21].

5 There can be no pre-fixed precedence or hierarchy among the many composite factors which may inform the court’s decision as to where the child’s interests ultimately lie. Where these factors stand in relation to one another must depend on a consideration of all the facts in each case. As such, there is no legal presumption in favour of allowing relocation when the primary caregiver’s desire to relocate is not unreasonable or founded in bad faith: at [22]

6 Another factor that is relevant in assessing the welfare of the child is the child’s loss of relationship with the left-behind parent. A child benefits from the nurturing presence and joint contribution of both parents in his or her life. Relocation represents a serious threat to this ideal state of joint parenting. However, although the child’s loss of relationship with the left-behind parent is an important consideration, it is not be treated as having determinative weight or as being decisive in every case. How adversely the loss of that relationship will impact on the child’s welfare is a matter that depends on the facts, in particular, the strength of the existing bond between the left-behind parent and the child. In general, the stronger the bond, the larger the resultant void in the child’s life if relocation is allowed, and the weightier this factor must be: at [25] and [26]

7 The decision of the court in a relocation application is an intensely fact-centric exercise which involves the balancing of all the relevant facts and circumstances of the case. The ultimate decision of the court must be based on the welfare of the child: at [28] and [29]

The full text of the decision can be found here.

This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.
Subject Matters:General children issues

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