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UYK v UYJ [2020] SGHCF 9

Outcome: Appeal dismissed. 


1 The husband appealed against the District Court’s decision to grant care and control of the child to the mother and to allow the mother to relocate with the child. 

Court’s Decision:

2 In deciding whether to allow relocation, the welfare of the child was the paramount consideration. While sufficient recognition must be given to the loss of relationship the child might experience with the left-behind parent, this does not mean that the loss of relationship was the dominant or determinant consideration: at [25] and [26]

3 There is no presumption for or against relocation. Factors that the court can consider include “the child’s age, the child’s attachment to each parent and other significant persons in the child’s life, the child’s well-being in her present country of residence, as well as the child’s developmental needs at that particular stage of life, including her cognitive, emotional, academic and physical needs”: at [37]

4 No two cases are alike, and it would be unhelpful to pigeonhole cases into “categories” that would lead to prescribed outcomes. In deciding whether to allow relocation, the court undertakes a fact-centric exercise: at [38]

5 In cases where there is a Joint Letter of Intention between parties, it is a piece of evidence that the court could consider in determining the parties’ circumstances and considerations at relevant points in time: at [48]

6 The English High Court in the Hague Convention’s decision on habitual residence of the child was only relevant for the purposes of selecting the country with the jurisdiction to decide issues relating to the custody and care of the child. The Singapore court, as the court with substantive jurisdiction to hear custody and care matters, has the jurisdiction to decide the relocation application in the light of the principles: at [49]

7 Whether a child is well settled in a country is a relevant factor that should be given appropriate weight. However, the court also highlighted that in a globalised world, families are geographically mobile and adaptable. The weight to be placed on well-settledness will depend on other related circumstances, including how many years the child had lived in that country, the age of the child, and whether that country had been the family’s home for many years. Well-settledness was not an unchangeable circumstance, and a child would be able to adapt to a new environment with adequate time and support: at [51] and [52]

8 The loss of relationship between the child and the left-behind parent is an unfortunate consequence of family breakdown. Good access arrangements can mitigate the loss of time and relationship with the left-behind parent. The willingness and ability of both parents to support substantial access will also mitigate the trauma of such a loss for the child: at [64].

9 While showing that relocation was “necessary” is not a requirement, it is a factor that the court could take into account alongside other factors: at [69]

10 The court should not be making orders on relocation depending on the COVID-19 situation, as these orders would quickly become outdated as the global situation changes. The COVID-19 situation in itself should not hold back relocation if it is the best step for the child and family: at [70] and [71]

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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