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VTU v VTV [2021] SGHCF 28

Outcome: Applications dismissed.

Facts

1 The Wife filed a relocation application to bring the children of the marriage (“the Children”) back to Malaysia. At the time of the hearing, the Children have been residing in Malaysia for around 9 months. In response, the Husband opposed the Wife’s relocation application and applied for the return of the Children.

Court’s Decision:

2 The court dismissed both the Wife’s and Husband’s respective applications. The Children were allowed to still remain in Malaysia with the Wife for the time being, pending the ancillary matters hearing. The Wife was ordered to pay the costs of both applications.

3 In determining whether relocation applications should be granted, the welfare of the child is paramount consideration. The reasonable wishes of the primary caregiver are important, as a child’s welfare is closely linked to the happiness and well-being of the primary caregiver, but not decisive. The court may still disallow the application if it is unreasonable and done in bad faith. The tension is between upholding the reasonable wishes of the relocating parent and the child’s welfare in maintaining a relationship with the left-behind parent. However, the concern that the relocated children will have less access and interaction with the left-behind parent is also not determinative if relocation is in the welfare of the child: at [12].

4 The order for joint custody means that in matters concerning the major aspects of a child’s life such as where the child should be located, there must be consensus, failing which, a court order. The relocation should not take place before such consensus or court order is obtained. Section 126(3) of the Women’s Charter 1961 states that no person shall take the child who is the subject of a custody order out of Singapore except with the written consent of both parents or the leave of court. Even if a parent has legitimate reasons to relocate, they do not give that parent the freedom to unilaterally decide to relocate their children: at [14] and [16].

5  A parent who unilaterally decides to relocate their child without seeking the consensus of the other parent or a court order will be liable for criminal and civil sanctions, including returning the child to Singapore and paying costs for court applications. Depending on the facts, such a breach may also be considered an act of kidnapping: at [14], [15], and [18].

6 While it may not be temporarily in the interest of the child to make an order for his/her return to Singapore, it is open for both parties to make fresh applications with regards to relocation and care and control at the hearing of ancillary matters: at [13], [15], [17] to [18].

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
2022/07/22

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