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Singaporean mother in child abduction case loses fight against court order to relocate son to UK

Singaporean mother in child abduction case loses fight against court order to relocate son to UK

File photo of a child and parent holding hands. (Photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean mother involved in a child abduction case has lost her fight against a court order to relocate her six-year-old son to the United Kingdom.

The child's parents are not married. The mother, 44, has residency rights in the UK while the father, 50, is an Irish citizen. Both are veterinarians.

In a grounds of decision released on Thursday (Aug 11), Justice Choo Han Teck said the mother's case had no merits and the child's relocation to the UK must not be delayed.

The family of three lived in Ireland until February 2017, when the mother took the child to Singapore for a holiday.

She refused to return to Ireland after their six-week trip.

In February 2018, the father was granted a child abduction order from Singapore's Family Justice Courts, which ordered that the child be returned to Ireland.

Parental child abduction is treated as a civil rather than criminal matter in Singapore courts, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

The mother filed an appeal at the High Court, which ordered the parents to appear before the Irish Court to determine guardianship of the child, who was born in Ireland.

This resulted in a settlement between the parents that appointed the father as the guardian of the child under both Irish and Singapore law.

Both parents also agreed to remain in Ireland for six weeks, after which mother and child would be allowed to travel to Singapore for a year.

Before the year was up, they were to relocate to the UK, and not Ireland, by December 2020.

"Trouble brewed after the mother arrived back in Singapore with the child for the agreed 12-month stay," said Justice Choo.

The mother claimed that the child no longer wanted to see his father and denied him access to his son. The parents then continued their battle in the Singapore courts.

The father wanted a psychologist to examine his son and determine if there was parental alienation, while the mother wanted a stay of the UK relocation order.

A district judge initially granted a stay of the relocation order, but rescinded this after the father stated his difficulties finding a job that would allow him to move to Singapore.

His ability to come to Singapore was considered important as the psychologist had recommended therapy to reconcile father and child, which required the father to be physically present.

The matter came before the High Court again when the mother appealed against the district judge's decision to rescind the stay.

In his judgment, Justice Choo said that the issue of feasibility of therapy for father and child was not crucial.

"The how, why, who, and where regarding the child's therapy for reconciliation with the father is a secondary issue that has drawn everyone away from the main and most important point in this case," he said.

This was the fact that "the mother had wrongfully disobeyed a court order obtained by consent", said the judge.

"The claim that the son ... refuses to see his father is an obvious pretext for refusing to comply with the court order," he added.

Justice Choo reiterated that the order must be obeyed for the father to be appointed the child's guardian and for the parents and child to relocate to the UK.

"The relocation must not be delayed. That order had been flouted for too many years as the child was fast growing up," he said.

He said he would hear both parties on costs at a later date as "there are far more pressing matters for the parties to attend to so that the relocation can take place".

Source: CNA/dv(gs)

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