The High Court has recently handed down judgement in an international children case involving bitterly contested litigation in which the judge described the parents as ‘physically exhausted by the legal process to which they are currently exposed’.
The father from Singapore and the mother from Mongolia lived in London, where the father worked for a well-known international bank. They married in 2011 and their son was born in 2012. While the mother focused on learning English in London, the child was placed in his paternal grandparents’ care in Singapore. In January 2014 the couple returned to Singapore; the mother believing that they would be retrieving their son and returning to London with him. However, the father immediately issued divorce proceedings in Singapore and obtained an order preventing the mother from removing him from the jurisdiction. The mother returned to the UK on her own and successfully applied for orders against the father to compel him to return their son to the UK after declaring that he is habitually resident in this jurisdiction.
The father returned to the UK without the child. He later argued that he was unable to return his son because his passport had been removed and his parents refused to cooperate and he could not coerce them to do so. In the meantime the paternal grandparents made an application in Singapore for interim care of the child, which meant there were court proceedings in both Singapore and England.
Many hearings and many months later, the father made an application to stop proceedings in the UK on the basis that Singapore was clearly the more appropriate forum to resolve the dispute.
After a two day hearing in the High Court in May 2015, the judge refused his application. In coming to her decision the judge analysed a number of factors for and against granting a stay of the proceedings before coming to her conclusion.
She gave weight to the facts that both parents are present in England and the father cannot leave because his passport has been removed and he is subject to bail conditions relating to various alleged offences against the mother. The mother is also unlikely to be able to visit Singapore for more than one month due to immigration restrictions.
The judge was also concerned that the mother also does not have the funds to travel to and stay in Singapore and would not be able to afford legal representation there. In England she has the benefit of legal aid and the father has resources enabling him to be represented in these proceedings.
Noting that the child has not had proper contact with his mother since January 2014, the judge stressed the importance of moving forward and focusing on what arrangements will be in the child’s best interests. There is little doubt that a few more months will pass before this case is finally concluded and the child’s future care is determined.
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