Commonly Asked Questions On Relocation Of Children
Before you head out to Singapore’s Family Court, be sure to arm yourself with a solid understanding of child custody laws. Becoming familiar with Singapore’s position on relocation of children will help you know what to expect in court and how to best present your case.
Your Children’s Interest Comes First
In Singapore, the position taken by the Singapore Courts on relocation of children is similar to the position taken by the courts concerning Custody, Care and Control of a child.
Essentially, the paramount consideration is the children’s best interests in all application concerning children. If one parent wishes to relocate to with the children:
- Consent of the non-custodial parent should be sought even if the relocating parent/primary caregiver has sole custody; and
- In the absence of said consent, the relocating parent must apply to the Singapore courts for leave (an Order of Court) to relocate and remove the child from Singapore’s jurisdiction.
Even if the child has been removed from Singapore before leave is granted, the Singapore courts retains jurisdiction over the child and can make substantive orders (including an order for the parent to return the child to Singapore) if the court determines that Singapore is the child’s habitual residence prior to their wrongful removal.
How Is Leave Of Court Obtained?
Initially, the Singapore courts only refused leave if it is clearly shown (by the parent opposing relocation) that it would be against the child’s interest and welfare. Thus, the Singapore courts held that it is the reasonableness of the relocating party to want to take the child out of the jurisdiction which would be determinative.
However, there has now been a shift away by the Singapore courts from placing too much emphasis on the reasonableness of the relocating’s parent application in determining whether relocation should be granted to focus primarily on the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration.
Reasonableness Of Relocating Parent’s Wishes vs Welfare Of The Child
While the courts may still allow a reasonable application for relocation that does not affect the interest of the child negatively as the child’s welfare is linked to decisions of the primary caregiver, it still does not mean that the wishes of the primary caregiver is more important than the multitude of factors involving a child’s best interests.
BNS v BNT  SGCA 23
The legal position has now been settled by the Court of Appeal where it held that the only fundamental legal principle in considering relocation applications is that the welfare of the child is paramount and this principle overrides all other considerations including the reasonableness of the relocating parent’s wishes. The relocating parent’s wishes is no more than another factor when considering the welfare of the child.
The Court of Appeal also clarified that the Singapore courts should consider, among other factors, the loss of relationship that the child would suffer with the non-custodial parent if relocation was allowed.
What Should I Do If I Wish To Relocate With My Child?
- If you wish to relocate with your child, obtain consent of the non-custodial parent. Otherwise, make an application to the Singapore courts to relocate. However, a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider are as follows:
- Reasonable of the request to relocate;
- The care and living arrangements to be put in place for the country which the parent intends relocate the child to;
- The child’s views (if they are of an age to express an independent opinion);
- The child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent and the level of his or her interaction with the child.
Thus, it is clear that where a close relationship exists between the non-custodial parent and a child where the non-custodial parent is fully available to engage with the child, the court will be more likely to find that relocation would affect this parent-child bond and not be in the child’s best interests.
At the end, each case is decided on its facts and it is for the relocating parent to show how considering the circumstances of his or her case, relocation would be in the child’s best interests.
The court will base its custody decision applying the standard of what is in the best interests of the child, which there is no hard and fast rule or guideline to apply.
However, the non-custodial shall not intentionally make it difficult for the relocating parent if it is in the child’s best interest. This calls for reasonableness on the part of both parents in order to consider the child’s best interests.
What If My Ex-Spouse Wishes To Relocate Without Knowledge And Consent?
Briefly, the parent should immediately seek legal advice and help. You can file an injunction to prevent your child from being taken abroad.
Next in this series, we will be touching upon the situation where your child has been abducted without your knowledge / before you could act in time.
(The above information constitutes general information only and parents should seek legal assistance to address your specific situation)