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Can I relocate my child
after a divorce?

When parents go through a divorce, it is almost inevitable that their children end up being the center of a tug of war between them. When the divorced parents want to start afresh in another country or return to their home country, and relocate the children, there are added complications to an already traumatic situation.  

Where the parents cannot agree on the relocation of a child, it will be necessary for the Court to make a decision. As emphasised by the Court of Appeal in BNS v BNT [2015] SGCA 23, ‘in considering relocation applications, the welfare of the child was paramount and this principle ought to override any other consideration’.  This means that it is the child’s welfare that lies at the heart of the inquiry, and not the interests of the relocating parent or the other parent.  

Hence, even if a parent’s wish to return to his or her home country may appear reasonable, this may not be the determinant factor. 

In deciding this issue, the court shall take into consideration a multitude of factors such as:

  • the current living arrangements of the child;
  • the child’s education (whether in Singapore or not);
  • if the child is male, whether the child is eligible to serve National Service when he is of age; and
  • the child’s likely loss of relationship with the left-behind parent.
So how can I take my child out of Singapore?

Where there is no court order, the parent who is intending to bring the children with him/her for more than a month out of jurisdiction must seek the written consent of the remaining parent or seek leave from the court to do so. This is provided for under section 126(3) of the Women’s Charter.

In the event that the parent is allowed to take the child out of jurisdiction, the parent shall have to provide information such as the identity or persons who are travelling with the child and parent, the itinerary of the trip proposed, accommodation details of the trip proposed and the contact number of the other parent to contact the child.

What happens if I take my child out of Singapore without the other parent’s consent?

In the case that a parent takes a child out of Singapore without consent, i.e. “abducts” the child, the other party may apply for assistance for the return of the child under the Hague Convention. By section 3 of Singapore’s International Child Abduction Act (“ICAA”), the provisions of the Haque Convention have the force of law in Singapore. 

There are two requirements to be fulfilled here –

 

  • that there has to be breach of custody (and not custody order) which can be satisfied so long as the child is unlawfully removed from his/her habitual residence. In other words, it is not necessary that there should be a prior or existing custody court order on custody.
  • both countries must be a contracting state to the Hague Convention and this does not apply to children above the age of 16 years old. If the other country is not a contracting state, then common law principles apply between Singapore and the non-Convention country.

As this is an urgent application, time is of the essence and it is recommended to engage a lawyer who is well-versed in the application under the Hague Convention.

Hence, if you are a parent who is facing the risk of your child being brought out of Singapore or wishes to take your child out of Singapore, it is best to speak to a lawyer. Should you have any enquiries, do feel free to approach our lawyers at Emerald Law who would be happy to help you. They can be contacted at +65 622 0439 or you may choose to email us at hello@emeraldlaw.com.sg.