How can you prepare child relocation from or within Singapore? What if your child has been relocated without your consent?
Singapore is a member of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.
We will explain what that means for your options.
Lawyers and mediators in Singapore
We provide a list of lawyers and mediators in Singapore who can assist you in drafting an international parenting plan, in preventing conflicts over the primary residence of the children, and in negotiating and litigating over the children in the event of relocation or child abduction.
Parental authority: Singapore
Parents have rights of custody, whether they are married or not.
Child custody orders last until the child is 21 years old.
When parents have joint custody, they are jointly responsible for making major decisions about the upbringing, education, health and religion of the child.
There is a distinction in court orders between ‘custody’, ‘care and control’ and ‘access’.
Traveling with children: Singapore
If you want to travel abroad with your child, you need the written consent from the other parent, if there is a custody or care and control order, unless the trip is for less then a month (ss 126(4).
If a parents disregards this law, he or she is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both (ss 126(5) WC).
Child relocation: Singapore
If a parent wants to move with the children and the other parent with custody refuses to give permission, the parent who wants to move can request permission from the court.
In deciding the dispute, the court must consider not only the children’s best interests, but all the circumstances of the case.
The judge will judge the case on the basis of the following criteria:
- the effects on the child if the (reasonable) wishes of the parent with primary care to relocate are denied
- the child’s loss of relationship with the parent who is left behind
- the risk of estrangement due to the lack of physical contact between that parent and a young child
- the parties’ and the child’s immigrant statutes and prospects for long term stability
- where the ‘seat’ of the family may be said to be
- the feasibility and meticulousness of the applicant’s relocation plan (f.i. the compatibility and prospects of the education system that the child would be exposed to after the relocation.
Child abduction: Singapore
Singapore is a party to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. The obligations that the convention creates are elaborated in the International Child Abduction Act.
The Central Authority is a first point of contact if you want your children to return. They will forward your request for the children to return to the other parent and offer mediation. If the mediation has no results after an estimated time fram of about 6 months, the Central Authority will advice the parents to consider filling a return application with the court.
However, a parent is not obliged to contact the Central Authority first or to wait for the advice to file an application with the court.
The Central Authority can provide a list of laywers.
In Singapore return application cases are dealt with by specialized judges.
The District Court in principle gives its judgment within 6 weeks. The Court of Appeal will take 3 to 6 months to give a decision.
A special judge has been appointed, who can have judicial communications with judges from other countries if so desired in any case.
The judge decides in what whay the child can be heard in de proceedings. There can be a direct child interview with the judge, or the judge can ask for a report about the child from an independent expert and/ or the judge can appoint a legal representitive for the child.
Mediation will be urged at all stages before and during the proceedings. Both by the Central Authority and by the court. The proceedings can be suspended during mediation and any mediated agreement can get court approval by the Family Court.
When a party appeals, any of the parties can ask the court to decide that the return order is suspended, pending the appeal.
If you think your child is in Singapore, but you do not know exactly where, the Central Authority of Singapore can help you locate your child.
If you fear that your child will be abducted from Singapore to another country, or otherwise disappear from view, the following measure can be taken:
- obtain orders to prevent the removal of the child.
A parent who does not live in Singapre, but who does need a lawyer in Singapore, may be eligible for subsidized legal assistance, depending on his/her income and assets. You can read more on the website of the Legal Aid Board.
Criminal law : Singapore
Parental child abduction is a criminal act in Singapore (s 360 – 362 of the Penal Code. Taking a child younger then 16 years old abway from the lawful guardian without the consent of the lawful guardian is also a criminal act. ‘Lawful guardian’ includes any person lawfully entrusted with the care or custody of the minor.
International child abduction can be punished with a fine or imprisonment.
Relevant websites : Singapore
Custody and welfare of children
Singapore Statutes Online : Woman’s Charter 1961
Criminal law on child abduction
www.sso.agc.goc.sg : Penal Code
www.sso.agc.gov.sg : International Child Abduction Act
www.mediation.com.sg : The Mediation Centre
www.msf.gov.sg : Central Authority
Subsidized legal aid
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Relevant case law in Singapore
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