Court orders boy here to be returned to mum in Britain

4-year-old in care of paternal grandparents in S'pore as parents fight over custody

A four-year-old boy at the centre of a custody battle has been ordered by a family court to be returned to his mother in the United Kingdom to settle the issue in a London court.

He has lived for the last three years with his paternal grandparents here while his Mongolian mother, 31, and Singaporean father, 37, are battling over who gets him.

District Judge Tan Peck Cheng said that the British proceedings have been ongoing since January 2014, and that there have been no fewer than 11 British court orders reiterating that the child is and was habitually resident in Britain since then, that the child is a ward of the British court and that the father and grandfather are required to return the child to Britain.

"In the light of that, it is difficult to understand the husband's and the grandparents' allegations that the proceedings started in Singapore first, and that the wife is a forum shopper," she added in judgment grounds released yesterday.

The judge has allowed the grandparents' application to stay her order, pending the outcome of their appeal against her decision.

None of the parties can be named for legal reasons.

The boy's mother made the news in 2014 when she entered Singapore illegally by boat to try to snatch her son from his grandparents. She was jailed for 10 weeks and deported to London where she won her battle to get the custody issue settled in a London court.

But her husband wanted the case to be heard here, where they were married in 2011.

Their son was born in London in 2012, but registered as a Singapore citizen. The marriage faltered and they took him to Singapore and left him with his grandparents while they returned to London in 2013.

The husband divorced her in a Singapore court last year, while she sued to split in England.

After a British judge ruled that the son's habitual home was London, she obtained a British court order for his return.

Ms Tan heard six applications altogether from the child's mother, father and grandparents.

Acting for the woman, Ms Poonam Lachman Mirchandani applied for orders here "to mirror" the order made by the London courts, principally to confirm the child remains a ward of the British court and that he be returned to London.

The grandparents, through lawyer Raymond Yeo, applied to be the child's legal guardians while lawyer Adrian Tan sought sole custody, care and control of the boy for the father, with supervised access for the mother.

Ms Tan found "real and connecting factors" that made Britain the "more appropriate forum for the child's custody proceedings".

The judge pointed out there was "no shred of evidence" that the child's return would expose him to grave risk of physical or psychological harm or an intolerable position.

"It would neither be against the best interests of the child nor public policy for me to make orders to mirror certain UK orders and I order accordingly," said Ms Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'Court orders boy here to be returned to mum in Britain'. Print Edition | Subscribe