Wedding day split, then cross-border custody battle

Case involves S'pore woman, Aussie exec and the child they had while together in HK

A Singaporean woman met an Australian executive while working in Hong Kong, and they had a child before deciding to marry.

But on their way to the wedding ceremony on June 21, she was shocked when he sprung a pre-nuptial agreement on her.

They quarrelled, she called off the wedding and, two days later, whisked their 18-month-old daughter back to Singapore without telling him - leading to a cross-border custody battle.

In cases involving toddlers born out of wedlock, custody usually goes to the mother. But this time, the father wants the child to live with him, and has accused the mother of taking the girl from her home in Hong Kong.

This month, the man obtained a court order in Hong Kong giving him rights as the father.

But the mother, who is currently in Singapore with their child, insists that Singapore is the appropriate venue for any custody battle and has filed court papers here for a hearing.

Hong Kong judge Chu Pui Ying, who heard the father's application, ruled that their names must remain private.

The woman (M), a psychologist, moved to Hong Kong in 2008 for work. Two years later, she met the man in a bar in Lan Kwai Fong, and they started to date.

They broke up twice due to her temper, claimed the man, who started working in Hong Kong in 2009 for an insurance group.

But they continued to see each other, she gave birth last May, and they went on to fix a wedding date.

Both sides had invited family and friends for what should have been their happy day, complete with a celebration brunch.

However, the pre-nuptial issue "regrettably" triggered the quarrel which derailed the wedding plans on the very day, noted Judge Chu in her judgement grounds released last Tuesday.

The woman informed the man that she was leaving Hong Kong just before boarding her flight to Singapore with the child. She sent him a text message.

Talks between the pair to take the child back to Hong Kong broke down.

The man then went to court in August.

The Hong Kong judge found that M did not dispute that the man was the father, and also failed to prove "why he should not have all the rights and authority that the law would allow him as father if the child were legitimate".

The woman, who did not attend the hearing, insisted that Singapore was where the case should be heard, since she and the child are Singaporean.

But the judge was not convinced, pointing out that the baby had been living in Singapore for only a few months, had an Australian passport, and was born and entitled to Hong Kong residence.

She also refused the woman's request that the father's access to the child be supervised.

The judge noted that the man had taken garden leave between jobs to look after the girl for six weeks this year, and had also taken her on holiday to Nicaragua when she was only several months old, without M or any helper.

The Hong Kong court also made the child its ward until further notice - which means it will rule on custody and other key matters brought up by either parent relating to the child.

vijayan@sph.com.sg