Divorced mum's access to 2 kids curbed by court

Two girls who displayed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder from being with their mother have been placed under the supervision of a welfare officer for one year.

The girls - aged 10 and 13 - had refused to get out of their father's car when he attempted to drop them off at her home for an overnight stay. The couple are divorced.

A Youth Court ordered the mother's access to the children to be curbed unless cleared by the welfare officer, and for the girls to reside with their father.

District Judge Eugene Tay in judgment grounds last week bonded the parents to exercise proper care of the children and undergo programmes to help heal the rifts between the adults. He also ordered all concerned to work together with relevant professionals to help restore the children's contacts with their mother, under the supervision of the appointed welfare officer.

The court noted the acrimonious split in 2012 and drawn-out divorce proceedings in the Family Court which involved multiple applications for custody, care and control in the Family Court.

As of November last year, the parties were to have joint care and control and custody of the children based on a Family Court order.

Among other things, the children were to stay with their mother every Friday from 5pm until 9pm the next day, and the father was to pick them up from her home.

But on Nov 4 last year, they showed "unmanageable behaviour" in refusing to leave their father's car.

They were referred to the Child Protective Service of the Ministry of Social and Family Development, which applied to the Youth Court for care and protection orders against their parents.

State Counsel Faith Boey, representing the Child Protector, argued that there was a serious and persistent conflict between the girls and their mother, causing emotional injury. This would continue if there were no orders to stop the mother from forcing access on the children before they were ready, said counsel.

District Judge Tay found that the children had suffered emotional injury and said a care and protection order does not remove or vary a parent's custodial rights.

"It is not in the children's interest for them to continue to exhibit resistance, fear and anxiety over meeting and spending time with the mother, without active steps being taken by all parties to address the present state of affairs," he said.

The mother is appealing against the decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'Divorced mum's access to 2 kids curbed by court'. Print Edition | Subscribe