Singapore Divorcee’s Guide to Relocating Your Child Overseas
You may be planning to relocate overseas after your divorce in Singapore for a fresh start, and bringing your child with you. However, relocating your child overseas is not as simple as buying a plane ticket for your child and putting them on the flight. You will need to obtain permission for your child to relocate first, or you may be committing child abduction.
This article will discuss the decision of relocating your child when you, the parent, are divorced or are in the process of divorcing. It will cover:
- Whose permission is required before your child can relocate overseas
- Factors considered when granting permission for child relocation cases
- What if your ex-spouse wishes to appeal against your child’s relocation
- The situation in which a parent relocates their child overseas without permission
Whose Permission is Required Before Your Child Can Relocate Overseas?
If you are in the middle of divorce proceedings and you wish to relocate your child overseas after the divorce, you will need either the:
- Written consent of the other parent; or
- (If the other parent does not consent to the relocation) Consent of the court in the form of an Order of Court.
On the other hand, if your divorce proceedings have already concluded and you were given custody of your child, the custody order will typically prohibit you from taking the child out of Singapore for more than a month without the other parent’s written consent. Therefore if you want to relocate overseas with your child in this case, you will need to apply to court for an Order of Court to vary the custody order and lift this prohibition.
Factors Considered When Granting Permission for Child Relocation Cases
When it comes to decisions that affect the child, the child’s welfare is of paramount consideration and will come first. The parent is expected to base their decision to relocate on the child’s best interests, even if doing so will not be ideal to the parent themselves.
Factors that the court will consider when deciding whether allowing the relocation of the child will be in the child’s best interests include:
Whether there is a genuine motivation for the parent to move
The parent cannot be planning to relocate so as to sever the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child, or to restrict the access of the non-relocating parent to the child.
Whether the parent seeking to move overseas does so in the primary interest of their child
The parent might want to move abroad for their own purposes and interests. These could be better job prospects, or wanting to live with a new spouse who resides overseas. In this case, the parent’s primary motivation to move might not be for the sake of their child and as a result, the court might be less likely to allow the relocation.
However, if the move wasn’t primarily made with the child’s best interests in mind, but moving would ultimately still be in the child’s best interests, the court might be more willing to allow relocation. This might be where the relocation would be highly beneficial to the child’s education.
The effect upon the child from being denied contact with the non-relocating parent
In joint parenting, both parents share the responsibility of raising their child. This includes communicating with each other to jointly make major decisions in the child’s life, and spending quality time with their child. Relocation often represents a serious threat to this “ideal state” of joint parenting as the relocated child would likely have much less interaction with the parent who is not relocating.
However, this threat to the feasibility of joint parenting does not automatically mean that an application to relocate will automatically be denied. The approval of a relocation application will be decided based on the facts of the case as every family’s circumstances and dynamics are unique.
For example, if the non-relocating parent is currently very close to the child, the larger the impact of the non-relocating parent’s absence in the child’s life is likely to be after the relocation. This could be due to a loss of constant interaction that the child previously had with the non-relocating parent. In such cases, the court may be less likely to approve an application for relocation.
On the other hand, if the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child was not close to begin with, and relocating would have a minimal impact on the child, the court may be more likely to grant relocation.
The opportunity for the child to keep in contact with the non-relocating parent
The non-relocating parent’s financial means and whether he or she has the ability to visit the relocated child often will be considered.
How the relocating parent plans for the other parent to have access to the relocated child to reduce their loss of relationship will also be taken into consideration. The courts will be more likely to approve the relocation application if the relocating parent makes adequate plans for the child to have interaction with the non-relocating parent after the relocation.
For example, the relocating parent can schedule FaceTime or Skype sessions for the child to interact with the non-relocating parent or arrange to take the child back to Singapore during the school holidays.
Permanence of intended relocation
If the relocation is temporary, and the parent is able to ensure that the child’s education and well-being are not compromised during this period of time, the relocation may more likely be allowed.
Familiarity of new location
If the relocation means that the child will be uprooted from stable living and education arrangements in Singapore to an unfamiliar environment, especially one where English is not the main language of communication, it is less likely that the relocating parent’s application to relocate will be allowed.
Presence of familial support in the new location
If there is greater familial support in the form of grandparents or extended family who are able to care for the child in the new location, the child would be able to receive more emotional support from the family. As this will be beneficial to the child, the court may be more likely to grant permission for the child to relocate.
Child’s own desire to move
Assuming the child is of sufficient maturity to express his own opinions on the move, the child’s own wishes on whether they want to move will be taken into consideration.
National Service enlistment
If one of the motivations for relocating is to help the child evade National Service, or if one of the children who is to relocate is to enlist soon, the relocation is unlikely to be allowed.
Possible separation of the siblings as a result of the move
Should any siblings be separated as a result of the move (e.g. one sibling moves abroad while the other decides to remain in Singapore for studies), relocation may not be allowed.
Separating siblings is not preferred because they should stay together, not only to provide emotional support to each other but because the separation might negatively affect their sibling bond.
Each parent’s position on the relocation
Each parent’s feelings on relocation will be taken into account, but they are only relevant to the extent that the child would be affected by such feelings.
For example, if the parent may fall into depression if their child is not allowed to relocate, such that the parent cannot sufficiently care for the child, the court may take this situation into account in deciding whether to grant relocation.
Appeals against Relocation
Even if you have been granted approval to relocate, do note that your spouse may appeal against the order.
Like during the initial court hearing on relocation however, your spouse should not be appealing against the relocation in bad faith (e.g. objecting to the relocation simply to make life difficult for you, rather than genuinely considering what arrangement is best for your child).
What If You Wrongfully Relocate Your Child Overseas Without Permission?
Taking your child out of the country without the consent of either your spouse or the court is considered child abduction. If you take your child out of the country for more than a month without permission, you can be found guilty of an offence and fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed up to 1 year.
If you wrongfully try to bring your child out of Singapore while divorce proceedings are still ongoing, or after divorce proceedings have concluded and your spouse has sole custody, or care and control, of the child, your spouse can apply to court for an injunction to stop you from taking the child out of the country.
Alternatively, if you have already taken your child overseas, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction allows your spouse to make a Hague Convention application for the return of the child.
You may wish to read our other article for more information on overseas child abduction under the Hague Convention.
Overall, there are several factors that will be taken into consideration when deciding whether your application to relocate your child will be approved, with the court’s utmost priority being the child’s welfare.
A divorce lawyer is best suited to advise you on your chances of your child being allowed to relocate overseas with you, and how to make a relocation application. You may wish to approach approach one of our experienced divorce lawyers for assistance.
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