It might sound like something out of The Onion, but according to Lianhe Wanbao, a divorced Singaporean couple actually spent one and a half years in a dispute over which parent their 13-year-old son should have reunion dinner with on the eve of Chinese New Year.
The parents were initially granted joint custody of their son when they divorced in 2012; he would spend weekends and school holidays with his father, and live with his mother the rest of the time.
This arrangement went on smoothly until 2019, when his parents’ relationship became increasingly strained.
The woman subsequently filed an appeal to the Court to adjust the terms of the joint custody. This appeal included a request to allow both parents to take turns spending time with their son on Chinese New Year’s eve.
However, her ex-husband was unwilling to allow this and insisted that the boy should stay with him for the whole of the Chinese New Year holiday (from the eve to the second day), and have reunion dinner with his paternal relatives.
He argued that the son should spend more time with other relatives during his formative years and that his ex-wife—whose reunion dinners did not include other relatives—would not be able to provide this experience for their son.
The judge’s verdict
The family court judge ultimately ruled that the boy should have reunion dinner with both his parents, specifying that the son could have dinner with his mother until 8:30pm on the eve of Chinese New Year, while his father would have him for the rest of the night.
However, both parents were unhappy with the verdict and later appealed to the High Court. According to Lianhe Wanbao, the man argued that his son would be “too full” after having his first reunion dinner and would not be able to eat another meal afterwards.
The parents’ appeal was rejected by the High Court after consideration, with the parents being urged to compromise and settle the matter reasonably so that the child would not spend the festive period unhappily.
What considerations are usually taken into account by the Family Justice Court in making decisions?
The foremost consideration of the Family Court in deciding matters of custody, care and control, and access is the “welfare principle”—what would be in the child’s best interests?
According to Singapore Family Lawyer, the factors that judges might take into account when deciding which parent should have custody of the child would include:
- Who was the main and primary caregiver of the child during their formative years?
- What are the current living arrangements?
- What are the wishes and preferences of the children?
- What are the wishes and preferences of the parents?
- How old are the children?
- How is each parent able to financially support the children?
- Does each parent have access to additional support to look after the children (e.g. from their extended family or grandparents of the children)?
Read the full judgement here.