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Judge rejects expat mum’s bid to give up Singapore PR status. She thought son could skip NS.

SINGAPORE — A Family Court judge has dismissed a Portuguese mother’s application to move her two young children from Singapore to the United Kingdom.

SINGAPORE — A Family Court judge has dismissed a Portuguese mother’s application to move her two young children from Singapore to the United Kingdom.

In particular, District Judge Chia Wee Kiat noted that the mother appeared to have made a “hasty decision” to renounce her and the children’s permanent residency (PR) status because she did not want her son to serve National Service (NS) here.

She divorced their father, also Portuguese, a few years ago and he did not agree with her decision to give up their PR status, saying she did not discuss it with him. Their daughter is 11 years old and their son is six.

The mother had earlier assumed that her son would not need to serve NS if he left the country before turning 11, but then learnt that he would need to relinquish his PR status in order to avoid his obligation.

In his written judgement on Monday (June 17), District Judge Chia said: "This unilateral decision on her part without consulting the father appears to be an incidental decision rather than a considered one.”

He ruled that the two young children should remain in Singapore, where they were born and raised, for their welfare.

The Portuguese couple, who were not named, moved here in 2008 and became Singapore PRs in 2011. They divorced in 2015.

Their two children were born here and are now studying in an international school.

After the divorce, they agreed to have joint custody of their children, who live with their mother and her current partner. Their father rented a nearby apartment to be close to the children, but has since moved into his partner’s condominium.

In August last year, the man objected to his ex-wife’s plan to emigrate to the UK along with their children, and she then took the matter to the courts.

In a hearing last month, the mother submitted through her lawyers that the children have been enrolled in schools in the UK following extensive research on her part, and they have found a house for their living arrangements.

Among other reasons, she also said that the children have not integrated with the Singapore community, and her ex-husband would still be able to communicate with the children.

The father said that she had not given any good reasons for her desire to relocate, and had not established that moving to the UK was in the children’s best interests.

The children “have benefited from the high quality of education in Singapore” and have “firmly embraced the local culture”, he added.

He also argued that when Brexit occurs, she and the children may lose their right to live in the UK since they are not UK citizens.

NO ‘REAL REASON’ TO MOVE

In delivering his decision, District Judge Chia found that there was no “real reason” for the mother to move to the UK, though he did not think it was unreasonable for her to do so.

Uprooting the children from Singapore would subject them to a new environment and different education system, and force them to miss out on weekly dinners, stayovers and activities with their father, he said.

While the mother suggested that the father only started to play a more active role in the children’s lives since she broached the subject of relocation, the judge said it was not “a fair criticism to make”, as the father would regularly take them out before this — something she acknowledged.

Turning to the boy’s NS obligations, District Judge Chia said that the “casual manner” in which the mother made her decisions showed that she did not give sufficient thought to the consequences of relocation with regards to this issue.

Her assumption about his NS obligation was shot down during the court hearing, and after that, she said in a letter through her lawyers that even if her son has not renounced his PR status before turning 13, they would comply with regulations and directions by the Ministry of Defence and the immigrations authorities, including the boy returning to Singapore to serve NS.

As it now stands, the boy does not need to get an exit permit to leave Singapore for an extended period of time, which is only required for male citizens and PRs at 13 years of age.

Second-generation PRs are allowed to renounce their status without serving NS, but this will be taken into account if they apply to return to Singapore to study or work.

In response, the father highlighted that renunciation was an “extremely serious matter” and should be discussed with him.

He added that if the boy gives up his PR status without completing NS, he would likely be precluded from any future PR applications, which would affect his ability to live in Singapore in the future if he wished to.

The judge noted: “The mother did not appear to have considered whether it is in the best interests of the children to renounce their PR statuses in Singapore where they were born and brought up.

“I find it heartening that both parties have moved on and found new partners of their own. However, a decision on relocation is based ultimately on the welfare of the children.”

Related topics

court PR National Service family Singapore PR

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