Gay father fails to get custody order | The New Paper

Gay father fails to get custody order

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He sought the order hoping to ease the approval of his son's student pass application

A gay father here failed to get a court custody order for his six-year-old biological child born by a surrogate mother in India, which he had sought hoping to ease the approval of a student pass application for the boy.

The court, while acknowledging that the British man and his Singaporean partner loved their child, made clear that family law should not be used to solve immigration problems with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

"This application ought not to have been taken out in the first place," said District Judge Yarni Loi last month, adding that there is no evidence the custody order would increase the child's chances of obtaining a student pass.

The father of the child has been in a relationship with his Singaporean partner since 2003 and registered their civil partnership in Scotland in July 2011. Both work in the creative industry in Singapore.

The couple had applied for permanent residency, a long-term visit pass and a student pass for the child, but were unsuccessful despite appeals.

The boy, who has been brought up in Singapore with the couple since 2013, has British citizenship.

As he is on a short-term visit pass, he has to leave and re-enter Singapore every three months.


He is enrolled to enter an international school next year when he turns seven, but the latest application for a student pass initiated by the school was rejected by ICA in October.

The father, through lawyers Ivan Cheong and Shaun Ho, applied for a custody order as he believed this would help him secure a student pass for the child.

District Judge Loi said the court's powers to grant custody orders should be exercised judiciously and in cases where there is a genuine need to ensure the welfare of the child.

"No such genuine need arises in this case," she said.

The father was not genuinely seeking an order for sole custody, care and control of the child, said District Judge Loi, as he already has actual custody and care and control.

The judge noted that the boy lives in a spacious and secure home and has a supportive social and family ecosystem.

The Briton and his partner had inked a surrogacy deal in India for about US$17,000 (S$23,000), which saw the surrogate receiving 200,000 rupees (S$3,800).

Surrogacy is not permitted in Singapore, but the law recognises the gestational mother as the child's legal parent - which in this case could be presumed to be the surrogate. The father had claimed that a custody order was needed to take over the surrogate's parental rights.

District Judge Loi, however, clarified that a custody order is not a means of transferring "parental rights" from surrogate to father.

"Crucially, whether or not ICA grants a student pass is a matter within the jurisdiction of the ICA and not the courts," she added.