In our Asian culture, it is commonplace that grandparents play a huge role in the care and support of a child while parents hold full time jobs in order to bring home the bacon.
As such, it is a pertinent query as to whether the presence of a grandparent would have significant influence in a divorce proceeding.
In particular, if a child has a close relationship with the grandparent, whether this would constitute a strong reason to grant the care and control to the parent whom the grandparent is giving support.
Under Singapore law, primary parental responsibility and authority are only limited to parents and legally appointed guardians. The law does not place such obligations onto grandparents.
That being said, it may be possible that Singapore courts do recognize the significance of a grandparent’s involvement in the care and control of the child.
In the cases, Wan Tik Wendy v Lim Soon Boon Herbert and DN v DO, the courts gave consideration to the relationship between the child and the grandparent, especially when assessing the consequences of uprooting the child from the regular and familiar routines with the grandparent.
In this regard, it is not only the child-parent relationship that is relevant but also the child-grandparent relationship that determines the ideal arrangement in the best interests of the child upon the termination of the marriage.
Be that as it may, courts have been reluctant to grant custody to grandparents, especially when the parents are still considered suitable caregivers. It is irrelevant whether the grandparent would be able to provide a better home for the child than the parent.
In CZ v DA, the courts dismissed a claim for custody by the grandmother on the basis that the natural parents are the ones who gave the child life and as such should have the primary right to have custody over their child.
In contrast, custody was granted to the grandparent in Re C (an infant), as the natural father was imprisoned for the murder of his wife and was in no position to care for the child.
Due to limiting case laws, it is uncertain as to the extent that courts would consider the parents as unsuitable caregivers in order to grant the custody of the child to the grandparent.
Nevertheless, it is heartening that courts are recognizing and taking into account the importance of grandparents’ involvement in the family unit, especially considering the difficulties of being a single parent, often struggling to balance between family and work.