A 48 year-old HIV-positive homosexual businessman was denied joint custody of his triplets with his wife today – but the Singapore courts took pains to emphasize that the decision was not made because he was homosexual or because of his HIV+ status.
Denying joint custody is a rare legal move which is justified only in special circumstances when it is proven that joint custody is not in a child’s best interests.
In 2011, the businessman and his 49 year-old businesswoman wife obtained an interim divorce citing unreasonable conduct, which ended their 15 year marriage. The case came before the court over who was responsible for care, control and custody of the children, and the division of marriage assets.
The couple’s triplets were conceived through in-vitro fertilisation, which took a high toll on the mother emotionally, physically and psychologically.
The wife found out about her husband’s double life only in 2009, after she hired a private detective when she suspected something was amiss with her husband’s behavior. To her shock, she discovered that her husband had posted a picture of himself on a website called Manjam where he sought other men for short term sexual relations.
On the website, he described himself as a childless 35 year-old when he was in fact 10 years older at the time and the father of triplets. He also claimed that he was HIV negative when he was in fact HIV positive.
Also in the same year, he had a tryst with a gay partner who engaged in what the court judge called a “particularly reckless and dissolute lifestyle”. The partner was found unconscious and naked under the bed of another homosexual lover who lay naked and dead in bed due to brain damage from drug intoxification. The husband was found guilty of drug possession and jailed for 6 months one year later in 2013.
Earlier in 2012, he had also been declared a bankrupt. In 2010, his wife had to apply for a Police Protection Order (PPO) against her husband after he turned abusive towards her.
Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy said in judgment grounds released yesterday: “The husband is in the same position as any parent, whatever the gender or sexual orientation, who has displayed… appallingly poor decision-making ability.”
The judge said all these factors showed “an ability to make decisions which are positively detrimental to his own welfare”, as well as his kids’ long-term interests.
He ruled that the husband was to have no more than two hours a week of supervised access, plus telephone access – limits which were already in place.
Overall, the judge awarded a 60:40 division of the matrimonial assets in favour of the wife out of a joint pool of $2.65 million. This was based on the direct and indirect contributions of both parties to the family and factored in the father’s $327,529 lump sum maintenance for the children.
As the husband was a bankrupt, the court had no powers to touch his assets vested under the Official Assignee’s control.
Justice Vinodh ordered that he settle the $123,391 debt to discharge the bankruptcy with the 40 per cent sum he is entitled to from the sale of the couple’s Sembawang property in 2011. This was a condition precedent to effect a “just and equitable” division of the matrimonial assets, he said.