A custody battle

The parents of a 11-year-old girl have failed to mediate the child’s custody.

Mediation judge Datuk Wira Low Hop Bing fixed Feb 16 for the matter to be heard before a Court of Appeal three-man bench.

The appeals were on a Family Court ruling allowing Low Bi-Anne’s mother, Tan Siew Siew, 37, a restaurant manager in London, to take Bi-Anne to Britain; ordering the surrender of the girl’s passport; dismissing the child’s father, Low Swee Siong, interim access to the girl and finding and convicting him for contempt of court and refusing a stay order.

The mediation was conducted via video-conferencing for two hours and 15 minutes. Proceedings, which began at 4pm (local time), were held in-camera.

Pushpa Ratnam, one of the lawyers representing Swee Siong, said mediation failed because the mother wanted Bi-Anne to live in London for six months and be with Swee Siong for another six months.

Bi-Anne refuses to go to London and wants to stay with her father, but is willing to spend time with her mother, on condition that her mother comes back to live in Malaysia.

Swee Siong said he was willing to share custody of the child with his ex-wife, provided that she returned to Malaysia, but his ex-wife insisted that Bi-Anne be with her in London.

The couple divorced in 2006 and custody of Bi-Anne was given to the father. In 2008, Tan, 37, then applied for and won custody and Swee Siong was given reasonable access. But Bi-Anne refused to be with her mother and insisted on living with her father.

On Sept 13 last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court fined 40-year-old real estate negotiator Swee Siong RM20,000 for contempt of court for disobeying a court order that he hand over Bi-Anne to his ex-wife.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of RM400 for each day of delay in handing over the girl to Tan.

(NST, Saturday, January 29 2011)

Without knowing the parents, it is not easy to comment on this particular mediation. However, it would appear that three factors are emerging.

Firstly, it is not reasonable to expect an 11-year old child to live in London for six months and in Malaysia for six months during the rest of her childhood. Secondly, the fine of RM400 each day, given the fact that the child wants to stay with the father, seems grossly unfair. Thirdly, and very tragically, IT IS THE CHILD WHO IS SUFFERING THE MOST. We are told that Bi-Anne emerged from the 90-minute mediation at 6.15pm (28th Jan 2011) teary-eyed and glum.

Let us pray that there will be a satisfactory solution when on February 16th, all appeals in the case will be heard before a 3-man panel.

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