A man who hid his homosexuality from his wife for 13 years has been denied joint custody of their triplets, not because he is gay or HIV-positive, but because of his “appallingly poor decision-making ability”, a judge has said.
The 49-year-old wife has been awarded sole custody, in a rare legal move which is justified only in exceptional circumstances which show that joint custody is not in a child’s best interests.
Neither party can be named in the case, in which the businesswoman obtained an interim divorce in 2011 based on unreasonable conduct – ending a 15-year marriage. At issue before the court was the care, control and custody of the children as well as the division of matrimonial assets.
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 couple’s triplets were conceived through in-vitro fertilisation, which the judge noted exacted 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.
“I am unimpressed by the husband’s capacity for truth-telling,” said Justice Vinodh.
In 2012, the man had posted a picture of himself wearing only underwear on a website called Manjam, on which he sought other men for short-term trysts.
He also described himself there as a childless 35-year-old when he was, in fact, 10 years older and the father of triplets. He also lied by saying he was HIV negative.
The judge cited his tryst with a gay partner who led a ” particularly reckless and dissolute lifestyle”. The drug-taking partner had in 2009 been found unconscious and naked under the bed of another homosexual lover, who lay naked and dead in bed. A coroner’s inquiry found he died of brain damage due to drug intoxication.
The husband was convicted of drug possession and consumption and jailed for six months in 2013, He was declared bankrupt in 2012.
He had also assaulted his wife, leading her to take out to a Personal Protection Order in 2010.
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.
The husband defended himself while the wife was represented by lawyer Tang Gee Ni.
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.