Vincent* was shocked when Lisa* divorced him, but even more so when he realised she was having her lover’s child. He tells his story about his custody battle for his daughter.
Lisa and I met in 2006 through work, and got married less than a year later. Our daughter, Elaine*, was conceived on our wedding night – I know that because we didn’t have sex again for months afterwards.
A SEXLESS MARRIAGE
We started out as a regular couple in every sense, except in the bedroom. Lisa had wanted to wait until our wedding night to make love and I’d agreed. But after our first time together, we practically stopped having sex – in the four years we were married, we had sex less than five times.
At first, I didn’t think anything was wrong. We didn’t have any problems on our wedding night and Lisa got pregnant right away. But she continued to refuse to have sex long after Elaine’s birth, claiming it was painful for her. I wanted to be an understanding and loving husband so I didn’t press her. I eventually stopped asking altogether.
I felt the lack of intimacy was putting a strain on our relationship and suggested marital counselling. But we never got around to it.
In 2010, she quit her job to go into real estate and insurance. That was when she started meeting up with a male acquaintance in the same industry.
She also started coming home in the wee hours of the morning and often switched off her mobile phone. Once, I waited until 4am for her to get home. When I asked her where she’d been, she said she was entertaining clients. I believed her and even told her I was worried about her health.
As I travelled frequently for work, Lisa would bunk over at her parents’ place with our daughter. Whenever I returned, and Lisa wasn’t home, I’d head over to my in-laws’ place. But she often wasn’t there either. Her sister even mentioned that she hadn’t seen Lisa for a while.
“I was in for a rude shock – Lisa looked about six months pregnant as she walked out of the arrival hall. The baby couldn’t be mine – we hadn’t had sex for months before our divorce.”
I knew something was wrong but I was exhausted from the frequent travelling – and I wanted to trust my wife. So to try and make things better, I planned family dinners on Christmas and New Year’s Eve that year, but Lisa cancelled both times, saying she had to work.
A RUDE SHOCK
In early January 2011, we sold our apartment but hadn’t secured another – Lisa was supposed to draw on her real estate contacts to look for a new place for us. While waiting, we moved into our respective parents’ homes – a temporary arrangement, I thought.
Weeks passed and it became clear to me that Lisa wasn’t making any effort to find us a home. When I went to her parents’ place to talk to her, she led me into her room and before I could say anything, she served me with divorce papers. She said we weren’t working out and there was no point in staying married. She had already done the paperwork – all she needed was my signature. By then, I was just too physically and emotionally drained to try and change her mind. I agreed to the divorce. We would have joint custody of Elaine – Lisa had care and control of her; I had unlimited access. A few months after our divorce, Lisa told me she was taking Elaine on holiday with her parents. I thought it would do our daughter good and I gave her my blessing.
I missed Elaine terribly and I wanted to spend some time with her when she got home, so I went to pick her up at the airport. I was in for a rude shock – Lisa looked about six months pregnant as she walked out of the arrival hall. The baby couldn’t be mine – we hadn’t had sex for months before our divorce. Not only that, another man was with them.
Everything clicked then – the late nights, turning off her mobile phone, lying about staying at her mother’s place… Looking back to when she served me with the divorce papers, I guessed Lisa must already have been two months pregnant with her lover’s child at that time.
BATTLING FOR CUSTODY
When we divorced, Lisa had promised me she would not remarry while Elaine was still so young. This was important to me – I was afraid Elaine would not be able to adjust well to a new family.
My ex-wife had evidently made an empty promise, and even cheated on me. I decided then to fight for sole custody of Elaine. I asked Lisa to transfer our daughter’s care and control to me while I would give her unlimited access. I didn’t even want child maintenance from her. But Lisa wanted sole custody, too. My lawyer advised me that I had a high risk of losing as custody is usually awarded to the mother. But for Elaine’s sake, I had to try.
ASSAULT AND BATTERY
Since the incident at the airport, Elaine had been staying with me. Lisa visited her weekly. During one of her visits, when the three of us were at the neighbourhood playground, I noticed a stranger nearby, watching us closely.
Before I could approach the man, Lisa’s father appeared out of the blue and struck me, while the man ran forward to grab Elaine. Lisa, her father and the man ran off with Elaine and I gave chase. I realised the attack was planned – a taxi was waiting at the main road and Lisa’s mother was in it. I managed to wrest Elaine away from the man and held her tightly as I flagged down another taxi. But Lisa’s party caught up with us and the men beat me up. Then, they snatched Elaine and left in their cab. Despite being attacked, I never retaliated. I was afraid that if I did, it would harm my case in the custody battle. I thought I would be seen as a fit parent if I wasn’t hot-headed or violent.
“On top of her adultery, her family members had also assaulted me and I had remained rational and not fought back.”
LOSING THE BATTLE
I filed an assault complaint at the Magistrate’s Court, with a Personal Protection Order (PPO) against Lisa and her family at the Family Court. A week later, to my surprise, I received a PPO against me too – from my attackers. Our respective lawyers later advised us to drop the PPOs and focus on the custody battle instead. So we did.
During this period, Lisa refused my requests to see Elaine. Only after I’d applied to the courts was I granted supervised access to my daughter once a week. Two months later, Lisa was awarded custody of Elaine. This was a huge blow to me. On top of her adultery, her family members had also assaulted me and I had remained rational and not fought back. I was crushed – I had also spent close to S$40,000 just to lose my daughter to her mother.
BEING A DAD
Elaine is a special needs child with hyperlexia – a condition in which she can read and recognise words, but struggles with speech and communication. By the age of four, she still wasn’t talking; she couldn’t express herself if she wanted something, and would scream and point at it instead. After the divorce, I suggested that Lisa take Elaine to therapy to help her. She said she couldn’t afford the fees so I paid for them instead.
Saturdays became my appointed time with Elaine. I take her to therapy and for visits to animal farms. Sometimes, I meet up with friends and their young children so Elaine can learn to mix with other kids. Other times, I take her to the beach or shopping with my sister and mother. What I miss most is the simple act of watching Elaine sleep. When she was younger, I used to watch her falling asleep in my arms. It’s painful knowing I can no longer see her whenever I want to.
The divorce has been hard on Elaine. She was confused at the beginning, not knowing which parent she would be spending time with. When I was first granted regular weekly access to her, she would sometimes not want to see me. At other times, when I took her back to her mother, she would cry and refuse to let me go. I don’t have overnight access so it’s heart-wrenching for me to leave her. With regular therapy, Elaine is now able to communicate in simple sentences and words. I hope her condition continues to improve, and that one day, she might even attend a mainstream school and lead a normal life.
*Names have been changed