Ang Teng Siong v Lee Su Min

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeJudith Prakash J
Judgment Date29 Apr 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGHC 76
Citation[2000] SGHC 76
Plaintiff CounselMichael Hwang SC and Irving Choh (Wong Partnership)
Defendant CounselHarry Elias SC and Foo Siew Fong (Harry Elias Partnership)
Docket NumberDivorce Petition No 1455 of 1998 (Registrar's Appeals Nos 5051 and 5054 of
Publication Date19 Sep 2003
SubjectFamily Law,Wife to retain membership,Using sale proceeds of previous matrimonial home to purchase current matrimonial home,Whether previous home intended as gift to both parties or to wife alone,Club membership,Division of matrimonial home,Refunding to husband sum paid for transferability of membership,Matrimonial assets,Whether court should trace source of funds for previous home to determine respective beneficial interests of parties in current matrimonial home,Divorce,Previous matrimonial home gift from wife's father

: There are two issues which I have to address in this judgment. The first, and main, issue relates to the division of the matrimonial home and the second to the amount which is payable by the husband to the wife in respect of the Singapore Island Country Club (`SICC`) membership. These matters are the subject of cross-appeals by the husband and wife from the decision of the learned district judge who adjudicated on the ancillary matters arising out of these divorce proceedings.

Matrimonial home

The matrimonial home in question is the house at 9 Mt Rosie Terrace (`Mt Rosie`). This was purchased in 1991 in the joint names of the parties. In the court below, the judge found that the direct identifiable contributions made by the parties to the purchase worked out to approximately 31.4% by the husband and 68.6% by the wife. Her Honour then took into account the fact that the parties had been married for 14 years and there was a young daughter in the care of the wife who had shouldered most of the responsibilities of providing the child`s needs. She concluded that it was just and equitable that the matrimonial home be sold and that the proceeds of sale after deduction of the outstanding mortgage loan and the costs incurred in the sale be divided between the parties with 75% going to the wife and 25% to the husband.

The husband`s appeal against the division is based on a challenge to the judge`s finding that his wife`s direct contribution amounted to 68% of the purchase price. He submitted that if the sources of the funds for the purchase were correctly attributed he would have contributed 69% of the price while the wife contributed the remaining 31%. If this submission is accepted, he is willing that the wife`s indirect contributions be valued at 19% so that each party would get a 50% share in the house. Both parties agreed that the assessment of the proportions in which they contributed to the purchase of Mt Rosie would depend on what interest each of them is held to have had in their first matrimonial home which was a flat in a development known as 16 Leedon Heights. The husband`s main argument was that they were each beneficially entitled to a half share in that flat.

As summarised by the judge, the relevant facts are as follows. The parties were married in January 1985. Between February 1985 and December 1986, they lived in New Zealand while the husband completed his pilot training there for the Singapore Air Force. In July 1986 while they were still in New Zealand, the Leedon Heights flat was purchased in their joint names by the wife`s father, a lawyer, who paid for the flat in full.

On their return to Singapore, the parties made Leedon Heights their matrimonial home and the husband paid for the property tax, utilities bills and conservancy charges. The flat was sold in 1991 and the net proceeds of sale received by the parties amounted to $615,130.15. The parties used the proceeds of sale to purchase a property at Jalan Haji Alias in their joint names but quickly changed their minds and sold it within months at a minuscule loss. They then went on to buy the Mt Rosie property at the price of $965,000.

The purchase of Mt Rosie was financed as follows:

(1) $541,897.86 from the proceeds of sale of Leedon Heights;

(2) $71,924 (being the total of two sums of $14,500 and $57,424 paid at different times) paid by the wife`s father;

(3) $237,392 paid by the husband towards the mortgage loan as at 14 May 1999.

The wife claimed that the total amounts paid under sub-paras (1) and (2) above had to be attributed to her because the Leedon Heights property was a gift to her alone and the other sums paid by her father had also been meant as gifts to her solely. The husband on the other hand contended that the Leedon Heights property was a gift to both of them and therefore since the profits from its sale had been channelled into Mt Rosie, each party was entitled to credit for half the amount so channelled.

The finding of the judge was that the Leedon Heights property was a gift from the wife`s father to his daughter only and therefore the profits from its sale belonged to her solely. That meant the wife had contributed a total sum of $613,821.86 (inclusive of the amounts paid by her father) towards the matrimonial property. The learned judge went on to find that the husband had contributed only in respect of his payments towards the mortgage loan and these contributions amounted to $281,086 when the interest that would have accrued on his CPF contributions was taken into account. This was the basis for her finding that the husband had contributed only 31.4% of the cost of Mt Rosie as against the wife`s contribution of 68.6%.

(i) Considering Mt Rosie on its own

The husband sought to have the judge`s finding on the beneficial interests in Leedon Heights in two ways. The first approach which the husband asked me to adopt was to consider Mt Rosie on its own, without tracing the source of funds for its purchase to the sale proceeds from the earlier matrimonial home. Counsel for the husband pointed out that Mt Rosie was in the parties` joint names and that the husband had undoubtedly a beneficial interest in Mt Rosie by virtue of his direct contributions towards its purchase price. The wife`s argument had been that the parties` financial contributions were unequal and to support that she had relied not on any direct financial contributions made by her but on the fact that part of the purchase price for Mt Rosie came from the sale proceeds from Leedon Heights and part from her father`s contribution to the purchase price for Mt Rosie. Her stand required the court to look into the source of funds for Leedon Heights and then find that her father had provided those funds as a gift for her whereas the husband`s approach was that the sale proceeds from Leedon Heights should be taken as belonging to the parties jointly since they originated from the sale of a matrimonial home in the parties` joint names.

Counsel`s authority for his submission was the decision of the Court of Appeal in Hoong Khai Soon v Cheng Kwee Eng [1993] 3 SLR 34 . The facts in that case were that the husband was originally a joint tenant of No 7 Bedok Rise with his mother. The mother had paid the entire purchase price of that property so the husband held his interest in it as a gift from her. Subsequently, the Bedok Rise property was sold and part of the sale proceeds were channelled into the acquisition of another property, No 1B Jalan Haji Salam, which was held by the husband and his brother as tenants-in-common. The trial judge had held that No 1B Jalan Haji Salam was not available for division because it was a gift from the husband`s family. The Court of Appeal overturned this holding and commented (at p 39) that:

The husband, as joint tenant of No 7 Bedok Rise, must be presumed
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19 cases
  • Chen Siew Hwee v Low Kee Guan (Wong Yong Yee, co-respondent)
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 28 September 2006
    ...centres on a form of “tracing”. 57 According to Judith Prakash J in the Singapore High Court decision of Ang Teng Siong v Lee Su Min [2000] 3 SLR 55 (“Ang Teng Siong”) at [11], where a spouse receives an asset by way of gift or inheritance during the course of the marriage, “the owner of th......
  • AAE v AAF
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    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 28 April 2009
    ...course of a marriage (at [57] – [58]): According to Judith Prakash J in the Singapore High Court decision of Ang Teng Siong v Lee Su Min [2000] 3 SLR 55 … at [11], where a spouse receives an asset by way of gift or inheritance during the course of the marriage, “the owner of the gifted asse......
  • UM v UN
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 29 August 2007
    ...wife for her indirect contributions was more on the generous side when compared to, for example, the case of Ang Teng Siong v Lee Su Min [2000] 3 SLR 55, where the High Court also awarded the wife in that case an additional 15% interest in the matrimonial home to reflect her non-financial c......
  • Chen Siew Hwee v Low Kee Guan (Wong Yong Yee, co-respondent)
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 28 September 2006
    ...centres on a form of “tracing”. 57 According to Judith Prakash J in the Singapore High Court decision of Ang Teng Siong v Lee Su Min [2000] 3 SLR 55 (“Ang Teng Siong”) at [11], where a spouse receives an asset by way of gift or inheritance during the course of the marriage, “the owner of th......
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