AQB v AQC

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeTan Siong Thye J
Judgment Date29 January 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGHC 29
Citation[2015] SGHC 29
Hearing Date16 July 2014
Published date10 February 2015
Docket NumberDivorce Transfer No 1866 of 2010
Plaintiff CounselYap Teong Liang (T L Yap Law Chambers LLC)
Defendant CounselAdriene Cheong and Ho Chee Jia (Harry Elias Partnership LLP)
Subject MatterFamily Law,custody,access,maintenance,wife,child,matrimonial assets,division
Tan Siong Thye J: Introduction

This case concerns a short seven year marriage between the plaintiff-husband (“the husband”) and the defendant-wife (“the wife”). This marriage is the second marriage for both of them and they have one child together (“the child”). They are contesting the access arrangements to the child, the maintenance for the wife and the child, and the division of their matrimonial assets.

The background facts

The husband is currently 54 years old and is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. The wife is currently 48 years old. She is a partner of a sports company and also owns her own realty business. They were married on 25 September 2002. The child is presently 11 years old.

In November 2006, the parties started living apart from each other. On 19 April 2010, the husband commenced divorce proceedings against the wife on the ground that the marriage had broken down irretrievably as shown by the fact that they had lived separately for a continuous period of three years since 2006. The wife consented to the divorce. Interim judgment was granted on 7 June 2010.

The issues

The following ancillary matters arise for my consideration: the access arrangements of the child to the husband; the maintenance of the child and the wife; and the division of the matrimonial assets.

I shall deal with these issues accordingly.

Access

Both parties are in agreement that there should be joint custody of the child, with care and control to the wife. The only disagreement pertains to the access arrangements to the child.

The parties’ submissions

The husband seeks to obtain a specific access order from the court. His view is that the wife had previously hindered him from seeing the child and therefore he is seeking to obtain access to the child at certain specific times.

The wife submits that a general order on reasonable access without specifics will suffice as she has been cooperative in granting the husband access to the child. She insists that they are sufficiently mature and can discuss access issues in a “civil and adult manner for the sake of the child.”1

My decision

It appears that what the parties cannot agree on is the type of access the husband should get. The wife wants a more flexible arrangement while the husband prefers a more scheduled and structured timing for access.

There are merits with respect to both proposals. On the evidence, it appears that there are instances where the parties have managed to work out access arrangements in a civil manner. For instance, on 12 September 2013, the husband wrote to the wife’s solicitors seeking the wife’s permission to have access to the child so as to bring him overseas to Bali from 25 November 2013 to 1 December 2013.2 The wife accommodated his request on the condition that the husband provided her certain details about the trip.3 There is also evidence to suggest that they managed to accommodate each other’s schedule at times.4 However, the husband provided evidence to show that there were instances where the parties were unable to agree on the access arrangements as well.5 It is understandable that the husband, whose actions suggests that he still cares for the child, would be worried.

Since there is evidence to suggest that there might be friction between the parties, I am of the view that an access arrangement which is more structured will give greater certainty to the parties while preserving the parties’ ability to continue their informal arrangements if they so wish. This will also give greater clarity on the access arrangement, which will in turn minimise misunderstandings and conflicts. In this regard, I accept most of the husband’s proposed schedule,6 which is reasonable in my view. Accordingly, the husband will have the following access to the child: Every Sunday from 12pm to 8pm; Alternate Public Holidays from 12pm to 8pm; One week during the June school holidays, either on the second or third week of the school holidays, with liberty to take the child for overseas holidays; Ten days during the November/December school holidays at the start of the school holiday; On alternate Christmas Day from 12pm to 8pm; On the even years, from 4pm on the eve of Chinese New Year to 4.00pm on the first day of Chinese New Year with this year being the first even year; On the odd years, from 4pm on the first day of Chinese New Year to 4pm on the second day of Chinese New Year; On alternate birthdays of the child (9 March) as follows: If the birthday falls on a Saturday, from 6pm to Sunday 6pm; If the birthday falls on a weekday, from 6pm to 9pm; If the birthday falls on a Sunday, from 12pm to 8pm; Telephone access on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8.30pm to 9pm and the wife to provide the contact numbers on which the husband can call the child; and Both parties are to provide to the other details of the travel itinerary at least three weeks prior to the departure for overseas holidays. Consent from the other party must be obtained prior to bringing the child overseas. The wife will hand over the child’s passport to the husband when he picks up the child for access during the June and November/December school holidays. The husband will return the child’s passport to the wife when he returns the child at the end of his access period.

Maintenance

With respect to maintenance, the husband is willing to provide reasonable maintenance for the child but is unwilling to pay maintenance to the wife.7 These two issues shall thus be addressed separately.

Maintenance for the son

The wife acknowledges that the maintenance of the child is a joint responsibility.8 She states that the child’s monthly expenses amount to $8,464.43 and requests that the husband provides maintenance of $8,000 per month for the child.9

The basis for the wife’s submissions is as follows: First, it is reasonable for the husband to do so. His salary is well in excess of the $30,000 per month as declared by him. Thus he can well afford a maintenance sum of $8,000 per month.10 Second, the wife earns an income of $1,650 per month, which is a mere 5% of the husband’s declared income of $30,000 per month. The cooling property market has also affected her income as she has not managed to make any sales for the past 18 months.11 In fact, while the husband is currently paying $4,000 per month as maintenance for both the wife and the child, it is insufficient as the child’s circumstances have materially changed and his lifestyle requires more money to sustain.12 Therefore, the husband should pay $8,000 out of the child’s monthly expenses of $8,464.63 because it is a proportionate figure to his income level vis-à-vis hers.13 Third, the child’s major expenses are his golf lessons, tennis lessons, and tuition fees, and they are necessary. The golf and tennis lessons are necessary as he has been playing golf and tennis from an early age. Since he excels at golf, he can potentially gain entry into secondary schools via the Direct School Admissions programme. Considering his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, his tuition is also necessary to help him in his academic development.14

The wife also submits that the maintenance order should be backdated to April 2010, the commencement date of the divorce.15 The fact that she did not apply for interim maintenance or a variation of the maintenance order should not prejudice her application. She relies on the case of AMW v AMZ [2011] 3 SLR 955 at [9]–[13], which set out the various considerations in deciding when maintenance should be ordered to start. The lack of an application for an interim maintenance order or a variation of an existing order was not listed as a relevant consideration.16

The husband, on the other hand, proposes to pay $2,000 per month for the child’s maintenance.17 His reasons are as follows: First, the wife did not fully disclose her income. She had alleged in her Affidavit of Means that she is a mere employee of her sports business earning a net income of $1,060. However, the business’s website lists her as a Managing Director, with her role being to “market the business, organize tennis related programs and activities for the coaches and customers.”18 The history of her income tax assessments also reveals that she earned an average annual income of around $36,756 for the past five years.19 Therefore, the wife has not made full and frank disclosure of her true income. Second, the wife inflated the child’s expenses. The husband’s submissions on the wife’s figures for the child’s expenses are as follows:20 The golf lessons and clothes amount to $2,554. The golf camp for which the wife is claiming $300 per month does not happen every month. The wife is a tennis player and coach. There is no need to incur $360 per month on tennis lessons. The school/science/tennis camp costing $150 per month is too high. The overseas holiday expenses of $300 per month should be excluded as the wife should pay for her own holidays with the child. There is no need for babysitting fees of $300 per month as the wife is claiming expenses for a maid. The items such as computer, room upgrade, birthday cake, birthday party and gifts are unnecessary and merely to inflate the child’s expenses.

In my view, the wife’s submissions with respect to the child are on the high side. In previous instances, extravagant requests for maintenance orders have been reduced to more reasonable figures in the light of the circumstances (see Wong Ser Wan v Ng Cheong Ling [2006] 1 SLR(R) 416 and Pang Rosaline v Chan Kong Chin [2009] SGHC 39). On the present facts, the child is only 11 years old and an expenditure of $8,464.43 per month is too extravagant for a young child. Taking into account all the relevant circumstances, I am of the view that a reasonable sum to accord for the child’s expenses is $3,000. As the child’s maintenance is a joint responsibility between both parents,...

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