JudgeGeorge Wei JC
Judgment Date10 March 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGHC 61
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberDivorce Transfer No 708 of 2012
Published date11 March 2015
Hearing Date21 April 2014,12 January 2015
Plaintiff CounselMichael Leong Kim Seng (Hoh Law Corporation)
Defendant CounselJeanny Ng (Jeanny Ng)
Subject MatterFamily Law,Matrimonial Assets,Division
Citation[2015] SGHC 61
George Wei JC : Introduction

This is my judgment in respect of the ancillary matters in Divorce Transfer No 708 of 2012. The hearing of the ancillary matters was transferred to the High Court on 29 January 2014 because the defendant-wife (“the Defendant”) declared that the value of the matrimonial assets exceeded $1.5m. I first pause to observe that the parties disagree on the total size of the pool of matrimonial assets. The Defendant asserts that a sum of $958,517.50, accrued from various property investments, ought to be added to the pool, taking the size of the matrimonial pool to a sum about $1.5m. The plaintiff-husband (“the Plaintiff”) denies that such a sum exists and consequently asserts that the matrimonial pool is correspondingly smaller (and below $1.5m). By way of a consent order dated 7 December 2012,1 the parties agreed on joint custody of the two children with care and control awarded to the Defendant and liberal access granted to the Plaintiff, subject to the availability of the children and their wishes. The consent order also provided for interim maintenance to be paid for the children’s upkeep. From the date of the order, the Plaintiff has been paying monthly maintenance amounting to $1,000 for the two children. The issues that fall to be decided in this application are (a) the division of the matrimonial assets; and (b) the final quantum of maintenance to be paid in respect of the Defendant and the children.

After hearing the parties, my decision is that the Plaintiff’s share in the matrimonial home, a condominium unit located in the west of Singapore (“the matrimonial home”), is to be transferred to the Defendant. The Defendant is to bear the costs of this transfer but she will otherwise not be required to provide any consideration to the Plaintiff nor will she be required to make any refund to the Plaintiff’s Central Provident Fund (“CPF”) account. The remaining assets owned by the parties shall remain in their respective names. As for the issue of maintenance, I order that the Plaintiff pay the Defendant a nominal sum of $1 per month. The maintenance for the two children shall be increased from the interim sum of $1,000 per month to a sum of $1,400 per month with effect from the date of this judgment. I now set out the reasons for my decision.

Background facts The parties

The parties married on 30 September 1995, when the Plaintiff and the Defendant were 20 years old and 19 years old, respectively. The parties have two sons, aged 8 and 15 respectively. After 17 years of marriage, the Plaintiff filed for divorce. Interim judgment was granted on 26 November 2012.2

The Plaintiff is 39 years old and has a polytechnic diploma.3 He is presently self-employed and runs a general import and export company (“the Company”).4 The Plaintiff asserts that he has no income and the Company is not making any profit as it is new.5 I highlight at the outset that I have my doubts as to the veracity of the Plaintiff’s assertion that he has no income. This is highly unlikely given that the Company has been operating since 2012. Further, in his previous job as a sales manager, the Plaintiff was earning a monthly salary of $11,000.6

The Defendant is 38 years old and is a graduate with a degree in Business Finance. She is a real estate agent and earns a monthly income of $5,468.08.7 I note that in the Defendant’s written submissions of 23 August 2013, it is stated that she is a senior associate director in another real estate company.

In 2010, the Plaintiff moved out of the matrimonial home to reside in another condominium unit, also located in the west of Singapore (“the second condominium unit”) which he had purchased. Subsequently, sometime in 2012 or 2013, the Plaintiff moved to the Philippines and has been residing there since. Whilst the evidence as to when the Plaintiff moved to the Philippines is confusing, there is no doubt that he was residing there at the time of the hearing (and had, in all likelihood, been residing there for some time). The Plaintiff makes occasional trips to Singapore to visit the children.8 The Defendant and the two children presently reside in the matrimonial home. As at 2 April 2013, the Plaintiff’s parents also resided in the matrimonial home together with the Defendant and the children.

Overview of the Proceedings

Divorce proceedings were commenced in the Subordinate Courts (now the State Courts) and an interim judgment was delivered on 26 November 2012. On 7 December 2012, a consent order dealing with custody, care and control and access over the children and their interim maintenance was made (see [1] above).

In July 2013, both parties filed their respective Declarations of the Value of Matrimonial Assets. It will be recalled that the Plaintiff estimated that the net value of the matrimonial assets was below $1.5m whereas the Defendant’s estimate was that the sum exceeded $1.5m (see [1] above). Thereafter, the parties filed their respective Ancillary Matters Fact and Position Sheets as well as their respective affidavits. I pause here to note that, in his Ancillary Matters Fact and Position Sheet of 21 August 2013, the Plaintiff declared, inter alia, that he had lost his employment as a sales manager in March 2012 and that the business that he started had yet to make money as it was new.

Initially, the parties filed two affidavits each. Subsequently, the Defendant filed a Request for Interrogatories on 30 April 2013 in which she sought information on transactions and dealings in respect of a number of properties which were said to be part of the pool of matrimonial assets. The Plaintiff’s brief responses were set out in his Answers to Interrogatories dated 17 May 2013. Immediately preceding that, on 15 May 2013, the Plaintiff filed a 3rd affidavit in which he stated, inter alia, that the estimated value of the Company was $30,000 but that it was still not turning a profit. The Defendant responded by way of a 3rd affidavit dated 1 July 2013 which was, in turn, followed by the Plaintiff’s 4th affidavit dated 12 November 2013.

The ancillary proceedings were transferred to the High Court on 29 January 2014. The matter came before me on 21 April 2014. The hearing was adjourned to allow the parties to file a further affidavit in respect of the contributions they each claimed to have made to the two properties: viz, the matrimonial home and the second condominium unit. In his further affidavit of 4 June 2014, the Plaintiff explained that he was able to purchase the second condominium unit because of the savings he had accumulated during his time as a sales manager. The Defendant’s further affidavit was filed on 24 July 2014. The adjourned hearing took place before me on 12 January 2015.

Division of matrimonial assets

I shall first address the issue of the division of matrimonial assets. The law in this area is clear. Pursuant to s 112(1) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) (“WC”), the court has a wide discretion to order a just and equitable division of matrimonial assets. Section 112(2) of the WC sets out a non-exhaustive list of factors that the court is to take into account. I will adopt the global assessment methodology in this case as I do not see any need for the separate apportionment of different classes of matrimonial assets.

In ATT v ATS [2012] 2 SLR 859 at [15], the Court of Appeal endorsed a “broad-brush” approach and helpfully summarised the steps that a court take when ordering a division of matrimonial assets: first, delineate what exactly constitutes the pool of matrimonial assets; second, assess the value of the pool so that the court’s deliberation can be made with reference to a working quantum; third, consider all the circumstances of the case, including but not limited to the factors listed in s 112(2) of the WC, particularly the direct financial contributions as well as the indirect financial contributions of each party, and thereby determine what is the just and equitable proportion; finally, ascertain the most expedient means of executing the division in that proportion.

Matrimonial assets

The parties are unable to agree on the total value of the matrimonial assets. There are two areas of dispute. First, they disagree on whether the second condominium unit, which was registered in the sole name of the Plaintiff, is a matrimonial asset. Second, they disagree on whether substantial profits – possibly amounting to $958,517.50 – had been made as a result of investments in property over the years and, if so, whether these profits should be included in the list of matrimonial assets.

The second condominium unit

The first issue is easily resolved. Although the second condominium unit is registered in the Plaintiff’s sole name, it is clearly a matrimonial asset because it was acquired during the parties’ marriage and thus falls squarely within the definition of a “matrimonial asset” found in s 112(10) of the WC.

Profits earned from property investments

On the second issue, the Defendant avers that she had relied on her expertise as a property agent in identifying lucrative property investment opportunities during the subsistence of the marriage. She further avers that the parties had decided to make joint investments pursuant to her recommendations so she is now entitled to a share in the profits made from these investments even though most of the properties were registered in the Plaintiff’s sole name or in the names of other parties (such as the Plaintiff’s parents), and not in her name.

Regardless of whether the Defendant had actively contributed to the investments, any profits that were made are matrimonial assets given that they were acquired during the marriage. The Defendant’s role in the investments will only be relevant at a subsequent stage when I consider her direct or indirect financial contributions. At this stage, the question to be determined is how much...

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