Chan Siew Fong v Chan Fook Kee

JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date17 January 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] SGCA 4
Citation[2002] SGCA 4
Defendant CounselJohn Tan (instructed) and Low Wee Jee (Thomas Tham & Co)
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselAmarjit Kour d/o Balwant Singh (Peter Low Tang & Belinda Ang)
Date17 January 2002
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 600032 of
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterJust and equitable division,Factors to be taken into account,Family Law,s 112 Women's Charter (Cap 353, 1997 Ed),Whether to award matrimonial home solely to wife,Direct and indirect contributions,Distribution of proceeds of sale of matrimonial home,Matrimonial home,Division



1. This appeal concerned the division of a matrimonial asset, which is the apartment known as 30 Ah Hood Road, #12-02 Nadia Mansions, Singapore, between a former married couple, namely, the appellant, Madam Chan Siew Fong, and the respondent, Mr Chan Fook Kee, following the dissolution of their marriage. The district court, which heard the ancillary matters in the divorce proceedings, ordered, inter alia, that the apartment be sold in the open market and that the sale proceeds, after payment of the outstanding mortgage loan and the expenses incurred in the sale, be divided in the proportion of 65% to the appellant and 35% to the respondent. On appeal, the High Court increased the share of the appellant to 80% of the net balance and reduced the share of the respondent to 20%, and in all other respects affirmed the order below. Against this decision, the appellant appealed contending that, on the basis of a just and equitable division under s 112 of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 1997 ed), the entire property should be awarded to her solely. We allowed the appeal and now give our reasons.

Background facts

2. The appellant and the respondent first met while they were both working in a textile company: he was then the manager and she was his assistant. After they had known each other for about three months, they both left the employment of the company at the same time. The appellant went to work as a nurse in a governmental hospital at Thomson Road, while the respondent proceeded to set up his own business. He started his own textile business trading in garments sometime in January 1969. The appellant assisted the respondent in the setting up of his business by, among other things, providing him with some monies, which she had saved. The respondent persuaded the appellant to resign from her job as a nurse and to assist him in his business, which she later agreed. They were married on 23 June 1969.

3. The respondent registered his business under the name and style of International Industrial & Trading Company on 1 July 1969. The appellant started to work for the respondent at about that time. She took on a variety of roles, from designing the garments and marketing the company’s products to handling the company’s secretarial and accounting needs. In 1971, the respondent extended his business into manufacturing garments and set up a factory of which the appellant took charge. From 1971 to 1977, she worked and lived in the factory. Through her initiatives and creativity, she ‘invented’ a novel management method, the ‘Colour-Dotted Management Method’, which boosted the productivity of the factory. The business grew and at one stage the respondent had over 20 employees. For all the work she did, the appellant was not paid a salary or staff allowance. Nor was she given a share of the profits.

4. They have three children, two sons born on 12 December 1970 and 24 May 1972, and one daughter born on 11 August 1973. All of them are above 21 years old. Both their sons graduated from a polytechnic, and their daughter completed her university education. The appellant is 54 years old and the respondent 60 years.

5. In late 1977 or thereabouts, the appellant discovered that the respondent had an affair with a seamstress in his employ. She left the business but continued to maintain the marriage for the sake of the children. She became a private tutor, giving tuition to students over extremely long hours at her residence. Apart from giving private tuition, she also had to attend to the usual household chores like cooking, washing and looking after the children. By 1984, she managed to save some moneys amounting to about $100,000 which she placed on fixed deposits with United Overseas Finance Ltd and DBS Bank.

6. Meanwhile, the respondent continued to carry on the business, which subsequently ran into difficulties. By November 1980, he was unable to pay the rent for the factory and the salaries of his staff. In March 1982, the factory was closed and the business ceased. He sold all the assets of the business but did not pay the appellant any part of the proceeds of sale. He then left for Indonesia, leaving the appellant and the children. There, he worked for a garment factory known as PT Busuana Indah Inter Industri, and was appointed the manager. While he was in Indonesia, he only returned once or twice a month and did not provide any maintenance for the appellant and the children. It was left to the appellant to maintain herself and the children. The production at the factory of which he was in charge was unsatisfactory. In the following year, at his urgent request, the appellant went to Indonesia to help him, leaving her mother to look after the three children. She helped him implement the ‘Colour Dotted Management Method’ in the factory, and as a result, the factory’s production increased significantly; her efforts in the factory saved the respondent his job. She worked there for about three months and thereafter returned to Singapore.

7. In 1984, the couple decided to buy the apartment, 30 Ah Hood Road, #12-02, Nadia Mansions, Singapore at the price of $500,544. They signed the sale and purchase agreement on 20 March 1984 with the developer. The flat was then still under development, and it was completed only in July 1985. The parties agreed to pay 40% of the purchase price in cash in four equal instalments, with the balance to be financed by the bank on an overdraft account to be secured by a mortgage over the flat. The appellant paid for all the four instalments. It was also the appellant who was mainly responsible for servicing the overdraft.

8. In 1986, the respondent’s fortunes again waned and he returned to Singapore and worked for the company, Tex Line Associates Pte Ltd. The respondent still did not pay for any of the household expenses; nor did he pay the monthly instalments for the apartment. The appellant shouldered the main burden of maintaining the family. The respondent’s refusal to contribute to supporting the family and servicing the housing loan caused the couple to have frequent quarrels where the respondent behaved aggressively towards the appellant. In 1989, as a result of one such incident, the appellant reported the matter to the police. With the help and intervention of some of the couple’s mutual friends, the respondent agreed to pay monthly a sum of $1,000 towards the household expenses. It was during these times that, on 26 June 1989, the respondent agreed to withdraw $50,000 from his CPF account to pay in part the term loan owed to United Overseas Finance Ltd (‘UOF’). He also agreed that a sum of $1,000 be deducted monthly from his CPF account to pay for the instaments of the UOF loan with the appellant topping up the balance.

9. The respondent, however, did pay for his sons’ polytechnic education using his CPF account, but his sons had since repaid him for all the costs incurred. The respondent promised to pay for his daughter’s university education, but as the finances were often not forthcoming, the appellant ended up paying a large part of her daughter’s education.

10. The respondent did not keep his promise to pay the monthly sum of $1,000 for the household expenses. In the result, the appellant had great difficulties in trying to service the housing loan and maintain the family. Finally, in 1990 she resorted to applying to the court for maintenance, whereupon he agreed to pay $1,260 per month towards the family’s maintenance. An order was made against him for payment of such maintenance. The figure was arrived at on the basis of what he told the appellant, that is, that he was earning about $3,000 a month. In actual fact, he earned much more.

11. The judge in the High Court found that it...

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3 cases
  • Tan Hwee Lee v Tan Cheng Guan
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    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 30 August 2012
    ...[2012] 3 SLR 900 (refd) Chan Fook Kee v Chan Siew Fong [2001] 2 SLR (R) 143; [2001] 3 SLR 176 (refd) Chan Siew Fong v Chan Fook Kee [2002] 1 SLR (R) 93; [2002] 1 SLR 169 (refd) Chan Teck Hock David v Leong Mei Chuan [2002] 1 SLR (R) 76; [2002] 1 SLR 177 (folld) Chan Yuen Boey v Sia Hee Soon......
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    ...High Court decision of Chan Fook Kee v Chan Siew Fong [2001] 2 SLR(R) 143 (“Chan Fook Kee”) (reversed in Chan Siew Fong v Chan Fook Kee [2002] 1 SLR(R) 93, but not on the particular point to be discussed) to buttress her arguments to adduce the Further Evidence.8 In Chan Fook Kee, the wife ......
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    • High Court (Singapore)
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    ...opposed to salary) from his employment in Japan must be more than what had been disclosed. Similarly, in Chan Siew Fong v Chan Fook Kee [2002] 1 SLR(R) 93 (“Chan Siew Fong”), the Court of Appeal noted at [20] that the husband had settled in South Africa and commented that he “was quite secr......

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