Chan Yuen Boey v Sia Hee Soon

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeSteven Chong J
Judgment Date02 May 2012
Neutral Citation[2012] SGHC 92
Citation[2012] SGHC 92
Defendant CounselAlyssa Lee (Alyssa Lee & Co)
Published date09 May 2012
Plaintiff CounselWong Khai Leng (Mallal & Namazie)
Hearing Date09 April 2012,30 March 2012
Docket NumberDivorce Transfer No 573 of 2008/C
Date02 May 2012
Subject MatterDivision of matrimonial assets,Maintenance,wife,Family Law,Ancillary powers of court
Steven Chong J: Introduction

This case concerns ancillary matters flowing from the breakdown of a long marriage of 36 years. The parties, who were married on 9 December 19721, are now well into their mid-60s – the wife is 65 years old and the husband is 66 years old. Divorce proceedings were commenced by the wife on 4 February 2008, and the interim judgment for divorce was granted on 18 April 2008.

The parties had two children during their marriage. Both are independent and self-supporting – the daughter is now 37 years old, and the son, 35 years old2 – and no custody issue arises. The ancillary issues at hand thus relate only to the just and equitable division of the matrimonial assets, and maintenance of the wife that would be reasonable in the circumstances.

Relevant facts

After the parties married in 1972, they stayed in a 2-room flat in Toa Payoh at a monthly rental of $40, paid by the husband.3 They moved into a 5-room HDB flat in Ghim Moh (“Ghim Moh flat”) in 19764, and subsequently bought a terrace house at Namly Place (“the Namly House”), which they rented out from 1993 to 1996 at $1,800 per month.5 They began to live in the Namly House in September 1996.6 In October 1999, three years after moving into the Namly House, differences between the parties drove the wife to move to a separate bedroom in the Namly House (“the Separate Bedrooms Arrangement”).7

Respective financial contributions to the family

It was undisputed that the husband was, throughout the marriage, the main breadwinner of the family.8 By contrast, the wife had been a homemaker since the birth of the children. She did, however, engage in part-time or ad hoc work from time to time9, which gave her the flexibility to care for the children and the family. The wife’s low level of income during the marriage was reflected in a record of her employment history between 1980 and 2008, produced by the husband.10

The Namly House was purchased at $780,000.11 The mortgage has since been discharged. Its current value is approximately $3.4 million. The parties’ respective direct financial contributions towards the purchase of the Namly House are disputed. While the husband claims to have paid 100% of the purchase price12, the wife claims to have contributed 12% of the purchase price using $19,000 from her CPF account and $78,000 withdrawn from her POSB Bank account and paid towards the 10% deposit13 (see [41] below).

Of her indirect financial contributions, the wife pointed to14 (a) payments allegedly made for household furnishing, renovations, and landscaping; and (b) her share of the Ghim Moh flat sale proceeds, which she claims to have ploughed back as loan repayments in respect of the Namly House.15

Respective non-financial contributions to the family

The wife’s non-financial contributions to the family were quite substantial. As the family did not engage domestic help for most part of the marriage16, the wife did the marketing and took care of the household and the children.17 It was also the wife who managed the tenancy matters of the Namly House during the period of its rental, viz, putting out and paying for advertisements, arranging for viewings of the house and collecting rent.18

The husband claims that he also made non-financial contributions to the household by cooking for the family, doing the household chores and participating in the upbringing of the children.19 This is disputed by the wife who claims that the husband was an absent father.20 She claims that instances of the “recent phenomenon” of him cooking for the family are few and far between.21 The children have not sworn any affidavit in support of either parent.

Earning capacity of each party

The husband claims that he is currently unemployed, with a last drawn gross monthly salary of $10,300 as of 31 March 2008.22 In other words, he ceased to be gainfully employed some three weeks after the divorce was granted. His position is that while he continues to assist his son and daughter-in-law in the running of their company (“the Company”), he does not draw a salary and has no interest in the Company.23 Indeed, the relevant ACRA documents state the parties’ son as the manager and the daughter-in-law as the sole proprietor of the Company.24 I note that while the wife asserts that the Company is the husband’s own business25, she has not produced any objective evidence proving the same. She relies instead on her belief that the business is “a very specialised field which only [the husband] would have expertise and experience in”.26

Wife’s case / Husband’s case Division of matrimonial assets

The husband claims that his assets are worth $562,864.56 and the wife’s disclosed assets total $180,925.27 The wife claims that her assets are worth only $64,582.8928 and that the husband’s disclosed assets are worth at least $835,627.25.29 Each accuses the other of failing to disclose substantial assets (see [15] to [28] below).

The wife submits that, for the sake of convenience, only the Namly House should be divided while considering all the matrimonial assets of the couple.30 This was the only common ground between the parties. She claims 70% of the Namly House sale proceeds.31

The husband, however, argues that the maximum proportion of the matrimonial assets the wife should get is 25% of the Namly House sale proceeds.32 He claims that in light of the Separate Bedrooms Arrangement, parties had effectively been married for only three years after moving into the Namly House, and that, since the children had become independent by then, “the Plaintiff’s non-financial contributions for the Namly Place terrace house were not significant”.33


While the husband is only willing to pay a lump sum maintenance of $12,000 ($200/mth x 12 x 5 years)34, the wife claims a lump sum of $179,400, calculated in the following manner35: Future maintenance: $1,400/mth x 12 x 8 years = $134,400 Maintenance in arrears: $1,250/mth x 12 x 3 years = $45,000 The claim for maintenance in arrears arises from the husband’s failure (from March 2008 to-date) to adhere to a Consent Maintenance Order made in 1999 (see [63] below).

Issues before the Court

I shall deal with the following issues in turn: What are the matrimonial assets to be included in the common pool for division? Taking into account all the circumstances, what would be a just and equitable division of the matrimonial assets? In what manner should such division be effected? Taking into account all the circumstances, what would be a reasonable quantum of the lump sum maintenance to be ordered in favour of the wife?

The common pool of matrimonial assets

The parties cannot agree on the total value of the matrimonial assets. Although they agree that the Namly House is worth about $3.4 million (there is an in-principle agreement expressed to be effective from 27 April 2012 to 31 May 2012 to sell the house at $3.4 million), there is a vast difference in the valuation of the assets held in each party’s name.

During the hearing on 9 April 2012, counsel for the wife, Mr Wong Khai Leng (“Mr Wong”), tendered a helpful supplementary Comparative Table of Matrimonial Assets (“the Comparative Table”) setting out and explaining the disparities between each party’s valuation of the assets. After examining the evidence adduced by the respective parties, I determine the husband’s assets to be $700,800 and the wife’s assets to be $67,500. For ease of reference, my determination is set out in the tables at [17] and [24] below.

Husband’s assets

The husband claims that his assets are worth $562,864.5636 while the wife claims that they are worth at least $835,627.25.37 I assess his assets to be worth about $700,800.

Item Description Court’s conclusion (S$)
1 Vehicle 30,471.00
2 Shares (in Capitacomm, Capitaland, Digiland, Hotel Prop, Hyflux WaterT, Kepland, SingTel, ST Engineering, Starhub and Yangzijiang) 93,215.00
3 Schroder Emerging Market Funds 16,171.27
4 First State Asia Innovation Fund 10,314.93
5 OCBC account [ 51-xxx] 85,873.20
6 OCBC SRS account 0.00
7 OCBC account [66-xxx] 28,087.19
8 OCBC fixed deposits 20,500.00
9 POSB account 4,045.15
10 Central Provident Fund as at July 2008 315,683.61
11 Debt due from brother 92,500.00
12 Jewellery 4,000.00
13 Alleged debt due from the wife 0.00
Husband’s total assets: S$700,861.35

I shall adopt the wife’s valuation for Item 1 ($30,471), Item 5 ($85,873.20) and Item 10 ($315,683.61). These are based on valuations as at July 2008 and supported by evidence.38 I reject the husband’s unsubstantiated figures including his valuation of Item 2 which is similarly unsubstantiated.39 I rely instead on the wife’s figure ($93,215), which is supported by an SGX statement exhibited in the husband’s own affidavit.40 I also prefer the wife’s valuation of the debt due to the husband from his brother (Item 11) as at September 2009.41 Although the husband claims that $12,000 has been repaid into his OCBC Easisave account reducing the debt due to $80,500, he has not produced any proof of such deposit.42

With respect to Item 6, I reject the wife’s figure ($46,265.90) which is unsupported by evidence.43 Item 12 is not raised by the wife, but as the husband volunteers the figure of $4,00044, I have included it in the common pool. I disregard Item 13 as there is nothing, apart from the husband’s bare assertion, to prove the alleged debt of $6,100 due from the wife.

The wife claims that the husband owns undisclosed balances in bank accounts that were closed and sale proceeds in relation to shares/unit trusts sold upon the service of divorce papers.45 The HSBC statement and letters from OCBC and DBS46 do support the inference that...

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2 books & journal articles
  • Family Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2012, December 2012
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    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2015, December 2015
    • 1 December 2015
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