Chia Ching Shih James v Kay Swee Tuan & Another

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeKoh Juat Jong
Judgment Date10 January 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGDC 6
Citation[2001] SGDC 6
Published date19 September 2003




1 The parties, Chia and Kay, were married on 27 July 1983. They had two sons, aged 14 and 10 at the time of hearing. Both parties petitioned for a divorce. The decree nisi to dissolve their marriage was granted on 12 March 1999 based on the unreasonable behaviour of both parties. Both petitions were uncontested. I heard the ancillary matters and made the following orders:

(a) by consent, the wife Kay shall have custody, care and control of the two children with reasonable access to the husband Chia;

(b) by consent, Chia shall pay $2,500 per month for the maintenance of the two children; $2,000 shall be paid to Kay and $500 shall be divided equally and deposited into two joint accounts to be opened with each of the children; the joint accounts shall be converted into sole accounts of the children as and when they turn 16 years of age; the maintenance shall commence from 1 January 1999; for the payments due from January 1999 to July 2000: $38,000 shall be paid in 4 instalments of $9,500 a month on the first day of September to December 2000 and $9,500 shall be deposited into the joint accounts equally by end of February 2001;

(c) the parties shall appoint DTZ Tie & Leong by 12 September 1999 to prepare a valuation of 5 Tanglin Hill and the appointment of the valuer and all issue of valuation shall be handled by Mr Goh and Mr Lim completely;

(d) the cost of valuation shall be borne equally by parties ;

(e) the valuer shall give a valuation on an open market price basis as at 9 September 2000 after the full inspection of both the interior and the exterior of the property and furnish the report within two weeks of appointment;

(f) Kay shall transfer her rights, interest and title in the property to Chia forthwith and Chia shall prepare all necessary documents to effect the transfer and bear the cost of transfer;

(g) Chia shall be entitled to 50% of the value of the property free of encumbrances ; Kay shall therefore pay Chia the difference between the overdraft balance with the OCBC bank and 50% of the valuation and Chia shall be responsible for the overdraft;

(h) the payment due from Kay to Chia shall be paid within 9 months from the date of the valuation report and Kay shall pay interest monthly on the outstanding sum remaining to be paid to Chia at the rate charged by the bank within one week upon being notified by Chia with a copy of the bank statement setting out the interest rate; if Kay defaults in the payment of the interest, the entire sum outstanding shall be paid within 14 days of the default of 4 months from the date of the valuation report, whichever is the later;

(i) each party shall keep his or her other assets in their own name;

(j) by consent, no order as to costs; and

(k) liberty to either party to apply.

2 Both parties have appealed against the orders made in respect of the division of matrimonial assets.


3 Parties started their courtship in 1977. In 1978, Kay started her own law firm S T Kay & Co. In 1981, Chia was convicted of cheating while working as a legal officer with the Inland Revenue Department. He was ordered to be struck off the roll but the order was subsequently quashed by the Privy Council. Kay stood by him during those difficult years. In July 1983, they got married. In July 1985, Kay offered partnership in her law firm to him without any consideration. Chia said that in 1991 and 1993, he also stood by Kay by representing and defending her when she was sued by her clients. Kay said that those were minor events. They remained partners until June 1998. Thereafter, arising from the breakdown of the marriage, they started to practise in their respective firms.

4 Chia said that from July 1996, he had managed the law firm solely and Kay had spent her time pursuing her business interests. He said that Kay had spent 3 days in a week in Kuala Lumpur on her business from July 1986 to early 1993. However, Kay still drew on her salary and had her personal and travel expenses and income tax paid by the law firm during the years until 1998. He estimated the amount drawn to be $2.3 million in all.

5 Kay said that her trips to Kuala Lumpur were usually day trips. She said that Chia concentrated on litigation business which made up about 30% of the firm’s work while she concentrated on corporate and conveyancing matters. She had a lot of clients from the contacts of her father and family members. She said that they both drew liberally from the law firm for their personal expenses and the expenses of the family and children. She exhibited the auditor’s certification that her drawings from 1990 to 1997 amounted to $871,064 and Chia’s drawings amounted to $1.285 million.

6 Kay said that she trusted Chia and left the finances of the law firm to him. There was a lot of give and take in the relationship. She said that when the marriage was good, parties pooled their resources. She paid for the household and family expenses, renovation, furniture and fittings and took care of the children throughout the marriage.

7 Chia said that Kay spent a great deal of time away from Singapore on her business and the children were mainly taken care of by him. They had a governess for the children for many years.

8 According to Chia, the marriage went on well until 1996 when he discovered that Kay had an adulterous relationship with the Co-Respondent. He cited numerous incidents that Kay was together with the Co-Respondent in various hotels and the Co-Respondent’s home. Kay said that the marriage was never quite alright because their character was incompatible. Kay denied the adulterous relationship stating that the Co-Respondent was a long time family friend and business associate. Kay instead said that Chia had a liaison with a maid and then a female friend. Not much particulars were given. Chia denied the liaison.

9 They underwent counselling by various church elders and friends but to no avail. Eventually, Kay left the matrimonial home with the two children in December 1997. Both subsequently filed divorce petitions. Chia cited Kay’s adultery and Kay cited Chia’s unreasonable behaviour. The particulars on adultery were struck out by Court and the decree nisi was granted on 12 March 1999 based on the unreasonable behaviour of both parties. They also had intense disputes over the custody of the two children. Parties had signed an Agreed Parenting Plan giving custody to Chia. Kay changed her mind subsequently. Eventually, after numerous sessions of mediation and counselling, Chia consented to Kay taking custody of the children. Chia also filed a suit (Suit 1461/98) in the High Court against Kay to claim certain sums of monies lent to Kay. The suit was withdrawn on the second day of trial with cost ordered against Chia. There was another civil suit between them concerning the accounts of the law firm S T Kay & Co.

Matrimonial Assets

10 The disputed issue dealt with at the hearing of the ancillary matters related to the division of assets. Custody and maintenance were agreed between parties. They also agreed that the issue of the law firm be left out of this proceeding.

11 The assets in issue were as follows:



Joint names

5 Tanglin Hill (matrimonial home) with encumbrance of about $5.5 million overdraft with OCBC

Husband’s name

Club –

American Club


Laguna CC


Tanglin Club

Tanah Merah CC

Car – Mercedes Benz


CPF monies

monies in bank accounts

Wife’s name

Sommerville apartment

Genting View Resort apartment

Club – Raffles Marina Club

- Singapore Cricket Club

Car – Lexus LS400

monies in bank accounts

Insurance policies

Shares -

Sketchley Services

Master Penguin

Landmark Realty

Isedecor Petroleum


Premtec Marine


Deposit with Best World Gaming

CPF monies

Proceeds of sale of shares

5 Tanglin Hill

12 This was a bungalow bought by Kay in her sole name in October 1984. She managed through her contact to purchase the unit. The price paid was $1.7 million. Chia’s name was added as a joint owner in May 1992. There was a Deed of Trust dated 30 Oct 1984, but stamped on 19 Dec 1990 stating that Kay held half share of the property in trust for Chia. It was disputed when the Deed was actually signed – Chia said that it was signed at the time of purchase of the property but Kay said it was signed only in 1989. But nothing turned on it.

13 It was however not disputed that Chia contributed $300,000 and Kay contributed $316,902 towards the purchase of the bungalow when it was first purchased. The balance was funded by an overdraft from the OCBC bank for the amount of $1.1 million. The bungalow was rented out from 1984 to 1989 and the rentals of $7,500 per month were used to service the mortgage payments. The parties thereafter moved into the bungalow.

14 Chia said that he paid $236,328 for renovation using funds from his DBS bank account. He exhibited various receipts, invoices and copies of cheques. Kay said that the monies were paid from mixed funds. Not all the payments claimed by Chia were supported by documents in his favour. Some of the invoices were issued to Chia and some to Kay. Some payments were made in cash and there was no documentary evidence of the source of funds for the payments. Under the circumstances, I considered that the renovation costs were jointly paid.

15 After Kay left in December 1997, Chia stayed in the bungalow alone until June 2000. He then moved out and the bungalow was tenanted at the monthly rent of $16,000 to facilitate the payment of the overdraft interest of the OCBC joint account which was secured by the bungalow. The account was for the purpose of an overdraft taken up when the property was first purchased. At one stage, the overdraft was cleared. It was subsequently utilised by the parties for funding of their other...

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