Lee Hong Choon v Ng Cheo Hwee

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeK S Rajah JC
Judgment Date17 January 1995
Neutral Citation[1995] SGHC 12
Citation[1995] SGHC 12
Defendant CounselZero Nalpon (Leo Fernando)
Plaintiff CounselGoh Aik Chew (Goh Aik Chew & Co)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberDivorce Petition No 2528 of 1993
Date17 January 1995
Subject MatterDuty of solicitors where parties were represented,Consent orders,Whether affidavit of means to be supplied before court could approve draft consent order,Duty of court,Whether failure to supply affidavit a material irregularity,Judgments and orders,Civil Procedure,Family Law,Whether limited to approving draft consent orders,Matrimonial proceedings,Principle of party control,rr 40 & 41 Women's Charter (Matrimonial Proceedings),Legal effect of consent order derived from court
Duty of the court

Cur Adv Vult

The question is whether the duty of the court is limited to approving draft consent orders where the parties have agreed to the terms in matrimonial causes when ancillary reliefs are being determined.

Background

The parties were married on 7 January 1988. The husband is an administrative officer and the wife is an accounts clerk. They have no children. The husband petitioned for divorce on the ground that the marriage had irretrievably broken down in that the wife had committed adultery with an unknown man.

The petition was heard by GP Selvam J on 2 February 1994. The husband was represented by counsel but the wife was not represented and was absent at the hearing. GP Selvam J ordered a decree for dissolution of the marriage and adjourned the ancillary relief for the division of assets which was prayed for in the following terms:

(ii) That the respondent may be ordered to transfer [her] half share interest in the property at Blk 521 Hougang Ave 6 #08-45, Singapore 1953 to the petitioner absolutely;

(iii) Such further and other relief as this honourable court may deem fit.



Mr Goh Aik Chew, solicitor for the husband, appeared before the learned registrar but the wife did not attend the pre-trial conference. Mr Goh told the registrar that the wife had confirmed her agreement in writing to him for the consent order to be heard and made final. The consent order reads:

The respondent do transfer her share title interest in the flat known as Blk 521, Hougang Ave 6 #08-45, Singapore 1953 to the petitioner absolutely with all stamp and legal fees payable thereon borne by the petitioner upon the petitioner refunding the respondent`s CPF account (with interest lost thereon) of all withdrawals made by her for the purchase of the said flat.



At the hearing before me on 14 July 1994, Mr Goh submitted a draft consent order for my approval. I asked him about the value of the property. He did not know. The wife was not present. I did not approve the draft consent order that was submitted but ordered an affidavit of means and contributions made towards acquisition of assets to be filed including amounts in the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and accounts of the parties. I also ordered a valuation report be exhibited to the affidavit of means and asked for particulars of the outstanding balance on the property.

The wife instructed solicitors on 19 July 1994 and filed an affidavit on the same day. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the affidavit read:

3 However, I would like to inform the court that I am very prepared and willing to transfer my share title interest in the flat known as Blk 521, Hougang Ave 6, #08-45, Singapore 1953 to the petitioner, and the petitioner to bear the costs and fees of the transfer, and the petitioner also to refund all moneys and interest (for which I had withdrawn towards the purchase of the matrimonial flat) into my CPF account.

4 I have been advised that I am entitled to more than the refund of CPF withdrawals, but I am still prepared. I am willing to even transfer to the petitioner and should he intend to sell and make a profit it is up to him. However, the petitioner says that he wants to use it for his family, as his mother and family members live on a different floor, of the same block in the matrimonial flat.



At the resumed hearing before me on 15 August 1994, Mr Goh, whose client had not filed the affidavit ordered, said that since the wife was acting on legal advice, the affidavit ordered should be waived. The draft consent order was confirmed by the wife`s solicitor although the husband had not filed any affidavit of means and rr 40 and 41 of the Matrimonial Proceedings Rules 1990 (MP Rules) provide for an affidavit setting out full particulars of property and income to be filed. Mr Goh argued that the circumstances had changed. The husband`s reluctance to describe his means and assets was evident and it could not have escaped the notice of the wife`s solicitor.

Mr Goh relied on the Supreme Court Practice Directions (Part VIII Divorce Matters) and the decision of . The draft consent order submitted for my approval was not accompanied with a statement giving full particulars of all the assets acquired during marriage and the contributions made by the parties.

The arguments of Mr Goh can be summarized as being (i) where parties are represented by counsel; (ii) and there is a consent order; (iii) the duty of the court is to approve the draft consent order because parties would have been properly advised.

Party control

Parties to pending proceedings may give effect to the terms of their agreement to compromise or settle their disputes, whether such agreement is arrived at before or at the trial.

The general principle is that, except in specified cases or circumstances, the parties to the intended, threatened or pending proceedings are entitled to compromise or settle their proceedings on any terms they agree and at any time or stage of the proceedings they choose, without the approval or reference to the court. This is known as the principle of `party control` or `party autonomy`, and it is of exceptional importance since its effect is to promote the resolution and disposal of pending proceedings and thus to reduce to a fairly acceptable minimum the number of actions or proceedings which are actually tried by a judge at a plenary trial or are finally adjudicated upon by the court. The law encourages the compromise or settlement of civil disputes and employs a number of devices or techniques for this purpose. These include:

(1) the right of the parties to negotiate under the protection of the privilege of `without prejudice`;

(2) the device of a payment into court in satisfaction of a claim for debt or damages;

(3) the making of an `open offer` in claims other than for debt or damages;

(4) the making of a written offer expressed to be `without prejudice save as to costs`;

(5) the offer of a contribution in third party proceedings;

(6) the offer to accept liability up to a specified proportion.



The classes of cases or circumstances in which parties cannot settle or compromise proceedings without the approval of the court are numerous...

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10 cases
  • Tan Sue-Ann Melissa v Lim Siang Bok Dennis
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 28 June 2004
    ...It is well established that a consent order for maintenance can be varied like any other court order: Lee Hong Choon v Ng Cheo Hwee [1995] 2 SLR 663. Furthermore, no term of such an agreement can totally undermine the powers conferred on the courts under the Women’s Charter, including the p......
  • Gay Choon Ing v Loh Sze Ti Terence Peter
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 8 January 2009
    ...MLJ 170 (refd) Knowles v Roberts (1888) 38 Ch D 263 (refd) Lampleigh v Braithwait (1615) Hob 105 (refd) Lee Hong Choon v Ng Cheo Hwee [1995] 1 SLR (R) 92; [1995] 2 SLR 663 (refd) Man Financial (S) Pte Ltd v Wong Bark Chuan David [2008] 1 SLR (R) 663; [2008] 1 SLR 663 (refd) Master Stelios, ......
  • Aym v Ayl
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    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 23 November 2012
    ...Chew Gek v Tan Boon Hiang [1997] 1 SLR (R) 383; [1997] 2 SLR 209 (refd) CT v CU [2004] SGDC 164 (refd) Lee Hong Choon v Ng Cheo Hwee [1995] 1 SLR (R) 92; [1995] 2 SLR 663 (refd) Lee Min Jai v Chua Cheow Koon [2005] 1 SLR (R) 548; [2005] 1 SLR 548 (refd) Livesey v Jenkins [1985] AC 424 (refd......
  • Cheo Sharon Andriesz v Official Assignee of the estate of Andriesz Paul Matthew
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 18 January 2013
    ...Andriesz Paul Matthew, a bankrupt [2012] 4 SLR 89 (refd) Flint (a bankrupt) , Re [1993] Ch 319 (folld) Lee Hong Choon v Ng Cheo Hwee [1995] 1 SLR (R) 92; [1995] 2 SLR 663 (refd) Treharne v Forrester [2003] EWHC 2784 (Ch) (folld) Bankruptcy Act (Cap 20, 2009 Rev Ed) ss 77 (1) , 77 (3) (a) (c......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Land Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2020, December 2020
    • 1 December 2020
    ...[2020] 1 SLR 837. 8 See Tao Li v Toh Ah Poh [2019] SGHC 164 discussed in (2019) 20 SAL Ann Rev 567 at 569–570. 9 [1987] SLR(R) 702. 10 [1995] 1 SLR(R) 92 at [32] and [35]. 11 [1974] 2 NSWLR 317 at 321–322 (see Toh Ah Poh v Tao Li [2020] 1 SLR 837 at [27]). 12 Toh Ah Poh v Tao Li [2020] 1 SL......
  • WHEN SPOUSES AGREE
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal Nbr. 2006, December 2006
    • 1 December 2006
    ...1 SLR 688 and Khoo Meng Huat v Chin Seah Ha[1996] SGHC 147. These cases are further discussed below. 12 Lee Hong Choon v Ng Cheo Hwee [1995] 2 SLR 663. 13 Sections 49—50, Women’s Charter. 14 [1999] 1 FLR 683. See also case comment on the case in S M Cretney, “Contract Not Apt in Divorce Dea......

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