Loh Viny Irene v Lam Kin Chong

JudgeLee Li Choon
Judgment Date14 April 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 43
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberDivorce No. 1146 of 2013
Published date17 June 2015
Hearing Date26 February 2015
Plaintiff CounselP/C: Tan Siew Tiong (Lawhub LLC)
Defendant CounselD/C: Ms Dora Chua Siow Lee (M/s Dora Boon & Co)
Subject MatterCatchwords: Family Law,division of matrimonial assets,Family Law,maintenance for wife,custody, care and control and access of children,maintenance for children
Citation[2015] SGFC 43
District Judge Lee Li Choon: Introduction

Both parties have filed their appeals against my decision given on 26 February 2015 on ancillary matters subsequent to a divorce. The Plaintiff-wife and the Defendant-husband were married in Singapore in 1983. There are 3 children of the marriage. The eldest child who was born in 1987 is now 26 years old. She was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy before she turned one. She is both physically and mentally challenged and is totally dependent on care givers. The other two children are boys, one was born in 1992 and is now aged 22 years and the other was born in 1994 and will be attaining the age of 21 years in June 2015. Both have completed their polytechnic education. At the time of the hearing, it would appear that the youngest child was already serving in the National Service and it might be that the older boy has completed or is at least about to complete his National Service.

The wife filed her writ for divorce on 7 March 2013. Interim Judgment pronouncing the dissolution of the marriage on the ground that parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years immediately preceding the filing of the writ was granted in August 2013.

The order that I have given on ancillary matters is as follows: The matrimonial house situated at (address) shall be sold in the open market within 6 months from the Final Judgment and the net sale proceeds after repaying the outstanding housing loan and deducting costs and expenses related to the sale shall be divided 44% to the Plaintiff and 56% to the Defendant. Each party shall refund to his or her CPF account CPF monies utilised towards the purchase of the said house including accrued interest. The Defendant shall have the first option to buy over the Plaintiff’s share of 44% of the net value of the property by refunding to the Plaintiff’s CPF account her CPF monies plus accrued interest and paying the balance of the Plaintiff’s share in cash. The net value of the property is to be derived from the market value as determined by a recognised property valuer and deducting therefrom the outstanding housing loan. The Defendant shall notify the Plaintiff within 3 months from the date of this Order as to whether he wishes to exercise this option. In the event of the Defendant exercising this option, the Plaintiff shall transfer her share, title and interest in the said matrimonial house to the Defendant upon the aforesaid consideration within 3 months from the date of the Defendant exercising this option. The Registrar of the Family Justice Courts is empowered to execute, sign or indorse all necessary documents relating to matters contained in this Order on behalf of either party failing to do so within 7 days of written request being made to the party. Both parties shall retain all other assets in their sole names. Both parties shall have joint custody of the child, Lam Krystien Charlie with care and control to the Plaintiff and reasonable access to the Defendant. The eldest daughter Lam Krystle Chloe shall remain in the care of the Defendant and the Defendant shall solely provide the maintenance for this daughter. The Defendant shall pay to the Plaintiff a monthly maintenance sum of $3000 on the last day of each month for 12 months with effect from 31 March 2015. This sum of $3000 is for the maintenance of the Plaintiff and the youngest child of the marriage until June 2015 and thereafter, this sum of $3000 is for the maintenance of the Plaintiff until end March 2016. Thereafter, the Defendant shall pay to the Plaintiff the nominal sum of $1 per month as maintenance for the Plaintiff. The Defendant shall pay for all future university educational expenses for the 2 sons subject to prior consultation between him and the 2 sons. No order as to costs. Liberty to apply.

My Decision Background Facts

This is a 22 year marriage up to the point when the wife left the matrimonial home on 18 July 2005. The wife is now 53 years old. She was working full time all along in her family business run by her own family. No details about this family business have been provided. It is however accepted that she is presently unemployed due to a restructuring of the family business. She alleged in her affidavit that the two companies in which she was director and shareholder of are in the process of closing down. Prior to her working in her family business, she had a career in interior design. It would appear that she worked in her family business so that she had more time and flexibility to attend to the needs of the family, especially the eldest daughter, who in the earlier years of her life was frequently in and out of the hospital due to epileptic seizures, persistent urinary tract infections, bowel movement problems and a whole host of health issues due to her medical condition. When the wife was working in her family business, she was drawing a gross monthly salary of $3,800.

The husband is now 59 years old. He is employed as a Vice President (Design) with ST Architects & Engineers Pte Ltd. As at September 2013, his gross monthly income was $13,428 and his take home pay was $12,682.

The wife left the matrimonial home in 2005 and has been living on her own in a rented place. At the time of the wife’s departure, the eldest daughter was 17 and the two younger boys were 12 and 10 respectively. The children remained living at the matrimonial home with their father until 2013, when the two boys left to be with their mother after she started divorce proceedings. The eldest daughter is still living with her father in the matrimonial home and she has been cared for with the help of a domestic helper all this while.

On custody, care and control and access

I will first deal with the issue of custody, care and control and access of the children. As the history of the care arrangements of the eldest daughter is important in determining what would be the best arrangement for her going forward, I will summarise the essential details provided by the parties. The eldest daughter attended two different schools, namely Rainbow Centre at Margaret Drive in the mornings and Spastics Children Association in the afternoons from 1989 to 1991. The wife was the one who devoted herself to ferrying the daughter from one centre to the other. After 1991, the daughter attended at Spastics Children Association until she turned 18 years old in 2005 and “graduated”. Since then, she had been staying at home. The wife left the matrimonial home in 2005 and had been staying out on her own since. The wife said that after her departure, she continued to visit the matrimonial home a few times a week to attend to the daughter and the two sons.

The wife asked the court to let her have care and control of the eldest daughter. She painted a picture of neglect for this eldest daughter and alleged that the eldest daughter “had been left to rot at home”. She pointed to the daughter’s teeth decay as evidence of neglect. She said if she were given care and control, she would put the eldest daughter in the Day Activity Centre run by the Spastics Association of Singapore. That would cost $600 a month. She said transport for the daughter to go to and from the Day Activity Centre would cost another $200 a month. The main reason cited for her proposed care arrangement is that there would be better care for the daughter at the Day Activity Centre.

The husband insisted that the eldest daughter should remain with him. He said he had been looking after the daughter with the help of a domestic helper and this has been since the wife left the matrimonial home which was more than 10 years ago. He took issue with the wife’s proposal for the daughter’s care arrangement, saying that this arrangement would cost a whole lot more. He said her proposal would put an unnecessary financial burden on the family, especially in light of the fact that he is already 59 years old and very near retirement and she herself had also allegedly stopped being employed. He maintained that his proposal of keeping the daughter at home would be in the best interests of the daughter as she could be given individual care by the domestic helper. In his affidavit, the husband gave some details of how he had been taking care of the daughter, including taking evening walks around the neighbourhood with her and the domestic helper. He said he had also been bringing the daughter to the wife’s extended family gathering every Sunday to give her the opportunity to interact with family members.

For the eldest daughter, I see no reason to change the status quo given that this has been the arrangement for the last ten years. I am also not convinced that changing the daughter to be under the care of the wife would be a better option as the wife’s proposal was to put her in institutional care in the day. Of the two arrangements, I am not convinced that institutional care would be better than individual care by a domestic helper. As the daughter would still have to be cared for full time after she returns from the Day Activity Centre and in the weekends and public holidays even if she were put in the Day Activity Centre, the wife’s proposal would serve the daughter well only if the daughter could be given both. In that scenario, I agree with the husband that this may be financially too burdensome and impractical in light of the fact that the husband is close to retirement and that the wife is presently unemployed.

Also, in the long run, as the daughter would need to be provided for long after her parents are gone, the daughter would be better served with a sum of money set aside as trust funds for her financial maintenance. On this aspect, I find that the husband, who has stated in his affidavit that he had consulted the Special Needs Trust Co and planned to work out a Beneficiary Care Plan to provide for the daughter, has given a more satisfactory, longer term care...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT