Maria Christina S Yam v Yam Wing Kong

JudgeJen Koh
Judgment Date13 April 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 40
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberDivorce No. 1765 of 2013
Published date17 July 2015
Hearing Date09 December 2014,14 January 2015,30 January 2015
Plaintiff CounselMr K Mathialahan (M/s Guna & Associates)
Defendant CounselMr Tan Tee Giam (M/s Tanlim Partnership)
Subject MatterCatch words: Maintenance for wife, division of matrimonial home, division of other assets
Citation[2015] SGFC 40
District Judge Jen Koh: Introduction

This is an appeal against ancillary orders made on 30 January2015dividing a Housing and Development Board flat (‘the flat’) which was the parties’ former matrimonial home, maintenance for the Plaintiff (‘the wife’) and a decision not to divide items of jewellery and watches acquired either by way of gift or acquired in the course of the marriage by either the Defendant (‘the husband’) or the wife.

The parties to this marriage were married in May 1987. They have 2 daughters, one aged 27, the other, aged 23, currently undergoing tertiary education in the Singapore Institute of Management. The younger daughter had earlier completed a diploma course in a local polytechnic before pursuing her degree.

The wife, 47 years old, is a Health Care Assistant at a local hospital. She commenced divorce proceedings in April 2013. She had left the husband in January 2013 with the elder daughter. The younger daughter stayed on in the former matrimonial home with the husband. The husband, aged 55, a taxi driver, contested the divorce proceedings but eventually agreed to proceed on an uncontested basis on the wife’s agreement to amend the Statement of Particulars she relied on for the breakdown of the marriage. Interim Judgment was granted in October 2013 with the contested ancillary matters adjourned to be heard in chambers. These issues include (a) division of the HDD flat (b) division of items of jewellery and watches (c) division of other matrimonial assets (d) maintenance for the wife (d) issue of costs.

The parties filed numerous affidavits including affidavits by the husband’s mother and affidavits by the 2 daughters. The parties also filed affidavits pursuant to requests for discovery. After hearing parties in December 2014 and January 2015, I made the following orders on 30 January 2015: Division of the flat: The Plaintiff is given the right of first refusal to purchase the Defendant’s half share in the matrimonial flat at Block 463 Crawford Lane #12-15 Singapore (“the flat”) such option to be exercised within 30 days from the date of this order with the Plaintiff informing the Defendant and/or his solicitors of her intention in writing. In the event that the Plaintiff opts to retain the flat, completion of the transfer or sale of the Defendant’s 50% is to be effected within 3 months from the date of when she exercises the option as set out in paragraph 1. The Defendant’s 50% share shall be determined by a valuation report to be obtained for purposes of sale in the open market. The parties shall share the costs of the valuation equally. Upon receipt of his 50% share, the Defendant shall refund into his CPF account monies utilized for the purchase inclusive accrued interest if so required by the CPF Board. The Plaintiff shall be responsible for the costs and expenses of transfer or sale of the Defendant’s 50% share to her. In the event that the Plaintiff opts not to retain the flat or fails to exercise the option within the 30 day timeframe, then the flat is to be sold in the open market with the parties having joint conduct of the sale. Upon successful sale, the proceeds are to be utilized to pay the costs and expenses of sale and refund of parties’ CPF accounts of monies utilized for the purchase inclusive accrued interest. The net proceeds are to be divided so as to achieve equal division taking into account the refund into the parties’ CPF accounts. In the event that equal division cannot be achieved with the realizable cash sale proceeds, then the shortfall is to be achieved with the transfer of monies in the parties’ CPF accounts. The parties are at liberty to apply to court for further orders for a determination of the sum(s) to be transferred and into whose account in the event that there is no agreement. Division of matrimonial assets No orders on the division of the jewellery items and the watches. No further division of any assets between the parties. Maintenance for the Plaintiff The Defendant shall contribute monthly maintenance $300.00 as maintenance for the Plaintiff with effect from 1 February 2015 and thereafter on the first day of every month. Payment direct into the Plaintiff’s bank account POSB Savings Account No: 001283405. The Plaintiff’s claim for backdated maintenance is dismissed. Other Orders Each party to bear his or her own costs in these proceedings. Liberty to apply.

The appeals

Both parties appealed against the orders and I now set out the reasons for my decision.

On the issue of maintenance for the wife The wife’s income and expenses

The wife earns a monthly income of $1,458-00 as a Health Care Assistant at a local hospital. She itemized her expenses in paragraph 12 of her affidavit of assets and means1 and the monthly expenses totalled $2,130-00 per month. Out of this sum, the rental component made up $600-00, reduced from an original rental sum of $1,200-00 per month. Her personal expenses were in the region of $1,530-00 per month. As the elder daughter lives with her and is also gainfully employed, the elder daughter has been assisting with the monthly expenses. The husband had queried the wife’s expense for an annual holiday but the wife explained that as a Philippines national, she returned home once a year to visit her family.

There was no other real challenge by the husband on the other items of the wife’s expenses.

The other relevant fact that was taken into account was an application by the younger daughter for maintenance against the wife. The court was informed at the ancillary matters hearing that the younger daughter was represented by the Legal Aid Bureau in the maintenance application she had commenced against the wife. The younger daughter was claiming monthly maintenance of $500-00 against the wife. Counsels did not have further updates as at 30 January 2015.

The wife’s claim for maintenance

The wife claimed a sum of $500-00 per month as maintenance from the husband. She wanted this sum backdated and she gave 3 options as possible dates to be taken into account for the backdating of maintenance: From January 2013 when she was forced to leave the former matrimonial home because of the husband’s behaviour which she found intolerable, or From March 2013 when she filed an application for interim maintenance through a complaint process. The wife said that she was persuaded by the court to withdraw her interim maintenance application because of the pending ancillary matters2, or From April 2013, which was the time she commenced divorce proceedings.

The wife wanted lump sum maintenance of $90,000-00 on the baseline of $500-00 per month for a period of 15 years. Alternatively, the wife said that this amounted to 45% of the net sale proceeds of the former matrimonial home (the Whampoa flat, discussed further in this decision) and she should therefore be awarded the entire flat as a result.

The wife also wanted the court to take into account the following factors: her substantial indirect contributions to the welfare of the family that the husband was lying about his current income that the husband did not give her maintenance throughout the marriage that she had negligible savings as a result of applying her entire monthly income towards the family expenses that the younger daughter should have applied for some form of financial assistance or worked as a private tutor to pay her way as she insisted on pursuing a tertiary education on top of her polytechnic diploma that she paid the older daughter’s tertiary education expenses with her CPF monies.

The husband’s position on the issue of the wife’s maintenance

The husband said that he worked as taxi driver earning $1,500-00 per month. He claimed that he started driving part time from 2003.

The husband listed his expenses to be in the region of $2,145-00 per month. The bulk of his expense was tuition expenses for the younger child and for her expenses. The husband also said that he had to support his aged mother3.

The husband said that the wife should not be entitled to any maintenance as she was gainfully employed, had financial support from the older daughter, and, that she had not disclosed all her assets.

Court’s decision on the issue of the wife’s maintenance

In considering the award of monthly maintenance for the wife, I took into account the following matters: There was no valid reason from the husband as to why he was working part time instead of full time. He was driving fulltime since 1995 and switched to become a part time driver in 20034. This was disputed by the wife who said that he had always been a full time taxi driver. By his own admission, he used to earn at least $3,000-00 to $4,000-00 per month from 1995 to 20035. He said that he took one year off to care for the younger daughter and that he also developed a phobia for driving as he suffered from nausea and hypertension. There was no supporting document of this. He did not explain how he managed his expenses of $2,145-00 per month with his monthly income of $1,500-00. He had declared an income of $12,000-00 per annum consistently from 2010 to 2012. I agreed with the wife that the submission of the same income for 3 years seemed contrived especially when the husband also declared in his notices of assessments that he was contributing monthly sums of about $500-00 as a self-employed into his CPF account. This would have meant a net income of $1,000-00 per month to meet his monthly expenses of $2,145-00. There was no explanation for this. As for paying the younger daughter’s expenses, the younger daughter had since filed an application of maintenance against the wife. The husband declared a joint account with his mother showing a balance of some $8,600-006. There was a dispute between the husband and the wife on the source of the funds for this joint account. The husband’s submission that he had to...

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