Nam Wen Jet Bernadette v Tham Khai Meng

JudgeMPH Rubin J
Judgment Date06 July 1996
Neutral Citation[1996] SGHC 134
Citation[1996] SGHC 134
Defendant CounselRichard Ang (Ang JW & Pnrs)
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselRaj Singam and Cheryl Tan (Drew & Napier)
Date06 July 1996
Docket NumberDivorce Petition No 1002 of 1994
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterAssessment,s 109(1) Women's Charter (Cap 353),Whether court could order both lump sum as well as monthly payments,Mode of payment,Maintenance,Family Law,Matrimonial assets,s 106 Women's Charter (Cap 353),Court's approach in deciding contribution of parties,Division,Court need not trace origin of funds with exact precision

The parties, seemingly a personable couple, were married in Singapore on 11 January 1986, according to the wife after a whirlwind romance of 21/2 months. They have two boys through this union, aged nine and seven respectively. The wife admittedly came from a well\_to\_do family and soon after their marriage the couple moved into the residence of the wife`s parents at 4 Brighthill Crescent, Singapore and continued to live there together until their romance turned tempestuous and came to grief.

There were allegations and counter allegations levelled against each other in the parties` respective petitions for divorce.
However, when the petition came up for hearing on a contested basis, it was agreed between the parties - no doubt after much wrangling - that the wife should proceed on her supplemental petition on an uncontested basis based on the ground of adultery by the husband. Consequently a decree nisi was granted to the wife on 8 March 1995.

All the ancillary issues were fought tooth and nail by parties and after hearing submissions from counsel, I made a number of orders in relation to: (a) custody, care, control and access of the children; (b) maintenance for the wife; (c) maintenance for the children; (d) division of matrimonial assets; and (e) costs.
On the issue relating to custody, care, control and access of the children, parties were given joint custody with care and control to the wife and access to the husband. The order so made on the foregoing issue on 10 March 1995 is not a subject matter of the appeal herein.

On the issues relating to maintenance as well as division of matrimonial assets, there were lengthy submissions by counsel.
After reviewing the affidavits and hearing arguments made by both counsel, I made the following order on 29 November 1995:

(1) ) The matrimonial house known as No 2 Brighthill Crescent, be sold either in the open market by private treaty or public auction or to the highest bidder amongst the parties within six (6) months from date hereof or any extension thereof to be mutually agreed between the parties and the net proceeds of the sale thereof after deduction of all outstanding mortgage payments, legal fees, agent or auctioneer`s fees and other outstandings, be divided equally between the parties. The husband shall cause to be refunded to his CPF account whatever sums he has withdrawn in respect of the purchase of the matrimonial house and any accrued interests thereon, from his portion of the nett proceeds of the sale;

(2) ) The husband shall pay monthly a sum of $3,000 as maintenance for the wife and children with effect from 1st January 1996. The husband also shall pay a further sum of $120,000 as lumpsum towards maintenance for the wife and children which sum shall be paid at the time of the completion of the sale of the matrimonial property;

(3) ) The husband shall pay costs of the petition to be taxed, if not agreed upon;

(4) ) Parties be at liberty to apply; and

(5) ) Question of costs on the ancillaries to be adjourned to a date to be fixed.

Subsequently, further arguments were heard on 5 February 1996.
I confirmed the orders I made previously and further ordered that each party should bear its own costs. This appeal is against the orders I made in relation to maintenance and the division of matrimonial assets.

The main capital asset owned by parties was a semi\_detached house at 2 Brighthill Crescent (the Brighthill property) and it was an asset, both counsel conceded, accquired during the marriage through the joint efforts of both parties.
A valuation report by Jones Lang & Wootton dated 11 August 1995 tendered by parties revealed the value of the property to be $6,850,000.

There was a vast divide between the parties` respective claims.
On the division of matrimonial property, the wife`s counsel contended that she should be awarded 80% of the nett worth of the Brighthill property, whereas the husband`s counsel argued that the husband should be awarded 82.5% of the nett value instead. On the maintenance aspect too, there was a sizeable gap; wife`s counsel urged the court to award her and the children a monthly sum of $5,500 whereas the husband`s counsel argued that it should not be more than $2,000 per month. The only common ground between the parties in this somewhat infelicitous tug\_o\_war was that the Brighthill property was acquired by the parties through their joint efforts during the marriage. Since both parties proclaimed that equity favoured their respective stands, it is necessary to recapitulate their various assertions.

Wife`s averments and claims

She came from a well\_heeled family.
Her father is a businessman whose range of business included property development. One of the companies owned by her family is Marina Bay Golf And Resort Pte Ltd (Marina Bay) which in turn owns the Marina Bay Golf And Country Club.

Because of her position in the family outfit, the husband was extended several benefits.
To mention a few, he did not have to pay for his petrol and telephone bills; he made use of the wife`s travel and recreation benefits vicariously; he did not have to pay any rental or provide for the usual household expenses such as utilities, telephone or grocery bills. Such household expenses were invariably borne by the wife and her parents.

The husband did not pay the wife any maintenance at all for the first two years of their marriage.
Instead, he bought himself a Porsche in 1987 for about $100,000 on which he spent most of his monthly income. Later at the prompting of the wife`s mother, the husband commenced paying the wife intermittently a housekeeping allowance of $1,000 which was later increased to $2,000 with effect from June 1991. The sum thus paid was wholly inadequate and as a result the burden of bringing up and maintaining the children had fallen entirely on the wife and her family. In order to meet her own needs and those of the children, the wife would draw on her resources, such as her own savings in her DBS bank account, her personal directors` account with Marina Bay which included her director`s fees totalling S$100,000 for 1992 and 1993 as well as financial help from her father.

The wife listed the following as warranting division under s 106 of the Women`s Charter (Cap 353) (the Charter):

(1) ) The Brighthill property valued at $6,850,000.

(2) ) Husband`s Porsche valued at $100,000.

(3) ) CPF balance

Wife: S$201,896.90 (as at 31 December 1994).

Husband: S$67,331.87 (as at 9 May 1995).

(4) ) Bank balance

Wife: About $5,000

Husband: Overdrawn on his DBS account as at 30 April 1995: $11,632.92.

Debit balance on Citibank Credit Card as at 19 April 1995: $5,209.77.

As regards the Brighthill property, the wife averred that though it was an asset acquired during the marriage through the joint efforts of both parties, the major contribution to its purchase came from her side.
She said prior to the parties` acquiring the Brighthill property, a property known as No 26 Highland Walk (the Highland Walk property) was bought by them. According to her, the Highland Walk property was sold to them at $480,000, almost at cost price and half its market value of $910,000 from a property development company owned and controlled by her father. The cash downpayment of 20% of the purchase price (amounting to $96,000) was contributed by both the wife and her father as was with the resurvey fees and other incidentals (amounting to S$12,600). The remainder was financed through a housing loan by the mortgage of the said property by the parties.

However due to the husband`s unwillingness to move in to the Highland Walk property, it was sold on 25 April 1991 for $845,000.
The mortgage was fully redeemed with the proceeds of the sale.

Subsequently, the Brighthill property, situated next door to her parents` residence at No 4 Brighthill Crescent, came up for sale.
In the event, an option to purchase the property for $1.55m was obtained on 10 February 1992 and the sale scheduled for completion on 30 April 1992.

The particulars provided by the wife as to how the purchase of the property was financed are as follows:

(a) A housing loan by the parties made up of a term loan of $ 600,000.00

and a revolving loan facility of $ 500,000.00

payable by 108 instalments of $ 7,352.00

each at an interest rate of 6% per annum $1,100.000.00

(b) From the husband`s CPF account $ 256,700.00

(c) From the wife a sum of $193,300.00 which

included the initial 10% deposit $ 193,300.00

Total: $1,550,000.00

According to the wife, the husband was to service the term loan of $600,000 through monthly payments of S$7,344 (sic).
This was by way of a monthly payment of $5,544 from his DBS savings/current account and $1,800 from his CPF account. She deliberately caused the foregoing arrangement to be made from the husband`s account so as to ensure prompt payments from him in view, as she alleged, of his irresponsible ways. She asserted that without the proceeds from the sale of the Highland Walk property, the purchase of the Brighthill property would have been impossible.

She claimed that she was the one who met all the legal fees, stamp duties, valuation charges, property insurance premiums, property tax, renovation expenses and maintenance outlays in relation to the Brighthill property, in addition to bearing all expenses incurred by the family for vacation and all household expenses including the children`s nanny`s salary.
The husband on the other hand had been reckless by squandering the bulk of his income on his Porsche. He consistently failed to care and provide for the family, was overdrawn in his bank accounts, late in paying his bills and perforce in arrears of his income tax by $80,000 for over three years from mid-1991 to 1993. So much so, she had to plead on his behalf with the tax authorities to permit him to pay his outstandings by instalments and further assisted...

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4 cases
  • NK v NL
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 19 July 2007
    ...the Act. However, by this time, as noted by MPH Rubin J in the Singapore High Court decision of Nam Wen Jet Bernadette v Tham Khai Meng [1996] 3 SLR 442 (“Nam Wen Jet Bernadette”) at 455, [46], citing Lord Upjohn in the House of Lords decision of National Provincial Bank Ltd v Ainsworth [19......
  • Ang Teng Siong v Lee Su Min
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 29 April 2000
    ... ... for his submission was the decision of the Court of Appeal in Hoong Khai Soon v Cheng Kwee Eng [1993] 3 SLR 34 ... The facts in that case were ... with the attitude taken by the Court of Appeal in a later case, Tham Khai Meng v Nam Wen Jet Bernadette [1997] 2 SLR 77 ... In Tham `s ... ...
  • NK v NL
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 19 July 2007
    ...the Act. However, by this time, as noted by MPH Rubin J in the Singapore High Court decision of Nam Wen Jet Bernadette v Tham Khai Meng [1996] 3 SLR 442 (“Nam Wen Jet Bernadette”) at 455, [46], citing Lord Upjohn in the House of Lords decision of National Provincial Bank Ltd v Ainsworth [19......
  • Tham Khai Meng v Nam Wen Jet Bernadette
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 24 February 1997

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