Neo Soon Swee v Tan Cheh Khin

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeRegina Ow-Chang Yee Lin
Judgment Date19 June 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGDC 23
Citation[2000] SGDC 23
Published date19 September 2003




1 The petitioner ("wife") and the respondent ("husband") registered their marriage at the Singapore Marriage Registry on 2 February 1972. They had three daughters, P, A ("A") and N ("N") born on 18 June 1972, 5 November 1975 and 9 March 1987, respectively. On 17 November 1998, the wife filed a petition for divorce on the ground that the marriage had broken down irretrievably in that the husband had behaved in such a way that the wife cannot reasonably be expected to live with him. The husband did not contest the Petition and the Decree Nisi was granted on 4 February 1999. The issues of custody and access of the youngest daughter, N, maintenance for the wife and N and the division of the matrimonial assets were adjourned to be heard in chambers.

2 The ancillary matters came up for hearing before me on 6 April 2000, 23 May 2000 and 19 June 2000. After reviewing the evidence in the affidavits filed by the wife and the husband, documents admitted by consent of the parties and submissions by counsel, I made the following orders -

1) The Petitioner be granted the custody, care and control of N with reasonable access to Respondent;

2) The Respondent do pay to the Petitioner monthly maintenance of $1,900.00 for the Petitioner and $800 for N with effect from 6 July 2000 and thereafter on the 6th day of every month. Payment to the the Petitioner’s Post Office Savings Bank Account Number 107-35420-4;

3) The Respondent do pay the Petitioner $200,000.00 as her share of the matrimonial assets; and

4) Costs fixed at $4,500.00 to be paid by the Respondent to the Petitioner forthwith.

3 The husband filed an appeal against all the above orders.

The Wife

4 The wife was primarily a homemaker throughout the marriage. The parties were married on 2 February 1972. After the marriage, she worked briefly as a factory operator. Thereafter she worked as a seamstress at OG Departmental Store from 1974 to 1979 earning a salary of $700.00 to $800.00. Parties made a joint decision for the wife to stop work in 1979. The wife was to remain at home and attend to the needs of their young children while the husband remained employed and was to be the sole bread winner of the family. The husband did not dispute this joint decision.

5 The wife suffers from gastric and respiratory problems. She is 47 years old.

6 The wife sought sole custody, care and control of N, who was the only minor child of the marriage. She stated that she was and had always been the primary care-giver for N. The wife left the matrimonial home with N on 26 July 1998 and to date has been residing in rental premises with her daughter.

7 The wife sought to claim a 50% share in the matrimonial assets which consisted of the following :

a) The proceeds of sale from the matrimonial property at [address] ("the Cavenagh property");

b) Ables Electronics & Photo Company;

c) Cannex Photocom;

d) The husband’s CPF monies in his ordinary account amounting to $46,664.83 as at 14 July 1999;

e) Three motor vehicles numbers SCQ 1500S, SCK 6633K and SCF 176J;

f) The monies in the husband’s savings accounts;

g) The husband’s shares; and

h) Two country club memberships – Keppel Country Club and SAFRA Country Club

8 The wife stated that she had contributed both directly and indirectly to the above assets. With regard to the Cavenagh property, it was purchased from proceeds of previous matrimonial properties to which she had made financial contributions. When the Cavenagh property was sold, she did not receive any of the proceeds. Instead, the proceeds were used to pay off the outstanding loan on the property and the balance was put into the two businesses owned by the husband and for the husband’s own expenses. The three motor vehicles were purchased using company funds. It was not disputed that the husband was the one handling all the property transactions.

9 Prior to the filing of the Divorce Petition, the wife filed a maintenance complaint against the husband. On 3 April 1998, the Court ordered the husband to pay $1,460.00 for the wife and N ($1,100.00 for the wife and $360 for N). In addition, the husband was responsible for all of N’ expenses other than food, transport, clothing and miscellaneous personal expenses. This order was subsequently varied by consent on 16 June 1998. Under the varied order, the husband would pay $2,320.00 for the wife and N ($1,900.00 for the wife and $420 for N). In addition, the husband was responsible for the accommodation expenses of the wife and N and the year-end school textbooks, uniforms and shoes for N. He also undertook to provide car transportation from school/tuition centre for N on tuition days at least twice a week, to give N $40 per month for her pocket money and to pay her tuition fees directly to the tutor.

10 As part of the ancillaries, the wife sought to vary the existing maintenance to $2,245.00 for herself and $1,295.00 for N on the ground that circumstances have changed since the last order was made. In the alternative, she sought lumpsum maintenance of $432,000.00 ($1,000.00 x 18 years) for herself on the basis that the husband was in arrears and had not been complying with the existing maintenance order.

11 The wife had $2,506.64 in her only bank account as at 8 July 1999. As of 9 April 1999, she had $23,531.51 in the ordinary account, a nil balance in the special account, and $363.43 in the Medisave account of her Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

12 The wife had 600 Singapore Telecoms Group 2 shares as at 8 July 1999.

13 The wife owns 2 life insurance policies on her life and 1 life policy for N. All the policies have been assigned to the children of the marriage.

The Husband

14 Initially, the husband did not contest the custody, care and control of the N. He changed his mind subsequently and wanted custody of the child. His reasons were that the wife did not look after the child and instead left her at his shop to be looked after by their second daughter, A.

15 The husband was the sole proprietor of two businesses, Ables Electronics & Photo Company ("Ables") and Cannex Photocom ("Cannex"). He drew an income of $2,500.00 per month from each firm, or $5,000.00 per month. The firms were in the business of trading and retailing cameras, watches, clocks and other photographic goods and employed at least forty staff to run the businesses. However, Ables was a loss-making company which had been dormant since 1999. All the new businesses had been assigned to Cannex and the profits made by it were used to set-off the losses of Ables.

16 The husband admitted that he dealt with all the former matrimonial homes and the nett proceeds of sale were used to purchase subsequent homes and to run the businesses. The earnings from the businesses were used to maintain the family. He took the position that as he was the one who provided the funds for the acquisition of the properties and that he ran the businesses, the wife’s share in the matrimonial assets should be no more than 30%.

17 The husband disagreed with the wife’s claim for increased maintenance and wanted the existing order of $2,320.00 to remain. If there was any variation, there should only be an increase of $200.00 to $300.00 at most. He was not averse to lumpsum maintenance for the wife using the multiplicand of $1,900 and a multiplier of 10 years. The resulting figure was $228,000.00 and after a 1/3 discount for lumpsum payment and a duty on the part of the wife to mitigate by finding a job, the amount offered for the wife’s lumpsum maintenance was approximately $150,480.00.

18 As of 14 July 1999, the husband had $46,664.83 in the ordinary account, $2,034.23 in the special account, and $16,464.14 in the Medisave account of his CPF savings.

19 The husband had 780 Singapore Telecoms "A" shares and 720 Singapore Telecoms Group 2 shares as of 14 July 1999. He had a securities account with the Central Depository (Pte) Ltd, with shares worth $42,799.84 as of 30 April 2000.

20 The husband had $3,739.86 in his POSB account number 112-02277-5 as at 5 July 1999. He had a balance of $17,830.69 in his DBS account number 003-007210-0 as at 30 June 1999.

Custody of the N

21 In deciding the question of custody, S.125 (2) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353) is applicable. S125(2) provides as follows:-

"In deciding in whose custody a child should be placed, the paramount consideration shall be the welfare of the child and subject to this, the court shall have regard –

a) to the wishes of the parents of the child; and

b) to the wishes of the child, where he or she is of an age to express an independent opinion."

22 The wife sought sole custody, care and control of N. She said that since the birth of the children she had been a full-time homemaker and was the primary and sole caregiver of the children. The wife left the matrimonial home on 26 July 1998, taking N with her. For the last 2 years, N had been residing with her at rented premises.

23 The husband in paragraph 17 his first affidavit filed on 23 July 1999 was prepared to let the wife have custody, care and control of N, as being her mother, she would be in a position to take care of N better. He then contradicted himself in the same paragraph and said that the wife had failed to discharge her duty as a mother by leaving the child with him and/or the elder daughters at his business premises. The wife did not fetch the child to and from school. He then stated that he wanted more access to N.

24 As a result of these allegations, the wife filed an affidavit in reply on 20 August 1999. In paragraphs 19 to 22, she denied that she had failed to discharge her duties as a mother. She did not possess a driving license and could not drive N to and from school but she had made the necessary transportation arrangements for N. On Fridays, the wife would send N to the husband’s place of business, where A was working. After work, both sisters would return home and N would...

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