Lam Chih Kian v Ong Chin Ngoh

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin J
Judgment Date23 March 1993
Neutral Citation[1993] SGCA 18
Citation[1993] SGCA 18
Defendant CounselSally Chew with Mak Moo Theng (Lawrence Chua & Partners)
Plaintiff CounselEdmond Pereira with Steven Lee (Edmond Pereira & Partners)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 14 of 1992
Date23 March 1993
Subject MatterDivision of matrimonial assets,CPF fund used to purchase matrimonial home,Family Law,CPF fund accumulated during marriage,s 106(3) Women's Charter (Cap 353),Whether CPF fund constitutes divisible matrimonial asset

Cur Adv Vult

This is an appeal against the decision of Chan Sek Keong J (as he then was) in Divorce Petition No 442 of 1991 wherein the learned judge ordered the appellant (the respondent therein) to transfer his interest in the matrimonial home to the respondent (the petitioner therein) upon the respondent paying the appellant the sum of $40,000 [see [1992] 2 SLR 414 ].

The parties were married on 22 January 1974. The respondent obtained a decree nisi on 11 September 1991 on the ground that they had lived apart for more than four years since January 1987. Arising out of this marriage the parties have two daughters born on 14 July 1977 and 9 April 1979 respectively. The respondent was granted custody of her daughters who have been in her care and control since May 1989.

The appellant was 49 years old at the time the order was made in respect of the matrimonial home and he was then employed as the Room Division Manager at the Duxton Hotel at a gross salary of $3,250 per month, giving him a take-home pay of $2,518.75. He had always worked in the hotel industry.

The respondent ran a beautician`s business. At the start of the marriage she too worked in the hotel industry as a restaurant captain and at some point of time held two jobs (the hotel job besides working as a beautician) to help make ends meet. Her income at the time of the hearing was derived from her business which yielded a pre-tax profit of $23,824.55 for the year ended 31 December 1990.

The matrimonial home at #21-759, Apartment Block 224, Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, Singapore 1231, was purchased in 1974 (the year of the marriage). The purchase price was $30,000 and it was registered in their joint names. At the time of the proceedings, the flat was occupied by the appellant whilst the respondent and her two daughters were living temporarily with her brother. It was agreed that the flat had a current market value of about $140,000. If the flat was sold, the amount that would have to be returned to the appellant`s Central Provident Fund (`CPF`) account would be $63,640 inclusive of interest, leaving a balance of about $76,360 as a free asset.

There was a dispute as to how much each party had contributed to the purchase of the flat, its renovations, furnishings and fittings. However the learned judge in the court below took a global approach to the division of the matrimonial assets and held as follows:

(i) The flat had a market value of about $140,000. In addition, the appellant had about $148,000 in his CPF account.

(ii) Moneys belonging to one spouse in his CPF account formed part of the assets available for division if acquired during the marriage. They are assets acquired by the sole effort of the married worker during the marriage and so fall to be divided under s 106(3) of the Women`s Charter (Cap 353).

(iii) There was no evidence that the respondent had a CPF account or any other matrimonial asset in her possession. Thus the couple had matrimonial assets to the value of around $280,000.

(iv) In the circumstances, the respondent should get $100,000 in the form of the matrimonial home. The remaining $40,000 which made up the market price of the home was to be paid by the respondent to the appellant. This division gave the respondent about 35% of the matrimonial assets.

The appellant thereupon appealed to the Court of Appeal. At the hearing of the appeal, it was contended on his behalf that the learned judge erred in law in taking into account the value of the appellant`s CPF fund as an asset within the ambit of s 106. Alternatively if the appellant`s CPF credit balance should be taken into account as an asset under s 106(3), then the credit balance of $70,000 which the respondent admitted to having in her CPF fund should also be taken into account.

It is clear from his judgment that when the learned judge referred to `matrimonial assets` he meant `assets acquired during the marriage` under s 106. We propose to do the same in this judgment. Section 106 of the Women`s Charter provides:

(1) The court shall have power, when granting a decree of divorce, judicial...

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