Pang Rosaline v Chan Kong Chin

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date11 September 2009
Neutral Citation[2009] SGCA 43
Citation[2009] SGCA 43
SubjectWife training, managing and supervising domestic help,Division,Wife leaving performance of household chores to domestic help,Matrimonial assets,Family Law,Parties operating financial system whereby both income and liabilities treated as aggregate and integrated whole,Husband paying mortgage instalments and conservancy charges for property directly from salary,Wife being full time civil servant,Whether wife making indirect contributions to purchase price of property,Whether wife making direct financial contributions to purchase price of property
Defendant CounselGoh Siok Leng (Christina Goh & Co)
Publication Date18 September 2009
Plaintiff CounselRandolph Khoo and Johnson Loo (Drew & Napier LLC)
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 168 of 2008
Date11 September 2009

11 September 2009

Andrew Phang Boon Leong JA (delivering the grounds of decision of the court):

Introduction

1 This was an appeal by the wife against orders made by the trial judge (“the Judge”) in respect of the division of matrimonial assets, maintenance as well as costs (see Pang Rosaline v Chan Kong Chin [2009] SGHC 39 (“the GD”)).

2 We found the reasoning and decision of the Judge to be – for the most part − persuasive and correct, and affirmed all the orders made in the court below, with the exception of only one order in relation to one of the properties concerned. We now give the grounds for our decision with respect to this particular variation.

The factual background

3 The salient facts in relation to this particular issue were straightforward. The wife (who was the petitioner) and the husband were married on 23 August 1974. The wife petitioned for divorce on the ground of unreasonable behaviour on 23 November 2005; a decree nisi was granted in favour of the wife on 2 June 2006. Put simply, this was a long marriage which had lasted some 32 years. Indeed, the marriage broke down only some time in 2004.

4 There were two children, born in 1978 and 1985, respectively. However, the more relevant fact in the context of the present appeal was that there were also two properties – the first situated at 2, Marine Vista #18-73, Neptune Court, Singapore 449026 (“the Neptune Court property”) and the second situated at 17A, Sennett Road, Singapore 466797 (“the Sennett Road property”). The Neptune Court property was purchased in November 1980, in the parties’ joint names, for $55,450. The monthly mortgage instalment and conservancy charges were deducted solely from the husband’s salary between 1980 and 1992. The parties moved into the Neptune Court property in 1983. Prior to moving into the Neptune Court property in 1983, the parties stayed with the husband’s parents and other family members. In August 1992, the parties purchased the Sennett Road property for $775,000. The husband and wife contributed $253,000 and $164,000, respectively, towards the purchase price. The stamp and legal fees were paid for by the husband. To part-finance the rest of the purchase price, the husband obtained a loan of $308,000 under the Government Officers’ Housing Loan scheme and also borrowed a further $60,000 from his mother. The monthly mortgage instalment of $2,849 was serviced by $1,289 and $828 from the husband’s and the wife’s CPF contributions, respectively. The balance of $732 was deducted directly from the husband’s salary.

5 It is also apposite to note that, during the course of their marriage, the parties had managed their family finances by way of a joint account, opened with United Overseas Bank Ltd (“the joint account”). Both the husband and wife deposited their respective monthly incomes into this joint account before withdrawals were made, whenever appropriate and as agreed, for personal and household expenses. After the purchase of the Sennett Road property, the Neptune Court property was rented out and the rent received was also, in the main, deposited into the joint account.

6 The Judge ordered that the Neptune Court property be sold within 180 days of her order and that the sale proceeds (less sale and incidental expenses) be apportioned in the ratio of 20% in favour of the wife and 80% in favour of the husband. In respect of the Sennett Road property, the Judge ordered that it be sold within 12 months of the date of her order and that the sale proceeds (less sale and incidental expenses) be apportioned in the ratio of 40% in favour of the wife and 60% in favour of the husband.

7 We varied the order in respect of the Neptune Court property and ordered that the sale proceeds (less sale and incidental expenses) be apportioned in the ratio of 40% in favour of the wife and 60% in favour of the husband instead. In the circumstances (and as already mentioned above), we will only deal with the reasons for this variation. Before proceeding to do so, it would be appropriate to set out the Judge’s reasons as to why she arrived at her respective decisions with regard to the division of both the Neptune Court property as well as the Sennett Road property.

8 Turning, first, to the Neptune Court property, this particular property was apportioned in the ratio of 20% in favour of the wife and 80% in favour of the husband; in this context, the following paragraphs in the GD are apposite (see the GD at [61]− [62]):

61 The wife had admitted that the husband paid from his salary a monthly sum of $366 to service the mortgage of [the Neptune Court property] since 1980. That being the case, it meant the husband had paid, by July 1992, a total sum of $55,266 towards the purchase price of $55,450. In addition, the monthly conservancy charges of the flat were also deducted from his salary until his retirement. Consequently, the wife’s claim that she contributed towards the purchase price was not only unsubstantiated but contradicted the documentary evidence before the court. If she was working as a social welfare officer for 5½ days a week, the wife could not possibly have contributed indirectly towards the purchase of the flat by being a homemaker and caregiver of the children, more so, when by her own admission, she did no housework when she lived with the husband’s parents and when she moved to the flat later, as maids were employed.

62 Even so, I awarded the wife a 20% share in the flat taking into consideration that the husband had sometimes not deposited the rental of [the Neptune Court property] into the joint account and he had used some monies in the joint account to pay the property tax of the mother’s flat.

[emphasis added]

9 There appear to have been two main reasons why the Judge allocated the shares in the Neptune Court property in the ratio she did. The first – hinging on direct contributions − is based on the fact that it was the husband who had contributed wholly to the purchase price of that property. The second reason, in contrast, focused on indirect contributions by the wife – or, more accurately, the seeming lack or absence...

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