Quek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee (alias Ho Kian Guan)

JudgeLai Kew Chai J
Judgment Date26 January 1995
Neutral Citation[1995] SGHC 23
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Published date30 October 2006
Plaintiff CounselAnamah Tan with Chua Swee Keng (Ann Tan & Associates)
Defendant CounselSalem Ibrahim with Yap Teong Liang (Harry Elias & Partners)
Citation[1995] SGHC 23

Cur Adv Vult

26 January 1995

Lai Kew Chai J

1 The petitioner (wife) petitioned for the dissolution of her marriage to the respondent (husband) on the ground that he had behaved in such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him. At the hearing of the petition, the wife alleged a certain behaviour against the husband; he in turn counter-alleged that she was the party responsible. Apart from this skimpy sketch, I believe I should not go into the details preferring that I should be sensitive, proportionate and not extravagant in my approach.

2 In relation to that matter, I came to the conclusion that not every misbehaviour of a spouse by itself would necessarily come within the ambit of s 88(3)(b) of the Women's Charter. In my view, it must be misbehaviour of a genre which affects a petitioner in connection with her status as the spouse and the continued subsistence or well-being of the marriage. We do not live in a perfect world and there will be misbehaviour and offences committed by married and unmarried people. In the context of marriage, what marks off misbehaviour to ground a divorce is the element that such behaviour has an adverse impact on the marriage and on the other spouse and, secondly, it is of a degree that "the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent." The threshold requirement is sensible because there are relatively minor or trivial transgressions which do reduce the happiness of a marriage, or of the other spouse, but they do not tear the marital relationship to smithereens. On those considerations, I came to the view that the alleged misbehaviour was irrelevant and I declined to hear any evidence on it.

3 In her petition she sought maintenance or in the alternative an order that the husband do pay her a lump sum in lieu of monthly maintenance. The latter relief would mean generally that from henceforth and forever more she could not re-open the issue of maintenance. This is not a case where parties have agreed to compound the maintenance by an agreed sum, which would bring into operation ss 110 and 113 and which would have constituted any agreed composition which is sanctioned by a court a complete defence to any claim for maintenance. In this case, both parties had proceeded on the basis that there should be a lump sum payment in order to achieve a "clean break". The amount is very much in controversy. In view of the irrevocable nature of such a lump sum, the process of quantification has to be most carefully undertaken. Counsel for the wife submitted that the wife's maintenance should be $19,000 per month. She qualified this figure by saying that the rental and related expenses had not been included. If they are included a sum of $4,000 to $5,000 has to be provided. The wife anticipated that she would have to leave 26 Lynwood Grove, Singapore and suitable and commensurate accommodation should be provided by the husband. Multiplying $19,000 pm over 25 years, counsel submitted that the lump sum should be $5.7 million. The husband in response contended that the maintenance should be $5,500 pm and that the husband was willing to transfer to her the maisonette in Arang Court (valued at $600,000) and the Honda car.

4 The wife also sought an order that the husband transfer to the petitioner one half share of the matrimonial home (26 Lynwood Grove), which was a gift to the husband by the father long before their marriage, and other matrimonial assets. What was the "matrimonial home" and what were the "assets" which should be divided under s 106 of the Woman's Charter were highly controverted. In the submissions prepared by counsel for the wife, it was claimed that the assets, within the meaning of s 106 of the Women's Charter and to which the wife was entitled to a share, totalled $102 million. Counsel submitted that the wife should be awarded 30% of those assets and the wife accordingly claimed the enormous sum of $30.6 million. In sharp contrast, the husband in exhibit R3 set out the list of assets which were acquired during marriage. They totalled $4,767,176.24 nett. The bulk of them were shares within the stable of companies in the Keck Seng Group, of which the husband was the chairman. Counsel for the respondent suggested that the wife should receive 18% to 20% of $4.76 million as her share of the matrimonial assets within the meaning of s 106 of the Women's Charter.

5 The wife also sought an order that the husband pay costs on a full indemnity basis for the entire 8 days hearing of the petition and of the ancillary issues and reliance were placed on what was said in Povey v Povey < 1070 > 3 All ER 612, at p. 619 and Mohan Singh v Malkiyat Kaur < 1978 > 2 MLJ 181. In Mohan Singh, the learned Chua J, delivering the decision of the Court of Appeal, stated "that when a wife has to take proceedings against her husband or he against her she ought to be provided at his expense with the means of bringing the case before the court or of properly defending the case brought against her."

6 After two days of hearing, the matter which I had ruled was irrelevant was dropped. The husband admitted to most of the other particulars of unreasonable behaviour. The Decree Nisi was pronounced on 31 Aug 93. Since the ancillary matters were not settled, the wife was cross examined by the husband's counsel on 1 Sep 93 after which the matter was part heard. The matter was heard again from 10 Jan 94 to 13 Jan 94 and was adjourned for submissions. Submissions were heard on 26 May 94 and it ended on the same day.

7 I will now consider what is the amount which is the reasonable lump sum in lieu of maintenance. As part of the entire background against which the question of maintenance has to be considered, I should mention that on 17 Dec 92 the learned K.S. Rajah JC ordered the husband to pay the wife $3,000. It was pointed out by counsel for the wife that this figure was extremely low by any standard and she suggested that the wife's spending "spree", which was an irrational but temporary reaction, having regard to the fact, founded in my view on the evidence, that he had unceremoniously, if not rather cruelly, cut her off all ties with him and from the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. She was, in fact, reduced to a financial plight far worse than she was before her marriage and when she was working as a personal assistant at the monthly salary of $2,500.

8 Having had the benefit of hearing the evidence, I found it necessary and made an order on 1 Sep 93 that the interim maintenance be increased to $5,500 per month with effect from 1 Aug 93. The interim payments were intended to meet her very basic needs and, as I will indicate later, even the increased interim maintenance was on the low side and in computing the global sum in lieu of maintenance the shortfalls from 17 Dec 92 would be taken into account with all deliberation.

9 The wife married the husband at the Registry of Marriages on 28 Feb 89. They were officially engaged on 18 Nov 88. She was 30 years old and he was 44 years of age. She was a spinster. He was a divorcee and has two adolescent children by his previous marriage. After the marriage, they co-habited and lived at 26 Lynwood Grove, Singapore 1335. After the marriage, the wife became a home-maker and I find that she tried her level best to make the matrimonial home a place to which her husband could happily return and that she tried to please him in every possible way.

10 After their engagement, the prospective husband gave her $3,000 per month for her expenses and credit card facilities from Stanchart and American Express. She of her own volition paid $500 for the salaries of the two maids; but he used to give her cash up to $1,000 pm in addition. On overseas trips, which were many and very often, he used to give her cash $5,000 and credit card facilities for her shopping. She was given 5 credit cards issued by banks and 10 credit cards by leading departmental stores and hotels. This state of affairs continued until Feb 92 when he stopped giving the sum of $3,000 because she had, in a moment of anguish, spent $90,000. I did not think that this apparently irrational spending spree between 20 and 23 Feb 92 should be held against the wife in any way. No one should condone what he did and said to her in the presence of others, including members of her family.

11 It was only to be expected, having regard to the commercial status of the husband, that their lifestyle was lavish. They entertained a wide circle of business associates. They dined at some of the best restaurants. After their marriage, he gave her 3 motor vehicles for her exclusive use, though they were registered in his name. He paid for all the expenses of the cars. He had repeatedly told her that they were her cars; though he never perfected the gifts. They were a Mercedes 300CE, Porsche 928 S4 and a Honda Concerto. The husband preferred to drive a Mercedes 300, a Mercedes 500 and a Toyota Crown.

12 They travelled extensively and very often; from July 88 to Dec 91, they made 36 trips overseas which spanned Japan, China, Asean countries, USA, Australia and United Kingdom . It was part of his habit that he would carry and spend cash instead of using credit cards; in view of his past experiences with the revenue authorities, he did not believe in leaving behind documentary records of his family expenditure. This meant that what was spent for the maintenance of the wife was not documented. Many of the expenses incurred were also not reflected because her share of the expenses were absorbed as expenses by his own companies. It was too difficult to apportion what was her share. In any case, it could be said that a corporate CEO would be a happier and more efficient CEO if accompanied by the spouse. In the circumstances, it should be noted in the process of quantification that not all monthly expenditure,...

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56 cases
  • Tan Hwee Lee v Tan Cheng Guan
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 30 August 2012
    ...of expenditure, scaled down for reasonableness: see the Singapore High Court decision ofQuek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee (alia Ho Kian Guan) [1995] SGHC 23 ('Quek Lee Tiam')at [16]. The overarching principle embodied in s 114 (2) of the Act is that of financial preservation, which requires the w......
  • VYT v VYU
    • Singapore
    • Family Court (Singapore)
    • 22 December 2021
    ...on that basis, not order any spousal maintenance. The Husband argued that, pursuant to Quek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee (alias Ho Kian Guan) [1995] SGHC 23 there should be no maintenance given her earning capacity and that she should exert herself to secure gainful employment to try to preserve ......
  • NK v NL
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 19 July 2007
    ...of $3,600, which achieved “financial preservation so far as practicable and reasonable in the circumstances” (Quek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee [1995] SGHC 23), and was in actuality a generous amount in comparison with a host of other cases (see, for example, Koh Kim Lan Angela ([58] supra); Hoon......
  • VSN v VSO
    • Singapore
    • Family Court (Singapore)
    • 18 June 2021
    ...former husband (see Leong at pp 693−694 as well as the Singapore High Court decision of Quek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee (alias Ho Kian Guan) [1995] SGHC 23 at [13], [21] and [22], respectively (which paragraphs of this last-mentioned judgment are in fact cited by Prof Leong in her treatise)). [......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Family Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2007, December 2007
    • 1 December 2007
    ...children of the marriage. Secondly, provision must be made to meet the needs of each spouse. Thirdly, (citing Quek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee[1995] SGHC 23) it is ultimately the court”s sense of justice which demands and obtains a just solution to many a difficult issue. Fourth, the power to or......
  • Family Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2012, December 2012
    • 1 December 2012
    ...its discretion under s 114, which is based on the wife's needs in transiting to post-divorce life: see Quek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee[1995] SGHC 23. These principles in Foo Ah Yan were applied a few months later in Yong Shao Keat v Foo Jock Khim[2012] SGHC 107. Multiplier 16.85 In calculating ......
  • Family Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2011, December 2011
    • 1 December 2011
    ...for the maintenance of a former wife in s 113 of the Women's Charter was articulated by the High Court in Quek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee[1995] SGHC 23. It was said that maintenance was required for the financial preservation of a former wife as she required it to transit to post-divorce life. ......
  • Family Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2010, December 2010
    • 1 December 2010
    ...wife“s need for financial support for her financial preservation as she transits into post-divorce life: see Quek Lee Tiam v Ho Kim Swee [1995] SGHC 23. Where there is no such need, it is right that maintenance was not ordered in her favour. Similarly, in Tay Ang Choo Nancy (above, para 15.......

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