Sengol v De Witt

JudgeChan Sek Keong JC
Judgment Date31 July 1986
Neutral Citation[1986] SGHC 24
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 44 of 1985
Date31 July 1986
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselNK Raja (NK Raja & Co)
Citation[1986] SGHC 24
Defendant CounselTham Tech Leng (Tan Lee & Choo)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterEffect,Maintenance,Nominal sum,Application of rule in Hayes v Hayes,ss 60, 68 & 102 Women's Charter (Cap 47, 1970 Ed),Family Law,Assessment,Maintenance order

This is an appeal by the respondent, the husband of the complainant, against the order of the magistrate made on 24 August 1985 whereby he ordered the respondent to pay to the complainant a monthly sum of $350 as maintenance with effect from 14 June 1985, the date of the filing of the application for maintenance.

The respondent says firstly that the order was wrong in that the amount of maintenance should be nominal and secondly, that the maintenance order should have taken effect from the date when the order was actually made, ie 24 August 1985, and not from the date of the application.

The facts in this case are as follows.
The complainant, a police constable, married the respondent, a flight steward with Singapore Airlines (SIA), on 14 March 1984. After the marriage, she applied for and was allocated a Housing Board flat (HDB flat) under the police scheme. But the couple, owing to certain differences and misunderstandings concerning the renovation of the HDB flat and other matters, never resided there. Instead, a room was rented from October 1984 at $300 per month in a building in River Valley Road and this was their matrimonial home. The couple began to live apart from December 1984 as they could not reconcile their differences although according to the complainant, the respondent only stopped staying with her from April 1985, as from which date the respondent neglected to maintain her. The magistrate found that the respondent had no reason to leave the complainant. She testified that she still loved her husband and wanted to live with him but he was not willing to take her back.

As a police constable, the complainant was earning a gross salary of $998.08 per month and a net salary, after deduction of Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution, of $699.08 per month.
She claimed that her monthly expenses were: $200 on taxi, $200 on transport, $120 for lunch, $300 for clothing, shoes, cosmetics, etc, $200 for entertainment, and $400 for board and lodging, making a total of $1,620. She asked for $600 per month for maintenance.

The respondent was earning a gross salary of $873 per month, which, after deducting CPF contribution, produced a net sum of $654.
As a flight steward, he was entitled to meal allowances whenever he was on flight duty in any international sector of SIA`s network. His meal allowances for the period of six months prior to the date of the hearing averaged about $1,300 per month (although a letter dated 7 August 1985 from SIA and admitted in evidence stated that the average was $1,500 per month), of which 70% thereof would normally (but not necessarily so as a lower figure was permissible) be utilised, thus leaving 30% thereof which was receivable in cash. His monthly expenses were: $120 on taxi; $80 for other transport; $300 to his mother; $50 on clothing; $60 to dry clean his uniform and $150 to $200 for outings, making a total of $760 to $810.

The magistrate found, quite correctly, that the expenses of the complainant were too high in respect of transport, entertainment and also that there was no proof of the $400 payment for board and lodging.

On the above facts, the magistrate ordered maintenance of $350 per month with effect from 14 June 1985.

Before me, the respondent`s counsel conceded that the respondent`s conduct amounted to wilful neglect to maintain his wife but contended that maintenance of $350 per month was manifestly excessive as the wife`s salary was more than sufficient for her needs.
There was no change in her standard of living before and after separation. As far as board and lodging were concerned, he said that there was no evidence of the complainant having to rent a flat, but although he submitted that $400 per month for board and lodging was too high, he was prepared to accept a figure of $300 per month as reasonable, this being the amount the complainant was paying to her mother for food and lodging prior to her marriage. Her other needs, eg entertainment, transport, food and other miscellaneous expenses could be met from her salary.

As regards the meal allowances receivable by the respondent, it was argued that the meal allowance was for subsistence and was not part of the earnings of the respondent as defined in s 68 of the Women`s Charter (Cap 47, 1970 Ed) (the Charter).
That being so, that item should not have been taken into account by the magistrate for the purpose of determining the total earnings of the respondent. I rejected the relevance of this argument. The definition of earnings in s 68 is enacted for the purpose of enforcing maintenance orders; it has nothing to do with s 60 of the Charter relating to the making of maintenance orders nor does it cut down the court`s duty to have regard to all the circumstances of the case under 60(4) of the Charter. All circumstances would include taking into account all sources of income and capital of the parties.

The respondent`s counsel also argued that the magistrate`s order was also wrong in law because it resulted in the wife having a higher standard of living than the husband as she would be paid more than the husband, ie $1,049 per month against $694.
In support of his argument, he cited the judgment of Sir Jocelyn Simon P in Attwood v Attwood [1968] 3 All ER 385 where at p 388 the learned President said: `... neither should the standard of living of the wife be put significantly higher than that of the husband, since so to do would in effect amount to imposing a fine on...

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7 cases
  • PQR (mw) v STR
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 4 December 1992
    ... ... or age limit on maintenance during marriage as opposed to maintenance outside marriage or as an ancillary in or after divorce proceedings.In Sengol v De Witt ,13 Chan Sek Kheong JC (as he then was) accepted that the principles to be applied for maintenance under s 107 were the same as those ... ...
  • TCT v TCU
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 22 May 2015
    ... ... Relevant cases ... In Sengol v De Witt [1987] 1 MLJ 201 (“ Sengol ”), in the context of the relevant factors to determine the amount of maintenance to be ordered, the High ... ...
  • TGO v TGN
    • Singapore
    • Family Court (Singapore)
    • 31 August 2015
    ...which would take effect from the date of the application and not the date when the order was actually made: see Sengol v De Witt [1985-1986] SLR(R) 809. Some of the examples of the considerations stated at [16] in Lee Siew Choo v Ling Chin Thor which the Court could consider in deciding whe......
  • Kalutara Achriage Dharshani Chrishanthi Herbert v P L B Sarath Manukularatne
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 8 April 2003
    ...that the duration of the marriage is a relevant factor to be considered when ordering maintenance for a wife. In Sengol v De Witt [1986] 1 SLR 323, the husband and the wife began to live apart 9 months after their marriage. The wife, a police constable, sought maintenance from the husband, ......
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