Sita Jaswant Kaur v Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date16 September 2013
Date16 September 2013
Docket NumberDivorce Transferred No 898 of 2007

High Court

Choo Han Teck J

Divorce Transferred No 898 of 2007

Sita Jaswant Kaur
Plaintiff
and
Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh
Defendant

Suchitra Ragupathy (Rodyk & Davidson LLP) for the plaintiff

George Lim SC and Jinny Tan (Wee Tay & Lim LLP) for the defendant.

Anthony Patrick Nathan v Chan Siew Chin [2011] 4 SLR 1121 (refd)

Lian Hwee Choo Phebe v Tan Seng Ong [2013] 3 SLR 1162 (refd)

Lock Yeng Fun v Chua Hock Chye [2007] 3 SLR (R) 520; [2007] 3 SLR 520 (refd)

Yeo Chong Lin v Tay Ang Choo Nancy [2011] 2 SLR 1157 (refd)

Women's Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) ss 112 (2) , 112 (10) (b)

Family Law—Divorce—Settlement agreement—Whether settlement agreement following mediation should be upheld on grounds on public policy of encouraging mediation—Whether division contemplated in settlement agreement was just and equitable under s 112 (2) Women's Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) —Section 112 (2) Women's Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed)

Family Law—Matrimonial assets—Division—Whether property purchased during marriage with moneys belonging to party before marriage constituted matrimonial asset under s 112 (10) Women's Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) —Date of valuation of matrimonial assets—Section 112 (10) Women's Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed)

The plaintiff wife and defendant husband were married in March 1972 and had two adult sons who were living overseas. The wife moved out of the matrimonial home in 2002, and filed a writ of divorce in February 2007. Interim judgment was granted in November 2007 on the basis of four years' separation.

On 11 May 2011, the parties attended a mediation session with legal representation, and entered into a settlement agreement (‘Settlement Agreement’) whereby the parties would retain one Singapore property each, and jointly account for an overdraft account secured on one of the properties. The husband later filed a summons for the terms of the Settlement Agreement to be recorded as a consent judgment, but the wife objected to this. The district judge declined to make an order, holding that it was for the judge hearing the ancillary matters to determine whether the Settlement Agreement was binding on the parties. The wife argued that the Settlement Agreement was not binding as she had been fatigued and oppressed and did not fully understand the terms of the argument. The husband argued that the court should generally respect and endorse agreements entered into by parties at arm's length and give effect to the public policy of encouraging mediation.

Held:

(1) Agreements made in contemplation of divorce should comply with the doctrines applicable to the law of contract, and there was no contractual basis for the wife to claim that she was not bound by the Settlement Agreement as she was legally represented and the negotiations were conducted at arm's length. The terms were also not so uncertain as to render the division of the assets unworkable: at [4] .

(2) However, such an agreement was only one of the factors that the court would take into account under s 112 (2) of the Women's Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed), and the division proposed under the Settlement Agreement was not just and equitable. There was also no basis to enforce the Settlement Agreement to advance the public policy of encouraging mediation; mediation formed only part of the context and vague considerations of public policy could not override the court's duty to ensure that the settlement was fair and equitable: at [5] and [6] .

(3) The property located at #10-317 City Towers (‘the City Towers Property’) clearly fell within the definition of a matrimonial asset under s 112 (10) (b) of the Women's Charter as an ‘asset of any nature acquired during the marriage by one party’, notwithstanding that the wife had paid for the property using funds acquired solely by her prior to marriage: at [8] .

(4) The two Singapore properties were valued on the basis of the most current valuations presented to the court on the first hearing as it was almost four years before the matter came before the court and it would not be realistic to assume that the properties had not increased in value since the affidavits of assets and means were filed in March 2009: at [9] .

(5) There was limited evidence on the respective financial contributions of the parties to the acquisition of the Singapore and Malaysian properties in the parties' names, but the documentary evidence clearly indicated that the wife had contributed substantially to the initial outlay for the City Towers Property and a property located at 38 B Jalan Mat Jambol. However, there was no clear division in the way that the parties had managed their finances, and the husband had to have played at least some part in servicing the loans taken to purchase the properties. On balance, the wife's direct contributions were marginally larger: at [12] .

(6) The evidence indicated that the husband was a responsible father and had been heavily involved in the upbringing of their sons, but the claims that the wife was a virtually absent wife and mother appeared to be exaggerated, and the wife's indirect contributions to the household over the years could not be assumed to be nugatory: at [13] .

(7) Taking into account the entirety of each party's direct and indirect contributions and the length of the almost 30-year marriage, the matrimonial assets were ordered to be divided in approximately equal proportions: at [14] .

Judgment reserved.

Choo Han Teck J

1 The defendant husband is 69 years old and a part-time remisier. The plaintiff wife is 66 years old and is the licensee of an employment agency. The parties married on 8 March 1972 and have two sons of the marriage aged 40 years old and 35 years old respectively, who both reside overseas. The wife filed a writ for divorce on 28 February 2007 and was granted interim judgment on 2 November 2007 on the basis of four years' separation. The parties have been effectively separated since 2002 after the wife moved out of the matrimonial home.

2 On 11 May 2011, parties attended a mediation session at Maxwell Chambers presided over by an experienced lawyer who is also a mediator with the Singapore Mediation Centre. Both parties were legally represented. After the mediation session, both parties signed a handwritten agreement (‘the Settlement Agreement’), which stated as follows:

AGREEMENT

DIVORCE D 898/2007/G

The Parties have, by consent, agreed as follows.

  1. 1. The Plaintiff wife shall retain the property at #03-17 City Towers. The Defendant...

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3 cases
  • Wong Kien Keong v Khoo Hoon Eng
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 20 December 2013
    ...(refd) Pang Rosaline v Chan Kong Chin [2009] 4 SLR (R) 935; [2009] 4 SLR 935 (refd) Sita Jaswant Kaur v Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh [2013] 4 SLR 838 (refd) TQ v TR [2009] 2 SLR (R) 961; [2009] 2 SLR 961 (refd) Wan Lai Cheng v Quek Seow Kee [2012] 4 SLR 405 (refd) Wong Kam Fong Anne v A......
  • Wong Kien Keong v Khoo Hoon Eng
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 20 December 2013
    ...to determine how much weight to give to the Agreement. In the later decision of Sita Jaswant Kaur v Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh [2013] 4 SLR 838 (“Sita Jaswant Kuar”), Choo Han Teck J found that the settlement agreement that parties had signed after a mediation session was unjust and i......
  • Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh v Sita Jaswant Kaur
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 7 July 2014
    ...than provided for in the Settlement Agreement. The Judge's grounds can be found at Sita Jaswant Kaur v Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh[2013] 4 SLR 838 (‘the Judgment’). 4 The husband has appealed against the Judgment and the main issue before this court is what weight should be given to th......
1 books & journal articles
  • Family Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2013, December 2013
    • 1 December 2013
    ...decide on technical issues of upholding party autonomy and contracts. … 16.66 In Sita Jaswant Kaur v Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh[2013] 4 SLR 838 (‘Sita Jaswant’), the parties, both legally represented, signed a handwritten settlement agreement after attending a mediation session presid......

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