Tan Cheng Guan v Tan Hwee Lee

JurisdictionSingapore
Judgment Date26 September 2011
Date26 September 2011
Docket NumberDivorce Transferred No 1658 of
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Tan Cheng Guan
Plaintiff
and
Tan Hwee Lee
Defendant

Choo Han Teck J

Divorce Transferred No 1658 of 2008

High Court

Family Law—Custody

Family Law—Maintenance—Wife—Child

Family Law—Matrimonial assets—Division—Whether inter-spousal gift was matrimonial asset—Section 112 (10) Women's Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed)

The plaintiff (husband) and the defendant (wife) divorced each other after a 28-year marriage. During the marriage, the husband was the sole breadwinner while the wife looked after the household and the parties' two daughters, now aged 23 and 21 years old. The parties owned three properties which included 32 Seletar Hills Drive Singapore 807047 (‘32 SHD’) and 34 Seletar Hills Drive Singapore 807049 (‘34 SHD’) . 32 SHD was the matrimonial home from 1981 to 1999, but from 1999 onwards, the parties resided at 34 SHD. When their relationship deteriorated, the wife claimed the husband gave her 32 SHD to persuade her not to end the marriage. It was this property which raised the issue of whether an inter-spousal gift formed part of the pool of assets liable for division under s 112 (10) of the Women's Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) (‘s 112 (10) WC’) .

Held, granting the application in part:

Division of matrimonial assets

(1) Generally, the process of dividing matrimonial assets had three stages: first, the pooling of the assets and the ascertainment of the value of the pool; second, deciding the ‘fair and equitable’ division between the parties; and finally, giving effect to the percentage division: at [3].

(2) The Court should not exclude the inter-spousal gift from the matrimonial pool at the first stage because the qualifying words of s 112 (10) WC only attached to assets that were never part of the matrimonial pool to begin with. It did not apply to gifts which were purchased with a pre-existing matrimonial asset, such as a spouse's salary. In the latter situation, only the identity of the asset changes. It did not lose its nature of being a matrimonial asset: at [3].

(3) An inter-spousal gift, acquired by the donor other than as a gift or inheritance from a third party, remained a matrimonial asset. Although this might appear contrary to the layman's intuitive belief that a gift was irrevocable, the concept of gift remained valid, but applied only at the third stage, when the court decided how to give effect to the percentage division it had ordered, and not earlier. At the same time, considering the gift at the third stage enabled the court to give effect to the irrevocability of the inter-spousal gift: at [3].

(4) The High Court in Wan Lai Cheng v Quek Seok Kee [2011] 2 SLR 814 (‘Wan Lai Cheng’) took the view that inter-spousal gifts were not part of the matrimonial pool to be valued at the first stage. This was not followed for three reasons. First, a transfer of a gift changed the legal ownership of the asset or the identity of the asset. The nature of the inter-spousal gift however, as a matrimonial asset, was not affected. To hold otherwise ran contrary to the idea of joint property in marriage. In Wan Lai Cheng, the court did not say whether the inter-spousal gift was acquired by the donor husband by his efforts or, as a gift or inheritance from a third party. If it was the latter, that sufficiently distinguished Wan Lai Cheng from the present case. Second, contrary to view of the High Court in Wan Lai Cheng, there was a clear distinction made in s 112 (10) WC between third party and inter-spousal gifts. Third, regarding an inter-spousal gift as a matrimonial asset provided better justification as to why the courts took it into consideration at the second stage of the division of matrimonial assets. However, though the reasoning differed from that in Wan Lai Cheng, the practical outcome in most cases would likely be the same: at [4] to [6].

(5) In the light of the abovementioned principles, the husband had made an effective gift of 32 SHD to the wife. It was still part of the matrimonial pool of assets which was divided 50:50 between the parties. The wife's share included 32 SHD: at [7] and [8].

Maintenance issue

(6) The wife applied for maintenance following which the husband was ordered to pay the wife S$6,000 a month for herself and the two children, in addition to the children's school fees and education related expenses. This quantum awarded was varied only to take into account the fact that the older daughter was now above 21 years of age: at [9].

(7) The husband was to pay the younger daughter S$2,000 a month directly, as well as her education expenses and fees, until she graduated from university. She was old enough to manage her own expenses and thus her monthly maintenance could go directly to her: at [9].

Custody, care and control

(8) Both parties agree that they should have joint custody of the younger daughter, with care and control to the wife, and reasonable access to the husband until the younger daughter attained 21 years of age. An order in such terms was made: at [10].

Chen Siew Hwee v Low Kee Guan [2006] 4 SLR (R) 605; [2006] 4 SLR 605 (r...

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14 cases
  • Tan Hwee Lee v Tan Cheng Guan
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 30 August 2012
    ...and the wife, Tan Hwee Lee (‘the Wife’) against the decision of the High Court judge (‘the Judge’) in Tan Cheng Guan v Tan Hwee Lee [2011] 4 SLR 1148 (‘the Judgment’) with regard to the division of matrimonial assets and the order of maintenance. Civil Appeal No 135 of 2011 (‘CA 135/2011’) ......
  • Chan Yuen Boey v Sia Hee Soon
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 2 May 2012
    ...ranged between 35% to 50% of the total matrimonial assets (see ZD v ZE and Another [2008] SGHC 225, Tan Cheng Guan v Tan Hwee Lee [2011] 4 SLR 1148, AXC v AXD [2012] SGHC 15, Wong Ser Wan v Ng Cheong Ling [2006] 1 SLR(R) 416, Yow Mee Lan v Chen Kai Buan [2000] 2 SLR(R) 659, Rosaline Singh v......
  • TKK v TKL
    • Singapore
    • Family Court (Singapore)
    • 22 January 2016
    ...with children ranged between 35% to 50% of the total matrimonial assets (see ZD v ZE [2008] SGHC 225, Tan Cheng Guan v Tan Hwee Lee [2011] 4 SLR 1148, AXC v AXD [2012] SGHC 15, Wong Ser Wan v Ng Cheong Ling [2006] 1 SLR(R) 416, Yow Mee Lan v Chen Kai Buan [2000] 2 SLR(R) 659, Rosaline Singh......
  • Chan Tin Sun v Fong Quay Sim
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 12 May 2014
    ...years with children ranged between 35% to 50% of the total matrimonial assets (see ZD v ZE[2008] SGHC 225, Tan Cheng Guan v Tan Hwee Lee[2011] 4 SLR 1148, AXC v AXD[2012] SGHC 15, Wong Ser Wan v Ng Cheong Ling[2006] 1 SLR (R) 416, Yow Mee Lan v Chen Kai Buan[2000] 2 SLR (R) 659, Rosaline Si......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Family Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2012, December 2012
    • 1 December 2012
    ...from the pool of assets available for division. However, the High Court in two subsequent cases in 2011, Tan Cheng Guan v Tan Hwee Lee[2011] 4 SLR 1148 and Sigrid Else Roger Marthe Wauters v Lieven Corneel Leo Raymond Van Den Brande[2011] SGHC 237 held that inter-spousal gifts remained matr......
  • Family Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2011, December 2011
    • 1 December 2011
    ...other, are not matrimonial assets. 15.26 The High Court in two subsequent cases took a different view. In Tan Cheng Guan v Tan Hwee Lee[2011] 4 SLR 1148 (Tan Cheng Guan) and Sigrid Else Roger Marthe Wauters v Lieven Corneel Leo Raymond Van Den Brande[2011] SGHC 237 (Sigrid), Choo Han Teck J......

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