Tan Hock Soon v Chew Jee Kee Neo Dolly

JudgeKoh Juat Jong
Judgment Date24 August 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGDC 31
Published date19 September 2003
Citation[2000] SGDC 31
CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)




1 The parties were married on 1 August 1964. They have three children all of whom were sui juris at the time of hearing. A decree nisi to dissolve their marriage was granted on 8 July 1998 based on the unreasonable behaviour of both parties as cited in the petition and the cross-petition, as amended. The decree was granted on an uncontested basis. The ancillary matters then came before me for hearing and I made the following orders:

(a) the pensions gratuity of the husband to be divided was found to be $350,000 and the wife shall be entitled to $140,000 being 40% of the amount of $350,000;

(b) the matrimonial home shall be sold in the open market with the husband having the conduct of the sale and either party being at liberty to appoint his own housing agent; and the home shall be sold to the highest offerer found within one month;

(c) the proceeds of sale, after deducting the outstanding housing loan and the costs and expenses of the sale, shall be divided in the following manner:

(i) one-third to the eldest daughter;

(ii) 40% of the two-third share to the wife;

(iii) 60% of the two-third share to the husband; and

each party shall make the necessary refund to the CPF Board from his or her own share;

(d) the amount of $140,000 due to the wife shall be paid to her from the husband’s share of the sale proceeds of the matrimonial property;

(e) the orders were in respect of the wife’s claim for maintenance and a share in the matrimonial assets and the wife shall not be entitled to any further maintenance, provided that the husband shall continue to pay until end of July 2000 the amount of maintenance to the wife as ordered under the interim maintenance order and for August to October 2000, that amount after deducting the amount of maid’s salary and foreign worker’s levy;

(f) either party shall have the liberty to apply; and

(g) there shall be no order as to costs.

2 The wife has appealed against the orders made.

    Matrimonial Assets

3 The main assets of the parties were the matrimonial home at Lorong Marican and a sum of pensions gratuity received by the husband when he retired in July 1997 from the civil service. Parties also had other assets. However, during the hearing, parties agreed that in respect of the division of matrimonial assets, only the matrimonial property and the gratuity be considered. The wife further submitted that she be given a share of the gratuity either as lump sum maintenance or as her share in the matrimonial assets.

The Matrimonial Home

4 The matrimonial home is a 3-storey terrace house with the husband, the wife and their eldest daughter, Corinne Tan as tenants-in-common in equal shares. It was bought in 1988 at the price of $560,000. At the time of purchase, the following amounts were paid:

(a) from husband’s CPF $97,112

(b) from Corinne’s CPF $20,923

(c) cash $241,964

(d) loan $200,000

The monthly mortgage repayments were made by the husband and the daughter from their CPF accounts and from their own cash. There were disputes as to the exact sums paid by the husband and Corinne. The husband took out proceedings under Originating Summons No. 1668 of 1999 in the High Court seeking a determination of Corrine’s beneficial ownership of the matrimonial home but subsequently withdrew it on the day of hearing. Corinne filed affidavits for the purpose of this hearing to state her claim of one-third share of the matrimonial home. At this hearing, parties accepted that the share of Corinne in the matrimonial home would be one-third, leaving two-third of the net value of matrimonial home as matrimonial assets to be divided between the husband and the wife.

5 The value of the home was $1.05 million with an outstanding loan of about $121,000. Taking $15,000 as the estimated expense of the sale, the net value of the home was about $913,000 and the two-third share to be divided was about $609,000.

The Gratuity

6 The husband received a lump sum gratuity of $511,886 in July 1997. He said that he put the monies into accounts in Malaysia and that he suffered losses because of the currency controls imposed by the Malaysian Government. He did not however produce any documents on his accounts. At the hearing, his counsel suggested that an account be taken of the original sum of $511,886 by deducting reasonable expenses and the balance to be divided. The wife’s share of the gratuity could be paid out of the husband’s share of the sale proceeds of the matrimonial home. He explained that the husband was unwilling to withdraw the monies from the Malaysian accounts as currency losses would be suffered.

7 The deductions claimed by the husband and conceded by the wife for 35 months since the receipt of the gratuity were as follows:


Amount claimed by husband ($)

Amount conceded by wife ($)

(1) Expenses on wife and matrimonial home


(2,324 per month)
(a) Maintenance of the wife and household expenses

34,054 (973 per month)


(b) Maid’s expenses

20,758 (593 per month)


(c) Housing loan repayments

26,537 (758 per month)


(2) Expenses of the husband


(1,743 per month)

(a) Accommodation



(b) Utilities



(c) Others



(3) Provisions from May to October 2000

Wife’s expenses


(at 2,324 per month)

Husband’s expenses


(at 1,743 per month)

The wife accepted $81,349 as expenses on her and the matrimonial home but said that there was no evidence of the husband’s rental and utilities payment and only half the amount should be deducted. I agreed that the husband had not adduced documentary proof of the rental and utilities payment. However, I was of the view that his monthly amount of $1,743 on the whole was reasonable and allowed the whole amount. I also agreed that the provisions should be allowed for expenses from May to October 2000 as I would allow the maintenance order to continue until October. The net amount for distribution would then be $345,114 and I rounded it off to $350,000. The computations were as follows:

Lump sum maintenance



Expenses on Wife and Matrimonial home



Expenses of husband



Provisions from May to Oct 2000 for wife



Provisions from May to Oct 2000 for husband


Balance to be divided


I had at the end of the hearing decided that the husband would only be responsible for the expenses of the maid up to end of July 2000. The figure still fell below $350,000 even with this adjustment of $1,779.

Division of Matrimonial Assets

8 The husband argued that the wife should only receive between 15% to 35% of the value of the matrimonial assets based on the authorities. The wife asked for a 50% share.

9 In Ong Chen Leng v Tan Sau Poo [1993] 3 SLR 137 (Court of Appeal), the wife was awarded 35% of the matrimonial home. The parties were married for 23 years and they had three children. The wife was for the large part of the marriage a housewife. In Lam Chih Kian v Ong Chin Ngoh [1993] 2 SLR 253, the Court awarded the wife who was a part-time beautician 45% of the matrimonial assets. The parties were married for 17 years and they had two children. In Wong Amy v Chua Seng Chuan [1992] 2 SLR 360 (High Court), the parties were married for 18 years and had two children. The wife who worked as an insurance agent was given 20% of the matrimonial home for her indirect contribution. In Ng Hwee Keng v Chia Soon Hin William [1995] 2 SLR 231 (Court of Appeal), both parties were working and the wife of the 19 years’ marriage was given 20% for her indirect contribution. These were all cases under the old section 106 of the Women’s Charter.

10 The wife’s counsel argued that under the new section 112, the starting point for a long marriage should be equal division. The husband’s counsel argued that each case should still be determined on its own facts and there should not be any presumption of equal division.

11 The wife’s counsel cited Leong Wai Kum’s commentary in Volume 6 of Butterworths’ Annotated Statutes of Singapore (Family) at page 322:

"The new s112 avoids the infelicities of the predecessor provision and permits further development of this powerful mechanism to bring economic fairness to the spouses. The abandonment of the bias favouring financial contribution truly equates financial contribution with non-financial contribution. With this, a just and equitable division should, generally, be on equal division."

12 Three cases were discussed by counsel. In Soh Chan Soon v Tan Choon Yock (DCA 5017 of 1997, unreported) (High Court, 17 June 1998), the District Judge granted 63% of the value of matrimonial home to the wife, taking into account meticulously the direct financial contributions of both parties. The husband appealed and asked for an equal division. Warren Khoo J refused to reduce the share of the wife. But he made the following observations:

"There is a touch of artificiality in such cases to use as the starting point in a division of the matrimonial assets the amount of money each party has contributed directly towards the acquisition of the home. This ignores the indirect contributions, monetary and otherwise, most of which are incapable of any meaningful ascertainment either because no record was kept or because the...

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