TAN v TAO

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeMasayu Norashikin
Judgment Date18 March 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 28
Citation[2015] SGFC 28
Publication Date19 August 2015
Docket NumberD1109 of 2013
Plaintiff CounselMr John Ng [ Michael Khoo & Partners]
Defendant CounselMs Wong Soo Chih [Ho Wong Law Practice LLC]
SubjectCatchphrase: Family law,division of matrimonial flat in accordance with proportion of CPF contributions,wife having more assets in her sole name,wife earning more than husband - no maintenance for the wife
District Judge Masayu Norashikin : Introduction

On 23 December 2014, I heard the ancillary matters and ordered as follows:- Parties shall have joint custody of the 2 children, with care and control to the Defendant, and reasonable access to the Plaintiff. There shall be no maintenance for the Defendant. The Plaintiff shall pay the Defendant monthly maintenance of $368 for the 2 children with effect from 31 December 2014 and thereafter on the last day of each month. Payment to be deposited into the Defendant’s designated bank account. The Defendant shall have the first option to purchase the Plaintiff’s share in the matrimonial flat by paying the Plaintiff 76.8% of the nett value of the flat (being market value less the outstanding loan). Plaintiff to refund his own CPF account from the amount paid to him. If the amount is insufficient to pay his CPF monies with accrued interest in full, the Plaintiff shall make a partial refund of his CPF. The option is to be exercised within 4 months of the Certificate of Final Judgment. The Defendant is to take over the outstanding mortgage loan. In the event the Defendant does not exercise the option, the matrimonial flat shall be sold in the open market within 6 months thereafter. Nett proceeds, after payment of the outstanding mortgage loan and costs and expenses of sale, shall be divided in the proportion of parties’ respective CPF contributions (76.8% to the Plaintiff and 23.2% to the Defendant). Each party to refund their own CPF accounts of the amounts utilised with accrued interest from their respective shares. If there is a shortfall from the respective shares, the parties shall make a partial refund to their CPF accounts from the distributed share. Parties to have joint conduct of the sale. Each party to retain assets in their respective names. Liberty to apply. Each party to bear their own costs.

The Defendant wife appealed against the orders relating to the matrimonial flat, her maintenance and the children’s maintenance. I now set out the reasons for my decision.

Background

Parties were married on 1 March 1994 and have 2 children who were aged 18 and 15 years at the time of the hearing. Interim Judgment was granted on 4 September 2013 with the marriage being dissolved by reason that parties had lived apart for a period of at least 3 years (since February 2010) and the Defendant consented to the judgment being granted.

The Plaintiff was 55 years old, a freelance mini-bus driver, and said his nett monthly income was $1,000. He had been retrenched in 2012 and his last drawn pay as a Management Support Officer was said to be $1,700 per month.

The Defendant was 52 years old, a customer service manager in a bank and said her nett monthly income was $6,764.

Parties agreed on joint custody of the children, with care and control to the Defendant and reasonable access to the Plaintiff. The outstanding issues were the division of matrimonial assets, maintenance for the Defendant wife and maintenance for the 2 children.

It was undisputed that parties’ direct financial contributions through CPF towards the purchase of the current matrimonial flat was about 76.8% by the Plaintiff husband and 23.2% by the Defendant wife. The estimated value of the current flat and parties’ respective CPF contributions towards the purchase are summarised in the table below.

S/no. Item Value
(1) Estimated value (average of values in Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s respective Fact and Position Sheets) $685,000.00
(2) Outstanding loan (as at 21 January 2013) $115,213.39
(3) Plaintiff’s CPF contributions $313,248.00 (principal) $98,389.93 (interest) As at 4 Sept 2013
(4) Defendant’s CPF contributions $94.340.20 (principal) $34,422.42 (interest) As at 1 Oct 2013
(5) Proportion of contributions (based on CPF principal amounts utilised) Plaintiff: 76.8% Defendant 23.2%
(6) Nett value of flat (estimated value less outstanding loan) $569,786.61
Division of matrimonial assets Plaintiff’s case

The Plaintiff said he was previously in the motor car industry for 30 years and was a Parts Manager. However, he said he did not earn as much as the Defendant currently did. Parties’ agreement was that he would pay a larger part of the housing mortgage and bear the family expenses, while the Defendant’s income would be used for the family’s savings and investments as well as help out in the children’s expenses. He admitted that the Defendant did pay for the children’s pocket money and that her indirect financial contributions was about $1,000 a month.

The Plaintiff said that he had used the bulk of his CPF monies for the matrimonial home, leaving the Defendant’s CPF monies largely intact for rainy days. He also made substantial indirect financial contributions during the marriage. The Plaintiff’s alleged indirect financial contributions were: initial cash payment of $98,000 for the flat; renovations of $100,000; utilities and conservancy charges, maid salary and levy, property tax and telephone bills; and marketing and children’s expenses.

As at his last affidavit, the Plaintiff said he was still paying for the utilities, conservancy and school fees.

The Plaintiff said that while there were proceeds of sale from parties’ previous flat, this was used up, with $100,000 being used for renovations and furniture and the balance $70,000 fully used for family expenses since 2000 whenever he was in between jobs. After he was retrenched in 2012, he had to beg the Defendant to help pay the household bills and for his car. The Defendant was not supportive and made it very difficult for him.

As a result, he had spent all his money on the family and had no savings left. In comparison, the Defendant was able to and did use most of her monthly income for savings and investments. The Plaintiff submitted that this was clear from a comparison of parties’ respective assets. He said the value of his assets was $211,555.24, whereas the value of the Defendant’s assets was $1,206,427.92. The specific items of parties’ assets are listed in paragraph 40 below.

The Plaintiff had included in the Defendant’s assets bank transfers of $82,000 and alleged unaccounted transactions worth $66,696.94. The Plaintiff highlighted that the Defendant had transferred $50,000 to her mother and $16,000 to each of the two daughters on 20 September 2013, totalling $82,000. This was just after the grant of the Interim Judgment. He submitted that the Defendant was trying to reduce the amount of assets she had to disclose. This information came to light only after he asked for discovery. The Plaintiff also submitted that there were numerous suspicious and unexplained transactions carried out from the Defendant’s bank account on certain days amounting to a total of $66,696.94. His counsel submitted that she could have invested the sums and had more than the invested sums now. For example, there were electronic fund transfers and unitellar withdrawals of: 15 transactions on 20 April 2013; 45 transactions on 13 July 2013; 46 transactions on 14 August 2013; and 64 transactions on 3 January 2012.

In terms of his indirect and non-financial contributions to the family, the Plaintiff’s evidence was that he had not been an absentee father. On the contrary, he was the more involved parent compared to the Defendant. He had taken care of the daughters when they were schooling, sent them to school at times, took leave to attend to their illness and attend meet-the-parents sessions in school. The Defendant had worked long hours, was seldom home and left the care of the family to him and the maid. When there was a maid, it was he and the maids who took care of the daughters’ needs and the housework. The Plaintiff said he was the one who had to teach the maids to carry out various chores as the Defendant only told the maids what to do but did not coach them. He had also taken care of the maintenance and repairs of the matrimonial homes. After the maid left in about 2010, the Plaintiff did the laundry and ironing for the whole family, tidied the house and cleaned the toilets. Once the divorce papers were filed in 2013, he said he stopped doing the housework as the Defendant showed much contempt towards him. The Defendant did not take over doing the housework or doing it properly, as the house was in disarray after the Plaintiff stopped doing the housework.

The Plaintiff wanted the matrimonial flat to be sold, and the nett proceeds (after repayment of the loan, refund of parties’ respective CPF accounts and payment of costs and expenses of sale) to be divided 80:20 in his favour, with the Defendant having the option to buy over his share. As for the other matrimonial assets, the Plaintiff proposed that each party would be given 35% of the other party’s assets, excluding CPF refunds from the sale or transfer of the flat.

Defendant’s case

The Defendant’s position and evidence on parties’ indirect financial contributions was detailed and at times contradictory on the issues of what each party paid for during the marriage, how much the sale proceeds from the previous flat were, and what the proceeds were used for. Evidence in her first Affidavit of Assets and Means filed on 4 October 2013: The Defendant paid for all household and children expenses, while the Plaintiff paid for utilities, conservancy and his car. The Defendant said that the car was utilised solely by the Plaintiff and he did not even send the children to school. As such, the Defendant had to pay for the children’s school bus fees. She also paid for furniture and household fittings, family holidays to Bintan and for a country club membership. Nett profits from the previous matrimonial flat estimated at $80,000 to $100,000 were retained by the Plaintiff entirely after part of it (about $50,000) was spent on renovation....

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