TAP v TAQ

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeSharon Lim
Judgment Date02 March 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 22
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberD 1253 of 2012, DCA 4 of 2015
Year2015
Published date10 April 2015
Hearing Date12 January 2015
Plaintiff CounselMs Alina Sim [M/S AXIS LAW CORPORATION]
Defendant CounselMr Robin Tan [M/S ROBIN TAN & CO.]
Subject MatterCatch Words: Family Law,Divorce-Ancillary matters-Division of matrimonial assets
Citation[2015] SGFC 22
District Judge Sharon Lim: Introduction

The plaintiff husband and defendant wife were married on 1 July 1989. They have two sons, one of whom is already 23 years of age. The younger son is still a minor, aged 16 years old. Interim judgment for the divorce was granted on 21 August 2012 based on both parties’ claims of behaviour of the other party such that it would be unreasonable to expect them to continue living with each other, causing the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

The parties had reached a settlement on the issue of custody, care and control of and access to the minor child earlier. I dealt with the remaining ancillary matters and made the following orders:

The matrimonial flat at xxx shall be sold on the open market and the net sale proceeds (less costs and expenses of the sale) shall be divided in the proportion 40% to the Plaintiff and 60% to the Defendant. The parties are to refund their respective CPF accounts of the monies used and interest accrued thereon as required by the CPF Board from their respective shares. The sale of the said property shall take place within 6 months from the date of this order. The Registrar of the Family Justice Courts shall be empowered to sign and/or execute all documents relating to the sale of the said flat on behalf of either party, if that party declines to do so upon being given 10 working days’ written notice by the requesting party. The party seeking the Registrar’s signature shall file an affidavit setting out the efforts to obtain the defaulting party’s signature(s). Parties are to retain all other assets in their names and there shall be no further division of matrimonial assets. There shall be no maintenance for the Defendant. The Plaintiff shall maintain the children of the marriage solely. The Plaintiff’s Counsel is to write to the Official Assignee (with copy to the court) to update the Official Assignee on the court order made today.”

The defendant was dissatisfied with order (a) pertaining to the division of the matrimonial flat and appealed. I now give the reasons for my decision.

Brief background facts

The plaintiff husband is 55 years old and employed as the chief executive officer of a company. He draws a gross monthly salary of $5,000. He is currently an undischarged bankrupt. This is his second bankruptcy. He was also a bankrupt between 1991 and 2004. The defendant wife is 55 years old. She is currently a homemaker, although she was a practising advocate and solicitor till 1998. Between 1998 and 2009, the defendant was employed by the company run by the plaintiff.

The marriage spanned some 23 years although, based on the information in the pleadings, relations between the parties had been unhappy for some time. This led to the parties living apart from October 2010 onwards and the filing of the divorce papers in 2012. The parties have two sons. The older son is over 21 years old. He is attending culinary school and lives with the plaintiff. The plaintiff claims to still be financially supporting this son as he is suffering from depression. By agreement, the parties’ younger son, who is 16 years old, is also living with and being supported by the plaintiff.

Decision

The matrimonial property that is the subject matter of the appeal is a private apartment in Buona Vista (‘the flat’). The parties purchased it before their marriage, for $375,000, although the title was issued after they were already married. The flat is fully paid up for. There was a dispute over the issue of whether the flat should be regarded as a matrimonial asset, and if so, what the proportion of financial and non-financial contributions by the parties was. The plaintiff sought 65% of all the matrimonial assets and the defendant sought 100% of the flat.

Was the flat a matrimonial asset?

The defendant claimed that when the flat was first purchased, the parties had agreed to hold it as tenants-in-common (defendant with 999/1000 share and plaintiff with 1/1000 share) as she had paid most of the monies towards its acquisition. Thereafter in 1991, the plaintiff transferred his 1/1000 share to the defendant. In return, the defendant claims to have paid the plaintiff $59,000 which was refunded into the plaintiff’s CPF account. Accordingly, the defendant asserts that the Official Assignee regarded the flat as belonging to the plaintiff entirely. She argued that while the flat was the matrimonial home, it was not a matrimonial asset subject to division and that the plaintiff could not make a claim to it by the ‘backdoor’ of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) (“the Charter”).

The plaintiff submitted that the flat was a matrimonial asset according to the definition in s 112(10) of the Charter, as it is: “(a) any asset acquired before the marriage by one party or both parties to the marriage – ordinarily used or enjoyed by both parties or one or more of their children while the parties are residing together for shelter or transportation or for household, education, recreational, social or aesthetic purposes; or which has been substantially improved during the marriage by the other party or by both parties to the marriage; ….”

The parties’ contributions

The plaintiff claimed that he had contributed substantially towards the mortgage instalments for the flat. This was to the tune of $400,810, being 149 instalments of $2,690 each. He said that the defendant had only contributed $244,790 being 91 instalments. Proportionately, this meant that the plaintiff had made 62.1% of the payments towards the flat and the defendant 37.9%. Further, the plaintiff said that he had he had paid for the renovations to the flat via an overdraft of $40,000, which he was solely responsible for servicing. He also paid $30,000 to remove the defendant’s name from a HDB flat that she co-owned with her mother, so that her name could be put on the title of the flat.

The plaintiff asserted that he arranged for the defendant to be on the payroll of the company which he ran after she stopped practising as a lawyer in 1998. This was in spite of her not doing any actual work for the company. He gave up a portion of his salary from the company to do this. This ‘forgone’ salary amounted to $893,674 from 2000 to 2009. It was through this arrangement that she was able to pay the mortgage loans toward the flat as well as the outgoings. Separately, when he was able to, he would give the defendant $2,000 to $2,500 in cash each month for the children and the household. He estimated that his contribution towards maintaining the household and the children financially amounted to $279,500. He also paid for one child’s international school fees between 2008 to 2012 amounting to $96,000. Above all that, the plaintiff showered the children with love, care and attention.

At the time of the purchase of the flat, the defendant said that she paid $93,090 to the developers and $9,924 being legal expenses from her CPF account. She acknowledged that the plaintiff had used $50,000 from his CPF. She said that while the monthly mortgage instalments were paid out of their...

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