CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeYarni Loi
Judgment Date15 July 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 96
Citation[2015] SGFC 96
Hearing Date20 May 2015,12 May 2015
Docket NumberDivorce No. 5745 of 2013W, HCF/DCA 91/2015
Published date20 August 2015
Plaintiff CounselMs Patricia Quah (Patricia Quah & Co)
Defendant CounselMs Shone (M/s A C Shone & Co)
Subject MatterCatch words: Family Law - Ancillaries - Division of assets - Care and Control,Access - Maintenance
District Judge Yarni Loi: Introduction

This is my judgment in respect of ancillary orders made in these divorce proceedings between the Plaintiff-wife and Defendant-husband who registered their married on 17 July 2007. After 7 years of marriage, Interim Judgment for divorce was granted on 9 September 2014 on the basis of both parties’ unreasonable behaviour. The Plaintiff is 32 and the Defendant is 42. They have a young son, aged 4 (“the Child”).

Their total pool of matrimonial assets does not exceed $250,000; and consists only of assets in the Plaintiff’s name and assets in the Defendant’s name, including a vehicle SJG7453A (“Motor Vehicle”). There is no matrimonial flat available for division. Parties had surrendered the HDB flat that they had applied for, before collecting the keys to the flat.

A summary of my orders is as follows: Parties shall retain the assets in their respective names, save that the Motor Vehicle shall be transferred to the Defendant, upon the Defendant paying to the Plaintiff $4250 being half of the agreed value of the Motor Vehicle within 3 months, failing which it shall be sold in the open market within 4 months, with the net sale proceeds, after deducting the outstanding loan, divided equally between the parties. Parties shall have joint custody of the Child with the Plaintiff to have care and control. The Defendant shall continue to have unsupervised access on essentially the same terms as those agreed to by parties under Consent Order dated 14 May 2014, save for clarification regarding timing for CNY access and birthday access. The Defendant shall pay the Plaintiff nominal maintenance of $1 per month towards her maintenance. The terms of an earlier court order dated 11 April 2014 on child maintenance will continue, and the Defendant shall pay $750 per month for the Child’s maintenance and 50% of the Child’s school fees after the Child’s CDA Account have been depleted.

The Defendant has appealed against my orders. My full reasons follow.

Brief history Background

The Plaintiff is a xxx and earns a gross monthly salary of $4,333.33 and net monthly salary of $3,465.66.

After parties registered their marriage in July 2007, they lived with the Defendant’s parents at their HDB flat in Tampines. The parties subsequently applied for their own HDB flat at Sengkang West (“New HDB Flat”). For the initial deposit for the New HDB Flat, the Defendant paid $10,983.83 from his CPF and on top of that, they received a Government Grant of $10,000. However, the keys to the flat were ready for collection only in 2013, by which time the marriage had broken down. Parties never collected the keys and eventually surrendered the flat.

Birth of the Child

On 7 May 2011, the Child was born. About one month later, on or about 8 June 2011, they decided to place the Child under the care of the Plaintiff’s mother in Kuala Lumpur (“KL”), Malaysia. They both had to work and were unable to take care of the Child during the day. They felt that the Child was too young to be left in a child-care centre but there was nobody at home to look after the Child. The Defendant’s father was busy with a full-time job and the Defendant’s mother, who operated a hair salon from home, said she was not able to look after the Child. In contrast, the Plaintiff’s mother, a full time housewife with experience babysitting for friends and relatives, was willing, and agreed, to look after the Child. Parties agreed to travel to KL once a month to visit the Child.

As the Plaintiff missed the Child tremendously, she wanted to increase the frequency of their trips to KL. However, the Defendant flatly refused. He said that so much travelling would be too tiring and travelling costs would also be exorbitant.

Subsequently, in or around July 2012, after about a year, when the Child was slightly older, parties decided to bring the Child back to Singapore. They enrolled him in a child-care centre during the day.

Parties’ joint account and Plaintiff’s withdrawal of $70,000

Throughout the marriage, the Defendant was in control of parties’ finances, including various joint bank accounts.

According to the Plaintiff, when she started work in November 2007, she deposited her salary of $1,300 into her own account. Subsequently, in February 2008, when her salary increased to $1,600, the Defendant insisted that she deposit her entire salary into parties’ joint account which he managed. He said they could earn more interest if their monies were pooled together. The Plaintiff finally acquiesced to his demand and deposited her salary into their joint account so that the Defendant would stop pestering her. She was not allowed to keep an ATM card and was therefore unable to withdraw money from the ATM machine. Instead, the Defendant gave her monthly allowances of about $400 to $500 per month for meals and transportation to work. The Defendant also decided that 30% of the Plaintiff’s salary would be ear-marked for expenses for the household and the Child. This percentage was increased to 40% after the Child was born.

The Plaintiff felt helpless. The Defendant seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with money matters and whenever she raised financial matters, he would become very upset. He also did not allow her to send money back to her family in Malaysia even though she wanted to help them financially.

On or about 1 March 2013, the Plaintiff decided to withdraw $70,000 from parties’ joint account without first seeking the Defendant’s permission because she knew he would object to it. She said she wanted to manage her own savings. She calculated that her total income over the years, after deducting her contributions towards household expenses, would be about $78,472.68. She therefore withdrew the sum of $70,000 representing an estimate of her savings over the years. Before her withdrawal, their joint account had a balance of about $105,000. After her withdrawal, the balance remaining was about $35,000.

When the Defendant discovered the Plaintiff’s withdrawal, he was very angry. He proceeded to withdraw the remaining balance of $35,000.

He also did his own calculations and demanded that the Plaintiff return him a sum of $21,676.80 from the monies she had withdrawn. He alleged that the amount of $70,000 which she had withdrawn exceeded her contributions. He calculated that her savings were only about $49,337, as follows:1

Description Amount (S$)
Total net income over the years after deducting Plaintiff’s share of household expenses (pegged at 30% of her income before their Child’s birth and 40% after their Child’s birth) 75,902.30
(1) Plaintiff’s personal expenses in Singapore -7,958.22
(2) Plaintiff’s personal and family expenses in Malaysia -14,125
(3) Plaintiff’s share of child related expenses, eg. C-Section and Post-Natal Medical Check-ups -4,481.85
Total 49,337 (“Plaintiff’s Net Savings”)

He demanded that she return to him the sum of $21,676.80 being the amount she withdrew from the joint account less Plaintiff’s Net Savings, plus some loss of interest from the cancellation of fixed deposits:

Description Amount (S$)
Amount withdrawn by Plaintiff 70,000
Less: Plaintiff’s Net Savings -49,337
Balance 20,663
Add: Interest from cancellation of FD accounts owing to Defendant +1,0142
Total payable to Defendant 21,676.80

Even though she did not agree with his calculations, to prevent further argument and for the sake of peace, on 3 March 2013, the Plaintiff returned to the Defendant the amount of $21,676.80 as demanded, and retained only $48,323.30.

On or about 1 April 2013, the Defendant’s employment with his company was terminated for wilful breach of the terms of his employment contract. He told her he was unable to contribute to household expenses and asked her to use her balance savings of $48,323.20 to pay for maintenance of the Child, the household and her own individual expenses.

Defendant asks Plaintiff to leave their home

The Defendant however continued to simmer over the Plaintiff’s withdrawal of monies from their joint account. On or about 29 April 2013, the Defendant angrily told the Plaintiff to pack all her belongings and leave the house by 1 May 2013. She agreed to do so as she was tired of his irrational behaviour and mood swings. He said he wanted to live separately from her. He also told her to take the Child back to KL, to live with the Plaintiff’s mother.

On 30 April 2013, the Defendant personally watched the Plaintiff pack her luggage and gave her $20.00 for her taxi fare back to KL. He shouted at the Plaintiff to return him the house keys and told her never to return. He also instructed her to terminate the Child’s enrolment at the child-care centre; and to transfer the Child’s baby bonus account to her own name to manage.3 The Plaintiff was very hurt that they had been evicted from their home. In the event, she picked up the Child from his pre-school that day and brought him back to her mother in KL.

Hence, the Child was once again in the care of the Plaintiff’s mother who looked after the Child, while the Plaintiff returned to work in Singapore. She would visit the Child once every fortnight. She brought him toys, spent time with him, had dinners with him and read to him at night before he went to sleep. The Plaintiff paid for all the Child’s necessities including his diapers and milk powder, as well as his enrolment fee of RM500 for pre-school. The Plaintiff started giving her mother a monthly allowance of RM600 for taking care of the Child. The Defendant did not bother to visit the Child (save for 2 occasions), and also did not pay, nor offer to pay for, the Child’s expenses.

Subsequent events

Meanwhile, on or about 8 May 2013, the Defendant turned up at the Plaintiff’s workplace unannounced. He...

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