TEC v TED

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeColin Tan
Judgment Date30 June 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 93
Citation[2015] SGFC 93
Docket NumberDivorce Suit No 4205 of 2013
Published date05 September 2015
Hearing Date16 February 2015,27 January 2015,25 March 2015,23 March 2015
Plaintiff CounselMr Lai Swee Fung (M/s Unilegal LLC)
Defendant CounselMr Luke Lee (M/s Luke Lee & Co)
District Judge Colin Tan: Introduction

The Plaintiff and the Defendant were married in 1981 and they had 2 children. The Plaintiff wife commenced divorce proceedings in August 2013 on the basis that the Defendant husband had behaved in such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him, and Interim Judgment was granted in March 2014.

After hearing both counsel and considering the affidavits and submissions, I made the following orders in respect of the ancillary matters: The parties are to have joint custody of the child of the marriage xxx. The Plaintiff wife is to have care and control of the said child. The Defendant husband is to have reasonable access to the said child. The following matrimonial assets of the parties are to be divided equally between the parties: xxx property xxx property xxx property xxx property xxx property xxx property xxx property xxx property xxx property xxx account Both parties’ CPF accounts Plaintiff’s xxx Club membership Defendant’s xxx membership Plaintiff’s xxx policy Defendant’s xxx policy The parties shall be at liberty to agree that each party shall retain some of the aforesaid properties provided that each party ends up with half of the value of the aforesaid properties or such other proportion as the parties may mutually agree upon. If the parties are unable to agree on who is to retain any particular property (save for the parties’ xxx and xxx properties), then the said property is to be sold and the sale proceeds are to be divided between the parties such that they each end up with half of the value of the aforesaid properties in paragraph 4 above or such other proportion as the parties may mutually agree upon. In respect of the xxx property, if both parties wish to retain this property the Plaintiff is to have priority. In respect of the xxx property, if both parties wish to retain this property the Defendant is to have priority. Save as set out above, neither party shall have any further claim against properties held in the other party’s name. The Defendant husband is to pay to the Plaintiff wife $6,200 per month as maintenance for the Plaintiff wife. The said maintenance is to be paid on the 1st day of each month with effect from 1st April 2015. The existing maintenance order for the parties’ said child is to continue, i.e.: The Defendant husband is to pay to the Plaintiff wife $350 per month as maintenance for the parties’ said child. The said maintenance is to be paid on the 1st day of each month with effect from 1st April 2015. In the event that the Defendant husband pays the said $350 directly to the parties’ said child, he shall not be required to pay the said $350 to the Plaintiff wife for that particular month. The Defendant husband is also to continue to pay for the school fees for the parties’ said child. The Defendant husband is also to pay for 1 return air ticket per year for the parties’ said child to return to Singapore during his school holidays. The parties shall be at liberty to apply.

The Defendant husband has appealed against my orders in respect of asset division and maintenance for the Plaintiff wife and I therefore set out herein the grounds of my decision in respect of those matters.

Division of matrimonial assets

My orders in respect of asset division were essentially as follows: to divide the matrimonial assets equally between the parties; and the parties’ debts were not to be deducted from the pool of matrimonial assets and each party was to each be solely responsible for his or her own debts.

The exact value of a number of the parties’ properties was in dispute and it was not entirely clear if the either party wished to retain any specific property. As such, I decided to divide the property on the basis of percentages and to leave it to the parties to decide themselves which properties would be retained by which party and which properties would be sold.

However, as the Plaintiff was staying in the xxx property and the Defendant was staying in xxx property, I ordered that if both parties wanted to retain these properties, then the party living in the property would have priority in terms of retaining that particular property.

The orders made encompassed almost all of the matrimonial assets of the parties. Although there were a small amount of other assets held by each party (e.g. watches, etc.), these were of relatively low value compared to the pool of matrimonial assets which I had ordered an equal division for, and I was of the view that attempting to include these other assets in the pool of matrimonial assets for division would cause the parties difficulties and inconvenience in terms of valuation and division but would not really affect the final outcome of the division since their value was small in comparison to the assets which were in the pool for division.

Based on the Defendant’s Notice of Appeal, the Defendant is not seeking to include these other assets in the pool of matrimonial assets to be divided.

The Plaintiff wife had worked during the earlier part of the marriage but had been a full-time housewife looking after the family during the later part of the marriage, while the Defendant husband had been very successful in his career and was earning a very high income.

In terms of financial contributions towards the acquisition of the matrimonial assets, it was clear from the evidence that the bulk of the financial contributions came from the Defendant. That being said, the Plaintiff had been working during part of the marriage and she had contributed, mainly via CPF, towards the acquisition of two of the properties owned by the parties.

The Plaintiff wife also stated that she had made indirect financial contributions to the marriage, e.g. paying for the maid’s levy, paying for groceries for the family and paying for the children’s expenses, while the Defendant husband stated that he paid for the mortgages, property tax and maintenance charges for the parties’ various properties.

In respect of non-financial contributions, in the parties’ 1st ancillary matters affidavits their parties’ positions were as follows: The Plaintiff wife gave a long list of her non-financial contributions, e.g. furnishing the home, overseeing home renovations, interviewing maids, supervision of maids, sending the children to a very long list of classes (e.g. tuition, language classes, horse riding classes, fencing classes, tennis classes, swimming classes, rollerblade classes, bowling classes etc.), teaching the children, bringing the children on outings and to social activities, and cooking for the family. She also highlighted that she had made a sacrifice in terms of her career in order to accompany the Defendant husband when he moved to xxx for work in the 1990s. The Defendant husband, on the other hand, in the section of the affidavit where he was required to state his indirect financial and non-financial contributions, stated as follows: “I paid for all the outgoings expenses in the household. I am also responsible for all the payments towards the children’s school expenses and their allowances.”

As such, it appeared that the Defendant husband was not claiming that he did anywhere near as much as the Plaintiff wife in terms of his non-financial contributions to the family.

According to the Statement of Claim, both parties were university graduates, and according to the Plaintiff’s Affidavit of Assets and Means, in 1981 the Plaintiff was earning $1,200 per month while the Defendant was earning $1,400 per month. By the time of the hearing, the Defendant was earning over $500,000 per year. Given how well the Defendant husband had progressed in his career over the years, he must have spent most of his available time on building his career and it was therefore not surprising that his non-financial contributions to the family lagged far behind those of the Plaintiff wife.

Although the Defendant’s earnings had contributed to the bulk of the parties’ matrimonial assets, it appeared that the Plaintiff was also involved in the family’s investment decisions. In the Plaintiff’s affidavit filed on 2nd October 2014, the Plaintiff set out her answers to the Defendant’s interrogatories, and one of the Defendant’s questions was “Do you agree that the Defendant discussed with you on the investment in the immovable properties with you and that you are aware of the said investments?” The Plaintiff’s answer was that she agreed.

Division in terms of percentage

The Plaintiff’s Counsel relied on Yow Mee Lan v Chen Kai Buan [2000] 2 SLR (R) 659, Lim Choon Lai v Chew Kim Heng [2001] 2 SLR (R) 260, NK v NL [2007] 3 SLR (R) 743, Chan Yuen Boey v Sia Hee Soon [2012] 3 SLR 402 and Tan Hwee Lee v Tang Cheng Guan [2012] 4 SLR 785 to show that the courts have often awarded wives half, or even more, of the matrimonial assets in cases involving long marriages.

In the current case, the parties had been married for about 32 to 33 years, and although it was clear that the husband’s financial contributions were greater than those of the wife, it was equally clear that the wife’s non-financial contributions were greater than those of the husband.

In Tan Hwee Lee v Tan Cheng Huan, the Court of Appeal stated (at [85]):

“Although it has been stated by this court that equality in division is not the starting point or the norm in the division of matrimonial assets between spouses (see Lock Yeng Fun v Chua Hock Chye [2007] 3 SLR(R) 520 (“Lock Yeng Fun”) at [57]), it also remains true that the “courts would nevertheless not hesitate to award half (or even more than half) of the matrimonial assets if such a decision is justified on the facts” (Lock Yeng Fun at [58]). This is especially so in long marriages where “the law acknowledges the equally important contributions of the homemaker to the partnership of marriage” (see NK v NL at [41]), as the...

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