TEN v TEO

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeNicole Loh
Judgment Date07 July 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 94
Citation[2015] SGFC 94
Publication Date21 July 2015
Docket NumberDivorce 4131/2013
Plaintiff CounselMr Koh Tien Hua and Mr Chew Wei En (Harry Elias Partnership)
Defendant CounselMs Wong Soo Chih (Ho Wong Practice LLC)
SubjectCatchwords "maintenance for wife" "maintenance for children"
District Judge Nicole Loh: Grounds of Decision

Parties were married for almost 17 years and have 3 minor children, aged 16, 14 and 11 years of age. The Wife is a 42 year old homemaker who stopped work as an air stewardess in 1999 and has O’level qualifications. The Husband was a chief financial officer but had resigned in November 2014.

Orders Made

Issues relating to the children’s custody and access were already resolved by agreement between parties when the Interim Judgment for Divorce was granted. Therefore the ancillary issues before me were for division of assets and maintenance. I made the following orders: The Wife shall be given the first option to take over the matrimonial flat at Blk xxx Singapore xxx (“the Tampines Flat”). The Wife must exercise her option in writing to the Husband within 3 months of the Final Judgment. Upon being notified of the Wife’s exercise of her option, the Husband shall transfer his rights title and interest in the Tampines Flat to the Wife within 3 months with no CPF refunds to be made to the Husband’s CPF account. The Wife shall bear the cost and expenses of the transfer. In the event that the Wife does not exercise her first option to take over the Tampines Flat, the Tampines Flat shall be sold in the open market. The Wife shall have sole conduct of sale. The sale proceeds shall be used to repay the outstanding mortgage loan and refund both parties’ CPF accounts for monies utilised in the purchase together with accrued interest and the cost and expenses of the sale. Any balance sale proceeds shall be paid to the Wife. In the event of a sale of the Tampines Flat in Order (b), the Wife shall be entitled to the full amount of required CPF monies refunded into the Husband’s CPF account from the sale proceeds pursuant to section 112 of the Women’s Charter (“the Ordered Amount”). After the making of the refunds into the Husband’s CPF account of the required CPF monies from the sale proceeds of the matrimonial flat (i.e. the Ordered Amount), the Board shall transfer the Ordered Amount from the monies standing to the credit of the Husband in his CPF Ordinary account to the Wife’s CPF Ordinary account. The Wife’s rights, title and interest in the matrimonial property at xxx, The Tessarina, Singapore xxx (“The Tessarina”) shall be transferred to the Husband within 6 months from this Order without any consideration. The Husband shall bear the cost and expenses of the transfer. Each party to retain all other assets in their own names. The Husband shall pay $1,000 as monthly maintenance to the Wife. The Husband shall pay $4,000 as monthly maintenance for the 3 children to the Wife. No order as to cost.

Appeal

The Husband has appealed against the maintenance orders, namely para 2(f) and (g) above.

Therefore I shall now set out the grounds relating only to my orders on maintenance.

Parties’ respective positions with regard to maintenance

The Wife applied for maintenance of $1,000 for herself and $6,000 for the children.

The Husband’s position is that the Wife is able to support herself based on her earning capacity (he submitted she is able to earn between $2,000 to $2,500) and therefore should not be entitled to maintenance. Alternatively, Wife maintenance should be ordered at $200 per month for 2 years to allow the Wife to make the transition back to the workforce.

The Husband offered to pay all education expenses of the children until they complete secondary education. Tertiary education should be borne equally by both parties. The Husband will pay $2,200 as maintenance for the children on top of education expenses. This is on the basis that the Wife should bear 20% of the children’s expenses (assuming he has an income of $10,000).

Parties’ Income and Financial Resources Husband

The Husband was clearly the sole breadwinner of the family. He last worked as a Chief Financial Officer earning a net monthly income of $19,000. This excluded his 13th month annual wage salary and bonuses received1.

The Husband’s resignation from his employment

In the Husband’s Voluntary Affidavit filed on 25 November 2014 and his 3rd Ancillary Affidavit, the Husband updated that he was unemployed. He exhibited the announcement notice issued by his employers regarding his departure to pursue other career opportunities. From the notice, the Husband’s last date of employment was 31 October 2014. Whilst the Husband concedes he had resigned from his post, he claimed that the real reason he left was because he did not perform up to their expectations. The Husband claimed that his performance was below par partly due to problems that he had at home and he had asked his employer to avoid giving him overseas assignments so that he could spend as much time with the children as possible. The Husband’s elaboration of the reason behind his resignation is not corroborated by any documentary evidence. This need not necessarily mean he is lying about the reasons behind his resignation. However, I found his reasons offered are unlikely to be the true reasons behind his resignation. This is because the wife and children had already left the matrimonial home in July 2013 [before he even joined xxx International Real Estate Limited (“xxx”) in November 2013]. Between then to the Interim Judgment, there appeared to be no issues relating to access arrangements as no applications were filed and contested in Court relating to access orders. The parties entered into a consent order between themselves on access orders which were then recorded as part of the Interim Judgment on 30 April 2014. There was another application made by consent between parties thereafter to vary the access orders such that the Husband will have alternative access arrangements if he was unable to make it for the usual access. Therefore, the situation with regard to access between the children and the Husband seemed relatively stable all this while and did not justify the Husband’s alleged request to reduce overseas assignments by his employer.

There was also no supporting evidence at all to show the Husband has tried to find any new employment from November 2014 to the Ancillary Hearing before me in April 2015. I therefore conclude that the Husband’s resignation from his job was self-induced for the purposes of the ancillary hearing.

The Husband’s failure to disclose the whereabouts of his salary

In the Husband’s voluntary affidavit answering an interrogatory of where his salary was deposited into, the Husband’s answer was that his salary used to be deposited into Citibank account number xxx2. He had exhibited his bank statements for this account from July 2011 to February 2014 in his Affidavit of Assets and Means filed on 18 July 2014. It is not clear why the most recent bank statements then from March 2014 to June 2014 were not exhibited. The Husband’s salary from July 2011 to August 2013 was consistently deposited into the Citibank account as claimed by him.

In August 2013, it appeared that the Husband stopped working with yyy Management Limited (based on his CPF transaction statements3). The Writ for Divorce was filed by the Wife on 20 August 2013. The Husband started work with xxx in November 2013. However, his bank statements in November 2013, December 2013 and February 2014 did not show any deposit of his salary from xxx into the Citibank account. In January 2014, there were 2 large cheque deposits ($19,999 and $22,799). It is not clear if these were salary deposits. However, nonetheless, it is quite obvious that after the Writ was filed, his salary from xxx was not deposited monthly into the Citibank despite his assertion. Therefore I find that the Husband has not disclosed the full extent of his financial resources.

I therefore did not place much weight on his lack of employment as at the Ancillary Hearing because his loss of income was self-induced, he had hidden away his earnings since November 2013 and there is no evidence that he has been making efforts but was unable to secure a new employment. I took his earning capacity to be as per his last monthly nett income earned.

Wife

The Wife has been a housewife since 1999. However, after the marriage broke down, she has been working on a part time basis as a clinic assistant. Her monthly salary is on average $143, excluding bonus (based on salary slips exhibited on page 148 to 149 of Wife’s Voluntary Affidavit filed on 25 November 2014). This is based on an hourly rate of $8/hour, which works out to the Wife working about 18 hours per month (about 4.5 hours a week). She expressed her intention to become a real estate agent from year 2017 (because her youngest child is going through PSLE in year 2016).

I accepted the Husband’s submission that the Wife cannot expect him to fully...

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