Teo Choo Eng v Lee Tai Keng

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeJeffrey Sim Mong Heng
Judgment Date03 May 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] SGDC 99
Citation[2005] SGDC 99
Published date16 June 2005
Plaintiff CounselTan Jee Ming and Rahayu (Tan Jee Ming and Partners)
Defendant CounselFoo Siew Fong (Harry Elias Partnership)
Subject MatterFamily Law,Divorce,Ancillary matters,Division of matrimonial assets,Maintenance for wife

3 May 2005

Judgment reserved.

District Judge Jeffrey Sim:

1 The petitioner (wife) in these proceedings filed a petition on 10 May 2002 to dissolve the marriage between her and the respondent (husband) on the ground that the parties had lived apart since 1982, when the wife left the matrimonial home.

2 According to the wife, sometime in 1963, a ceremony of marriage was celebrated between her and the husband in Singapore according to Chinese customary rites, and the marriage is deemed to be registered under the provisions of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353). The husband, however, denied that he and the wife were ever legally married and filed an Answer to deny the marriage. However, he subsequently did not contest the petition for divorce and on 13 December 2002, a decree nisi was granted dissolving the marriage.

3 The parties have two sons, aged about 41 and 34 respectively. As the marriage was never in fact registered and, according to the husband, the parties were never legally married, the husband had in 1992 married another woman and has three children from this marriage, aged about 11, 10 and 7 respectively.

4 The ancillary matters in respect of the division of matrimonial property and maintenance for the wife came before me and I made the following orders:

(a) there be no order on division of the matrimonial assets;

(b) the husband is to pay the wife a lump sum maintenance of $8,000;

(c) there be no order as to costs.

The wife has appealed against my orders and I now give my grounds.

The wife’s case

5 The wife is about 59 years of age. She said in her affidavits that she has up to primary school education and has been unemployed since 2001. She used to work as a food court assistant drawing a salary of about $700 per month. She stopped working on her doctor’s advice. She had been suffering from cataract, heart, hand and nerve problems.

6 According to the wife, the husband failed to maintain her and the children throughout the marriage and she had to use her own earnings and savings to pay for the household and children’s expenses. The husband even pawned her wedding jewellery. She applied for a maintenance order from the court when the children were very young. She said that she could not remember the year that she applied for the maintenance. She said that she attended to all the household chores and looked after the children.

7 The wife said that before she and the husband married, the husband was working at a bakery shop for five years earning about $180 per month. Subsequently, he worked as a bread packer for about ten years earning about $100 per month. He then started his chicken rice business and has been very successful in the business.

8 According to the wife, the husband first helped out at her father’s chicken rice business. Her father transferred the chicken rice business to him but since the husband also opened a vegetable rice stall at Changi Airport, the father’s chicken rice business was transferred to the wife. Subsequently, the wife’s brother took over the father’s business. The brother gave the husband $5,000 and the wife contributed $6,000 towards the husband’s business at Changi Airport. The wife worked at her father’s food stall and at the Changi Airport food stall during that time. Her mother helped look after the children while she was at work.

9 According to the wife, the husband then opened a children rice stall at Jalan Besar. He took about $4,000 from the wife. When he sold the business, he did not give the wife any money. Subsequently, he opened many chicken rice outlets under the name Five Star Chicken Rice and Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice Restaurant.

10 The parties used to own a matrimonial flat at Block 131 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 #02-1613 Singapore 560131 (‘the previous matrimonial flat’). The flat was purchased in their joint names from the Housing and Development Board (‘HDB’) in 1978 for $20,400. The wife said that she alone contributed towards the initial capital payment by paying about $2,000 to $3,000 from her father. The monthly loan instalments were paid using the proceeds from her father’s chicken rice stall. The wife said that she also paid for all the renovations which amounted to about $10,000, as well as the utilities and telephone bills, conservancy charges, property tax and household necessities.

11 The wife said that she moved out of the previous matrimonial flat in 1980 to stay with her relatives. According to her, the husband wanted a divorce but she refused. The husband was living at the previous matrimonial flat with his girlfriend whom he subsequently married in 1992. According to the wife, the parties’ two sons continued to stay with the husband between 1980 and 1990 and also helped him in his chicken rice business. They left him subsequently because he would not change his habits with regard to women.

12 The previous matrimonial flat was sold around 1990 or 1991 and the sale proceeds was $72,000. The wife said that she did not receive a single cent from the sale proceeds. She said that she agreed to sell the flat because the husband said that he would get a bigger flat at Pasir Ris and the family could live together again.

13 The wife claimed a lump-sum maintenance of $240,000 from the husband for herself. She said that her monthly expenses came up to about $2,220, made up as follows:

(a) Rental

$800

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