TEP v TEQ

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeSuzanne Chin
Judgment Date07 July 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 84
Citation[2015] SGFC 84
Publication Date05 September 2015
Docket NumberD5594/2013
Plaintiff CounselMs Gill Carrie Kaur and Mr Timothy Wee (Harry Elias Partnership LLC)
Defendant CounselMr Lee Ming Hui Kelvin (WNLEX LLC)
SubjectAncillary Matters Consent Order Wife Maintenance Child Maintenance
District Judge Suzanne Chin: Introduction

This is the Plaintiff wife’s (“the Wife”) appeal against orders relating to maintenance for herself and the children of the marriage.

The parties were married on the 2 December 2000 and there are 2 children to the marriage, a boy of 10 years of age and a girl of 7 years of age. The Wife filed for divorce on the Defendant husband’s (“the Husband”) unreasonable behaviour.

For the purposes of the uncontested divorce hearing, the parties had on 22 January 2014, filed a draft consent order to the Family Justice Courts which documented the agreement of the parties on the issues of custody, care and control and access to the children, division of matrimonial assets and maintenance of the Wife and children (“the First Draft Consent Order”).

On 25 February 2015, before the date fixed for the uncontested divorce hearing, the Husband wrote to the Court indicating that he was no longer agreeable to the maintenance amounts of $3,000 per month for the Wife and $12,000 per month for the children as reflected in the First Draft Consent Order. The uncontested divorce hearing was delayed and the Husband wrote to the Wife by email suggesting that the parties attend mediation to try to resolve the issue.

The matter was referred to mediation and thereafter, the parties agreed to the filing of a second draft consent order relating only to the issues of custody, care and control of the 2 children (“the Second Draft Consent Order”). The uncontested divorce was fixed for 16 June 2014 and on that same date, Interim Judgement was granted with the orders contained in the Second Draft Consent Order incorporated.

Contested Ancillary Matters

The Ancillary Matters came up for hearing on 7 May 2015 and the issues before me were as follows: Division of matrimonial property; Access to the children Maintenance for Wife; Maintenance for the children.

At the hearing, the Husband’s counsel informed me that the parties had arrived at an agreement on the division of matrimonial property and access to the children and accordingly I recorded a consent order reflecting the agreement of the parties to these issues. I then proceeded to hear submissions of the parties on the issue of maintenance for the Wife and children.

After hearing from the parties and considering all of the evidence before me, I made the following orders: By consent, the Defendant has transferred all his legal and beneficial interest in the net sale proceeds of the matrimonial home at xxx, Singapore xxx to the Plaintiff; By consent, the parties shall retain ownership of their respective assets registered in their sole names and neither party shall have any share whatsoever in the other party’s assets. By consent, the Defendant shall be granted reasonable access to the children as follows: Weekend access: every Sunday from 12.00pm to 8.00pm and also overnight access every fortnight from Saturday 4.00pm until Sunday 8.00pm; and Holiday access: The Defendant shall be entitled to take the children for 2 overseas trips each year for up to seven (7) days duration for each trip, provided he gives at least 3 weeks’ notice of each trip and provides at the same time, details of the itinerary and accommodation as well as contact details. The Plaintiff shall release the passports of the children to the Defendant within a reasonable period of time prior to each trip. The Defendant shall pay to the Plaintiff: A sum of $4,500 as the monthly maintenance of each of the children with effect from 1 May 2015 and thereafter on the 1st day of each month; A sum of $1.00 as monthly maintenance for the Plaintiff with effect from 1 May 2015 and thereafter on the 1st day of each month. All maintenance amounts referred to above shall be paid into the Plaintiff’s POSB Savings Account Number xxx. By consent, the Defendant shall pay the Plaintiff $1,800 as costs for the divorce. The Defendant shall also pay the Plaintiff $2,000 as costs for the ancillaries.

Notice of Appeal

On the 9 June 2015, the Wife filed an appeal against the orders relating to the monthly maintenance for the Wife and the children.

The Wife’s position

The Wife was requesting that the Husband be made to honour his agreement as reflected in the First Draft Consent Order to pay the Wife a monthly maintenance sum of $3,000 as wife maintenance and $12,000 as maintenance for the 2 children and that the agreement should be upheld by the court or alternatively be given considerable weight. She referred the Court of Appeal decision of Surindar Singh s/o Jaswant Singh v Sita Jaswant Kaur [2014] 3 SLR 1284 in this regard. In addition, the Wife pointed out to the court, the fact that the Husband had always maintained that money was not an issue and the parties had agreed to the total maintenance sum of $15,000 so that both the Wife and the children could continue living in the manner to which they had become accustomed.

It was her contention that the Husband had taken care of all expenses during the marriage and had on top of that, given her more than $10,000 as allowance every month for other expenses incurred by her and the children. In addition to this, when he received his bonuses once or twice a year of between $50,000 to $100,000, he would give these sums to her. He also provided her with a supplementary card for use and would pay for all expenses when the parties went out as a family and for family holidays.

She also challenged the Husband’s assertions that he was earning a mere $34,000 per month and referred to his income tax returns from 2010 to 2014 which showed that he had been earning a much higher income. She maintained that he was well able to pay the maintenance amounts referred to in the First Draft Consent Order.

The Husband’s position

The Husband expressed his willingness to pay for maintenance but asserted that he had a multitude of outstanding debts and as a result, he was not able to pay the maintenance amounts that the Wife was asking for.

He explained that he had been suffering from depression and had been seeing a counsellor in 2012 and at the time when he entered into the first draft consent order, he was just recovering of his depression. The Wife was at the time threatening not to let him see the children and as a result, he felt that he had little alternative but to accept her demand for $15,000 as maintenance. In light of this, he contended that weight should not be given to the terms of the First Draft Consent Order.

He argued that even if the court did take into account the terms of the First Draft Consent Order, there had been a change of circumstances since then. In this regard, he maintained that his income was on a downward trend and had been dropping for the last 3 years. In particular, he pointed out that in 2014, he had earned an average of $38,000 per month. In light of his reduced salary and the fact that he had to pay off his debts, he maintained that he could would not be able to pay the total monthly maintenance sum of $15,000 each month.

At the same time, he also contended that the expenses tendered by the Wife for both herself and the children were inflated. He maintained that with her average monthly salary of approximately $15,000 per month, including bonuses and commissions, she would be more than able to maintain herself. Accordingly he offered a nominal maintenance of $1.00 for the Wife. With regard to the children, while he did not dispute that it was his responsibility to pay for the children’s maintenance, he maintained that a total sum of $5,000 for the 2 children would suffice.

Decision Wife’s maintenance

The Court of Appeal in Foo Ah Yan v Chiam Heng Chow [2012] SGCA 15 (“Foo Ah Yan”) noted at [12] that section 114 of the Charter (Chapter 353) sets out a non-exhaustive list of factors to be considered as follows: In determining the amount of any maintenance to be paid by a man to his wife or former wife, the court shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the following matters: the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future; the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future; the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage; the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage; any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage; the contributions made by each of the parties to the welfare of the family including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family; and in the case of proceedings for divorce or nullity of marriage, the value to either of the parties to the marriage of any benefit (for example, a pension) which, by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring. In exercising its powers under this section, the court shall endeavour so to the place the parties, so far as it is practicable and, having regard to their conduct, just to do so, in the financial position in which they would have been if he marriage had not broken down and each had properly discharged his or her financial obligations and responsibilities towards each other.

The Wife...

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