TEQ v TER

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeKimberly Scully
Judgment Date14 September 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 119
Citation[2015] SGFC 119
Docket NumberMSS2426 of 2014
Publication Date03 October 2015
Plaintiff CounselComplainant in Person
Defendant CounselRespondent in Person
SubjectCatch Words: Family Law,Variation of Maintenance Orders - Section 72 of the Women's Charter
District Judge Kimberly Scully: Introduction

These grounds pertain to the Husband Complainant’s appeal of my decision not to vary an existing order for maintenance of two minor children. The parties are Australians who have been living and working in Singapore, and their 2 children are educated in the xxx. In 2012, the court made a maintenance order pursuant to Section 69 of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) in favour of the children for a monthly maintenance sum from the Husband, in addition to other terms stated in that court order. Thereafter appeals and variations of the order were filed and heard. More details of the past hearings are stated in paragraphs 5 to 7 below.

In 2014, the Husband filed MSS2426/2014 pursuant to Section 72 of the Women’s Charter, to vary the existing maintenance order by paying a reduced sum of maintenance of SGD$2,148-00 per month for the children (the “Husband’s Application”). The Wife Respondent followed suit and filed MSS3408/2014 to vary the maintenance order for an increased sum of child maintenance (the “Wife’s Application”). At the time of the hearing before me the two children were 10 and 13 years old. As there are cross-applications I shall refer to the parties as “Husband” and “Wife”, instead of “Complainant and Respondent”, for ease of reference.

Both applications were heard by me on the 7th and 28th of October 2014. Both parties were unrepresented and did not file affidavits. They relied upon written statements and bundles of documents. Neither party wished to call any witnesses to prove or disprove the evidence tendered to the court. At the end of the first tranche of the trial on 7th October 2014, the Husband had not produced any documents relating to the state of his private limited company. I allowed the Husband to tender further evidence relating to his company’s finances. The Husband chose to tender a set of 2012/2013 unaudited financial statements, and the Wife was given the opportunity to cross-examine the Husband at the second tranche of the hearing on this further evidence.

At the conclusion of the trial, I reserved the matter for decision to 2 December 2014. After considering the parties’ oral testimonies and documentary evidence and the circumstances of the case, I was of the view that both parties had failed to satisfy the court that there had been a change in circumstances or other good cause which warranted a variation in the maintenance sum. Accordingly, I dismissed both applications.

Background to this Appeal

The parties have been engaged in long-drawn and acrimonious divorce proceedings since February 2012. The divorce was contested and Interim Judgment only granted in March 2014. At the time of the hearings before me in October 2014, the parties had just filed their first round of affidavits of assets and means. As at September 2015, the ancillary matters have yet to be heard and determined by the court.

In 2012, the Wife filed an application for children’s maintenance and on 18 June 2012, District Judge Tan Shin Yi ordered, inter alia, that the Husband shall pay the Wife SGD$3,300-00 per month for the maintenance of two children with effect from 1 April 2012, pending the resolution of the ancillary matters. For avoidance of doubt, this sum excludes the children’s school fees but includes their school-related expenses (“MO2012”). Both parties appealed MO2012. On appeal, the High Court judge ordered on 25 January 2013 that MO2012 be varied “to the extent that both parties are to share the children’s maintenance equally – 50%”.

Thereafter, the Husband applied in 2013 to vary the MO2012 and the Wife applied to enforce it. The applications were heard by District Judge Lim Choi Ming, and on 3 September 2013, she ordered that MO2012 issued in June 2012 and varied by the High Court, be varied such that the Husband would pay a reduced sum of maintenance of SGD$2,148-00 per month instead of SGD$3,648-00, but only for a limited period of 12 months from 1 July 2013 up to and including 1 June 2014. Thereafter, the maintenance sum of $3,648-00 would be automatically restored. She further ordered that the shortfall in maintenance for the said period (amounting to the sum of $18,000-00) be paid out of the Husband’s share of the matrimonial assets after determination by the court hearing the ancillary matters (“VO2013”).

The Husband appealed VO2013 and on 17 March 2014, the High Court affirmed VO2013, except regarding whether the shortfall of $18,000-00 should be paid. The High Court was of the view that “payment of $18,000 will be decided only when the orders for distribution of assets have been made. The DJ will then be in a better position to decide whether the Husband has the means to pay the $18,000”.

This was followed by the cross-applications before me by both parties to vary the monthly maintenance sum, which I have described in detail in paragraphs 2 and 3 above. I dismissed both applications on 2 December 2014 and neither party filed an appeal of the dismissals within the prescribed time period.

On 12 May 2015, the Husband filed an application to the High Court (Family Division) for leave to file his Notice of Appeal “in respect of MSS2426/2014 and MSS3408/2014 out of time”.

Leave was granted to the Husband on 8 June 2015 to file his Notice of Appeal in respect of MSS2426/2014, which he duly filed. I therefore provide my reasons below for dismissing the Husband’s Application. As the Wife did not appeal against the dismissal of her application, I will only touch briefly on her matter where it is relevant to the Husband’s Application.

Applicable law

Section 72 of the Women’s Charter states: On the application of any person receiving or ordered to pay a monthly allowance under this Part and on proof of a change in the circumstances of that person, his wife or child, or for other good cause being shown to the satisfaction of the court, the court by which the order was made may rescind the order or may vary it as it thinks fit”.

When the applicant seeks to rely upon the deterioration of his circumstances for a...

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