CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeJen Koh
Judgment Date09 September 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] SGFC 120
Citation[2015] SGFC 120
Docket NumberDivorce Writ No.940 of 2013
Hearing Date17 March 2015,10 July 2015,01 July 2015
Plaintiff CounselMs Suppiah (Guna & Associates)
Defendant CounselMr B S Gill (Francis Khoo & Lim)
Subject Mattercatchwords: division of matrimonial assets, structured ratio approach, maintenance for former spouse
Published date26 September 2015
District Judge Jen Koh:

This is the wife’s appeal against orders made in respect of financial ancillary matters pursuant to dissolution of marriage.

Relevant background facts

The parties were married on 16 April 1993 in Singapore. They have 2 sons, one aged 20 and the other 17, at the time when the matter came on for hearing before me. The marriage came to a head and the wife left the matrimonial flat at Pasir Ris Drive (‘the flat’) in November 2006. There were conflicting versions of events for her departure; suffice to say that the parties did not resume cohabitation from thence.

The husband is 53 years old and is a xxx with the Singapore Armed Forces. The wife is 45 years old and is not working. Her last job was that of a security guard.

In December 2012, the wife was admitted by her family into a home for the intellectually infirmed. She was diagnosed to have psychosis with behavioural problems. She was not mentally incapacitated for purposes of the Mental Capacity Act or mentally unsound under the Mental Health Act but found to be unable to cope with day to day life. For purposes of these proceedings, her doctor furnished a report in January 2014 to state that she would not be able to perform any gainful employment as she could not look after herself independently.

The husband commenced proceedings to dissolve the marriage in February 2013 on the ground that the marriage had broken down irretrievably. He relied on the fact of the parties’ separation for 4 years immediately preceding the presentation of the writ. Interim Judgment was granted in May 2013 and the contested ancillary matters adjourned to be heard in chambers. The outstanding ancillary matters were (a) division of the flat (b) division of matrimonial assets and (c) maintenance for the wife.

Ancillary Matters

I heard the ancillary matters on 17 March 2015. I raised a preliminary issue with counsels. The husband’s mother was a legal owner of the flat and she had filed an affidavit in the proceedings. However, I did not have jurisdiction to deal with third parties’ rights in property matters and the correct process was for the husband’s mother’s share to first be determined. I only had jurisdiction to deal with the division of the parties’ rights pursuant to the Women’s Charter, Cap 353, as the Act could not possibly cover the husband’s mother. It was the more difficult as the husband’s mother was not a party to these proceedings and she did not seek leave to be so added. There was no clear indication whether the husband’s counsel was also acting for the husband’s mother.

Counsel deliberated on the matter and requested an adjournment to sort out the issue. At a subsequent case conference, parties had resolved the issue of the husband’s mother’s share. I heard the ancillary matters on 10 July 2015 and made the following orders: The Plaintiff shall have sole custody, care and control of the children of the marriage, namely, T (m) and S (m) with reasonable access to the Defendant to be arranged between the Defendant and the children directly. The Plaintiff shall keep the Defendant informed of important decisions with respect to the children’s health and education matters. With effect from 1 August 2015 and thereafter on the 1st day of every month, the Plaintiff is to contribute monthly maintenance of $800-00 as maintenance for the Defendant. Payment direct to xxx for Intellectually Infirmed Ltd for as long as the Defendant is residing in xxx with liberty to parties to apply for variation if the Defendant is no longer residing in xxx or upon any other material change(s) in circumstances of either or both parties. The Plaintiff is to maintain the children solely. In full and final settlement of all her claims against the Plaintiff in respect of division of matrimonial assets, the Defendant shall be entitled to 20% of the Plaintiff’s 88% share of the flat at Block xxx Singapore xxx (‘the flat’). Within 14 days from the date of this order, the Plaintiff is to take steps to obtain a valuation of the flat from an approved valuer with the Housing and Development Board. The Defendant’s 20% share shall be premised on the value less outstanding mortgage. The Defendant’s 20% share shall be premised on the value less outstanding mortgage. The costs of valuation shall be borne as to 80% by the Plaintiff and 20% by the Defendant. The Plaintiff shall pay the Defendant’s 20% share to her within 3 months from the date of receipt of the valuation report. No further division of any assets between the parties. No orders as to costs. Liberty to apply.

Notice of Appeal

The wife filed an appeal against the division of the flat as well as the award of maintenance.

I now set out the reasons for my decision.

Division of the flat and other assets

The flat was purchased in January 1992 for $141,000. The wife is not registered as a legal owner; the flat is held by the husband and the husband’s mother as joint tenants in undivided shares. It was not disputed that the husband’s mother used her CPF monies for the purchase. There was some dispute as to whether the husband’s mother contributed towards the renovations and paid for some fixtures. However, parties finally agreed to carve out the husband’s mother’s share, agreed to be 12% and I was informed that I would only be dividing 88% of the flat between the husband and the wife.

It was not disputed that the wife did not contribute financially towards the flat. The wife submitted that she wanted to but that this did not materialize as the husband did not agree to her suggestion.

The flat had an open market value of $523,000 with a minimal outstanding loan of about $15,000.

The husband had utilized a sum of $242,000 from his CPF (principal sum and interest) for the purchase.

The wife’s position

The wife conceded that she made no financial contribution towards the acquisition of the flat. Her contributions were indirect in nature and she asked the court to take into account the following matters: That the marriage subsisted some 20 years and that she was only diagnosed with behavioural problems 3 years ago. She admitted to have suffered from postpartum depression and in paragraph 9 of her affidavit filed 9 January 2014, she said that she had ‘violent outbreaks’ in the early years and was receiving treatment for depression. She was hospitalized as a result of these episodes. That she was the children’s caregiver from their births. That although the parties had helpers, she assisted with the household chores when she was at home. That she assisted the children with their homework. That her breakdown only occurred in October 2012. She was subsequently diagnosed with psychotic disorder only in December 2012. That she needed alternative accommodation and as such she needed the flat to be sold and for her payout to be at least 50% as she would have insufficient in her CPF accounts and inadequate savings to purchase a house. The husband and the children stayed with the wife’s family from 1997 to 2005. The wife said that the family looked after the children and this contribution by her family should be attributed as her indirect contribution.

The wife’s sister filed an affidavit on her behalf, making the following points: She reiterated that the wife wanted to use her CPF but that the husband had refused the suggestion. She was of the view that the husband should stop saying that the wife did not contribute financially towards the flat as a result of his refusal. She said that she had visited the wife and seen the wife cooking as well as buying groceries. She has seen the wife ferrying the elder child to and from kindergarten in the afternoon as well as cooking porridge for the children. She reiterated that during the stay with her family, her siblings would look after the children as the wife was ‘often busy at work’ (see paragraph 18 of the wife’s sister’s P’s affidavit filed 11 July 2014). They even sourced for tutors for the older child and brought him for tuition. She said that the wife did not leave the flat voluntarily and that the situation was made unbearable by the husband. She said that the children have not had meaningful contact with the...

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