Tig v Tih

Judgment Date08 December 2015
Date08 December 2015
Docket NumberDivorce (Transferred) No [M]
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)

[2015] SGHCF 12

Valerie Thean JC

Divorce (Transferred) No [M]

High Court

Family Law — Maintenance of former wife — Calculation of lump sum maintenance

Family Law — Matrimonial assets — Husband married to two wives — Second wife divorcing him — Whether first wife contributed to acquisition of pool of matrimonial assets — Whether first wife’s contributions should be taken into account in dividing pool of matrimonial assets and, if so, how

Family Law — Matrimonial assets — Parties purchasing successive matrimonial homes — Sale proceeds of first matrimonial home ploughed back towards financing purchase of second matrimonial home — Ascertaining direct contributions to second matrimonial home — Whether wife’s direct contributions including her share of ploughed-back sale proceeds determined by reference to her indirect contributions up to that point in time


The defendant (“the Husband”) married two wives in Malaysia in the 1970s. His first wife was one Mdm [J] with whom he had two grown-up children. Mdm [J] lived in Malaysia with her two children. The Husband’s second wife was the plaintiff in this case (“the Wife”). She lived in Singapore with the Husband and was the main caregiver of the parties’ four children. While married to the Wife, the Husband also entered into a relationship with one Mdm [K] in Malaysia. They had a 20-year-old son. In July 2013, the Wife filed for divorce on grounds of the Husband’s unreasonable behaviour. Interim judgment was granted almost a year later. As the parties’ four children were all above the age of majority, the only outstanding ancillaries were the division of assets and maintenance to the Wife.

The matrimonial assets arose from the Husband’s business in Singapore which focused initially on construction and then on property investment. The central issue in the division of these assets was whether Mdm [J] had contributed to their acquisition and, if so, how that should be accounted for. According to the Wife, Mdm [J] did not contribute at all to the Husband’s business since she resided in Malaysia. The Wife also argued that the Husband’s marriage to Mdm [J] was, in any event, an irrelevant consideration in law because s 112(2) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) (“the Charter”) only empowered the court to divide the matrimonial assets “between the parties”. The Husband, on the other hand, argued that Mdm [J] did contribute to the acquisition of the matrimonial assets and that this could properly be accounted for as a part of the Husband’s share of the assets.

A further issue arising in respect of division concerned the Wife’s direct contribution to the acquisition of the matrimonial home, [Property A]. By way of background, the parties’ first matrimonial home was [Property E]. This was purchased in 1982 but the parties moved in only in 1987. In the interim, the parties lived in rented premises while [Property E] was rented out to service the mortgage. In 2000, [Property E] was sold and the proceeds were used to purchase [Property A]. According to the Wife, she had paid $50,000 towards the purchase of [Property A]. However, the Husband gave evidence that, based on the modest salary that she earned as a labourer then, she could not have accumulated so much savings by the time [Property A] was purchased. The Wife further contended, relying on Tan Bee Giok v Loh Kum Yong [1996] 3 SLR(R) 605 (“Tan Bee Giok”), that her indirect contributions entitled her to a share of the sale proceeds of [Property E] which in turn added to her direct contribution to the purchase of [Property A].

In respect of maintenance, both parties asked for a lump sum order. The Wife submitted that her monthly expenses came up to $8,248 and that she should be maintained for the next ten years. The Husband, on the other hand, submitted that a multiplier of seven years was appropriate.

Prior to the ancillary hearing, counsel for the Husband had filed a summons seeking leave to file two further affidavits. As these affidavits responded to matters raised for the first time in affidavits filed by the Wife and two of the parties’ children, leave was granted at the ancillary hearing. Pursuant to this, counsel for the Wife countered with a request to file affidavits in response. There were also requests for cross-examination from both sides.


The requests for further evidence

(1) The following points could be distilled from a review of several foreign authorities on the special nature of providing evidence in family cases: (a) In assessing relevancy and whether more evidence was necessary for disposing fairly of the case or saving costs, the court looked to the factors in ss 112 and 114 of the Charter. Arising from the statutory context, the judge in an ancillary context had a more independent role than that of a judge in ordinary civil proceedings. The duty to ensure that evidence adduced was useful and relevant allowed a wider remit. (b) In exercising this mandate, the court ought to bear in mind the broad brush approach of the statutory context, and to eschew over- elaboration or trivial issues of minor relevance. (c) In family proceedings, the costs of proceedings came out of the very assets sought to be divided. Protracted proceedings were detrimental to the financial well-being of the parties and the two separate households which would thereafter require support. (d) The court ought also to balance the desirability for additional evidence against the need to avoid a course that further increased conflict unnecessarily among the various relationships within the family. These relationships continued to exist after the specific orders in the lawsuit had been given: at [20] to [26].

(2) The aforementioned objectives of the family court were aided and empowered in the local context by Pt 3 of the Family Justice Rules 2014 (S 813/2014). In particular, r 22 gave a wide discretion to the judge to achieve a “just, expeditious and economical disposal” of the ancillaries. Much would depend upon the facts of each case and the matters on which the evidence was sought. In financial matters, where the evidence could be held closely by one party, the other party might in appropriate cases be given more latitude in seeking discovery, further evidence and cross-examination. Matters relating to indirect contributions, on the other hand, might require a different approach where parties had lived for a long period of time together in the way that they had chosen to do. The cross-examination of witnesses or the filing of a plethora of affidavits over minute events taking place many years ago for the purposes of assessing each party’s indirect contribution was neither necessary for disposing fairly of the proceedings or for saving costs. The stage of proceedings was also important. It was best for parties to set out the issues in advance and to prepare their cases accordingly, rather than to wait until a late stage of proceedings: at [27] and [28].

(3) The further affidavits sought to be filed by the Wife and the requests for cross-examination from both sides were not necessary for the fair disposal of the present case. Adducing such evidence would in all likelihood have protracted proceedings, created further antagonism, and disproportionately increased costs for the parties: at [37].

Division of matrimonial assets

(4) Mdm [J] had clearly contributed indirectly to the acquisition of the matrimonial assets. Although the Husband’s businesses in Singapore were responsible for generating the income that went into the acquisition of the matrimonial assets, this was due in no small part to the fact that Mdm [J] was taking care of the children and the home in Malaysia: at [47].

(5) The court did not have any power to directly award a non-party a certain share of the pool of matrimonial assets. This was clear both on a plain reading of s 112 of the Charter and as a matter of logic and common sense. However, this did not mean that the court should not even take into account Mdm [J]’s contributions as part of the Husband’s share of the matrimonial assets. The direction in s 112(2) of the Charter to “have to regard to all the circumstances of the case” was clearly wide enough to permit the court to give proper recognition to the contributions made by Mdm [J] in the acquisition of the matrimonial assets: at [48] and [49].

(6) The Husband would not benefit unduly from having Mdm [J]’s contributions incorporated as a part of his own. The family unit between the Husband and Mdm [J] remained intact and, therefore, whatever assets were ordered to be divided to him would remain within the pool of matrimonial assets of his valid and subsisting marriage with Mdm [J]. How the Husband subsequently decided to hold these assets with Mdm [J] inter se was not something that the court was asked to interfere with. Furthermore, the Husband remained under an obligation to maintain Mdm [J] as his wife: at [49].

(7) The most appropriate way to divide the matrimonial assets in a polygamous marriage such as this was to simply use the accumulated pool of matrimonial assets as the starting point. The court then had to ascertain, in a broad-brush manner, how each of the parties and Mdm [J] had contributed to this accumulated pool of assets, both directly and indirectly. In this regard, the court would be following the first two stages of the structured approach in ANJ vANK [2015] 4 SLR 1043 (“ANJ”), save that the analysis was modified to accommodate three persons instead of two. Once the respective direct and indirect contributions of the Husband, the Wife and Mdm [J] had been ascertained, further adjustments could still be made on an overall analysis of the facts of the case in accordance with the third stage of the ANJ approach: at [53].

(8) In terms of direct contributions, Mdm [J]’s was negligible. As for the Wife, her assertion that she had contributed $50,000 in savings to the acquisition of...

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    • Singapore
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    ...which highlight the different (or seemingly less stringent) approach taken in family proceedings vis-à-vis civil proceedings. For instance, in TIG v TIH [2016] 1 SLR 1218 (“TIG”), Judicial Commissioner (“JC”) Thean (as she then was) noted (at [22]): One fundamental difference between family......
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1 books & journal articles
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    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2018, December 2018
    • 1 December 2018
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