VCP v VCQ

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeCheryl Koh
Judgment Date14 November 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] SGFC 126
Citation[2019] SGFC 126
Docket NumberDivorce Suit No. 1442 of 2017, District Court Appeal No. 105 of 2019
Published date21 November 2019
Hearing Date14 August 2019,21 August 2019
Plaintiff CounselMr. Dhawant Singh (SK Kumar Law Practice LLP) --for the Plaintiff Husband
Defendant CounselMs. Chua Siow Lee Dora (Chia Ngee Thuang & Co)--for the Defendant Wife
Subject MatterFamily Law,Ancillary Matters,section 112 & 113 of the Women's Charter (Cap. 353)
District Judge Cheryl Koh: Introduction

These are the ancillary matters arising out of a divorce involving two issues: the division of matrimonial assets and maintenance for the defendant wife (the “Wife”).

In this case, the matrimonial flat is in the name of three persons, namely, the plaintiff husband (the “Husband”), the Wife and the eldest son (the “Son”). All three persons have paid towards the matrimonial flat using their CPF monies. Whilst the Husband disputes the Son’s interest in the matrimonial flat, he has refused to make any application in the High Court to determine the Son’s interest, despite directions at earlier Case Conferences.

On 14 and 21 August 2019, I noted that both counsel agreed at the ancillary matters hearing that the Son’s CPF contributions are towards 45% of the matrimonial flat. I determined that of the balance 55%, each party is entitled to 50% of the same. I further recorded that parties are at liberty to apply for consequential orders, if parties and the Son are unable to agree on the transfer or the sale of the matrimonial flat.

The Husband has appealed against the part of my decision determining that parties are entitled to their 55% interest in the matrimonial flat in equal proportions.

Background facts

Parties were married on 31 October 1980. The Husband commenced divorce proceedings on 04 April 2017. Interim Judgment was granted on 03 October 2018. The marriage therefore lasted 38 years.

There are three (3) male adult children to the marriage, aged 38, 28 and 27 years old. The children are gainfully employed. The eldest and the youngest children live with the Wife in the matrimonial flat. The second child lives with an uncle. The Husband lives alone in a rented room.

The Husband is 59 years old and works as a TV operator. The Wife is 58 years old. She was a housewife throughout most of the marriage, although the Husband claims that she is now working.

Under an order made on 9 July 2013 in MSS No. 1999 of 2013, the Husband is to pay the Wife interim maintenance of $800.00 per month. By way of a consent order made on 16 January 2019 in MSS No. 209 of 2019, maintenance was reduced to $400.00 per month.

The affidavits and submissions filed by the parties are as follows: the Husband’s 1st Affidavit of Assets and Means (“AOM”) filed on 24 May 2019; the Wife’s 1st AOM filed on 21 May 2019; affidavit of parties’ son, XXX (the “Son”), filed on 21 May 2019; the Husband’s 2nd AOM filed on 24 June 2019; the Wife’s 2nd AOM filed on 17 June 2019; the Husband’s Submissions filed on 13 August 2019; and the Wife’s Submissions filed on 01 August 2019.

Grounds of Decision The law UDA v UDB and UDC [2018] SGCA 20

A first consideration arises as to whether the Court may make any orders directly affecting the matrimonial flat, as it is not only in the names of the Husband and the Wife, but also in the name of a third party, the Son. In this regard, the Court of Appeal in UDA v UDB and another [2018] SGCA 20 (“UDA”) upheld at [19] the principle that the Family Court could not make orders directly impacting the property rights of a third party. Instead, the Family Court could consider the three options set out by the then Honourable Judicial Commissioner Debbie Ong in UDA v UDB and another [2017] SGHCF 16, as follows: Option 1(a): the court, exercising its powers under section 112 of the Women’s Charter, hears the evidence of the third party and the divorcing parties in order to determine whether the disputed asset is a matrimonial asset. It can do this either on affidavit evidence only or by permitting cross-examination. If the court concludes that one or both of the divorcing parties has/have a beneficial interest in the property, it may include the asset in the matrimonial pool but not make any order directly affecting that asset; Option 1(b): the same as Option 1(a), save that the court further provides in its order that, should there subsequently be a civil action determining the beneficial interest of any of the disputed assets, its order should be modified in the manner specified to take into account the final outcome of the civil action; Option 2: the court stays the proceedings under section 112 of the Women’s Charter in order to allow the property dispute to be separately determined first. This option needed no further discussion as being part of the court’s case management powers; and Option 3: the court simply determines the property interests in the asset in section 112 of the Women’s Charter proceedings and makes orders affecting that property – for example, a sale or transfer of the property.

In the present case, the Husband disputes the Son’s interest in the matrimonial flat, but refuses to make any application in the High Court to determine the Son’s interest, despite directions at earlier Case Conferences. Both counsel have not addressed in their submissions which of the three options set out in UDA they are asking for. They however accept that the Family Court is not able to make any orders directly affecting the matrimonial flat since it is also in the name of the Son. As such, I will only determine the division of matrimonial assets between the Husband and the Wife, subject to the Son’s interest in the matrimonial flat. This is essentially Option 1(a) referred to in UDA.

To apply the structured approach or long single income approach

A further consideration arises to whether the Court should apply the structured approach espoused in the Court of Appeal decision of ANJ v ANK [2015] 4 SLR 1043 (“ANJ”), or the single income approach for long marriages set out in the Court of Appeal decision of TNL v TNK [2017] SGCA 15 (“TNL”). Both counsel have not addressed in their submissions which of the two approaches the Court should adopt; the Wife simply argues that she should be awarded a higher proportion of the matrimonial flat in view of the long marriage and in lieu of lump sum maintenance1, whilst the Husband argued that he should be awarded 80% of the matrimonial pool2.

This is a long marriage of 39 years with three (3) adult children. The Wife was a housewife throughout most of the marriage, but the Husband...

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