VGR v VGS

CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
JudgeChia Wee Kiat
Judgment Date02 March 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] SGFC 27
Citation[2020] SGFC 27
Published date11 March 2020
Hearing Date31 October 2019
Docket NumberFC/D 4510/2017
Plaintiff CounselMr Vincent Yeoh (Malkin & Maxwell LLP)
Defendant CounselMs Michelle Woodworth and Ms Ho Shiao Hong (Quahe Woo & Palmer LLC)
Subject MatterFamily law,Custody, Care and Control,Division of Matrimonial Assets,Maintenance
District Judge Chia Wee Kiat: Introduction

The Plaintiff shall be referred to as the “Wife” and the Defendant shall be referred to as the “Husband”. The parties were married on 11 December 20081 and an interim Judgement of Divorce (“IJ”) was granted on 16 May 2018 based on the Husband’s counterclaim2 that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by reason of the Wife’s behaviour.3 The length of the marriage up to the time of IJ was close to 10 years.

The Husband was introduced to the Wife in June 2006 as a manufacturer of skin care products when the Wife was working at a beauty salon.4 The Wife has a child [A] (name redacted) from her previous marriage. The Wife divorced her ex-husband in 2007.5 The Husband formally adopted A on 14 October 20116 when A was 7 years old.7 A turns 16 this year.

The Husband has two children from his first marriage. Both are now above 21 years old.8

The Husband is the Chief Executive Officer of [B] Pte Ltd,9 a company he started on 12 July 1994, 14 years before the parties were married.10 The Wife says she is currently unemployed and was previously an employee of B Pte Ltd.11 This is disputed by the Husband who says she did not actually carry out any work for B Pte Ltd12 but instead has a business of her own trading in luxury bags.13

The Husband says the breakdown of the marriage was due to various reasons, including the Wife’s indulgent lifestyle, her neglect of the family and her infidelity.14 The Wife says it was the unreasonable behaviour of the Husband that compelled her to flee the matrimonial home in February 2017.15

The Wife left the matrimonial home on 1 February 2017 without A and has not returned to reside since.16 The Wife says she did not bring A along as she wanted to rent a proper home for A first.17

The Husband says he did not know where the Wife had moved to but later learned that the Wife had been staying at an apartment in The Tembusu (“the Tembusu property”).18 According to the Husband, the Tembusu property was an apartment which the wife bought in 2013 during the marriage but kept it a secret from him.19 The Husband says the Wife was having an extra-marital relationship with [C] who had a share in the Tembusu property. It is not disputed that C’s share was subsequently bought over by the Wife.20 The Wife says she became close to C because of torments inflicted by the Husband.21

C died an unnatural death in late 2015. The Husband says C had jumped out of a moving car which the Wife was driving after a heated argument, 22 but the Wife says C had opened the door because he was very drunk and fell out of the car and died.23

After his death, C’s widow [D] approached the Husband at his office to tell him about C’s affair with the Wife.24 D told the Husband she only discovered the full extent of C’s infidelity because of police investigations into his death.25

The Husband says that throughout 2016, he tried to keep the peace for A’s sake but the Wife’s extra-marital affair with C had left him deeply scarred and there was tension in the relationship.26 The Wife left the matrimonial home on 1 February 2017 after they had a major disagreement during Chinese New Year.27

On 25 September 201728, A left the Husband to live with the Wife.29 The Husband says A did not tell him about her leaving until she had physically left the home. A then sent a message on 28 September 2017 to the Husband as follows:30

Daddy this week im staying with mummy because of my exams but i want you to know no matter what happens You will always be my daddy and i will always be your daughter.

In the end i will still see you

It may not be everyday or every week but i still love you

This heart-warming message and several other contemporaneous exchanges between A and the Husband reveal that there was a loving and endearing parent-child relationship between them even though A was from the Wife’s previous marriage.31

On 27 September 2017, the Wife commenced divorce proceedings claiming that the Husband had behaved in such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with him. 32 The Husband says it was too coincidental that the Wife filed for a divorce soon after inviting A to live with her and that the Wife had invited A to live with her only to paint herself in a better light in these proceedings.33 The Husband filed a defence and counterclaim.34

On 2 January 2018, the Wife filed FC/SUM 12/2018 (“SUM 12”) to claim $15,000 per month as interim maintenance for herself and A. On 19 April 2018, the learned District Judge Goh Zhuo Neng dismissed the Wife’s claim for interim maintenance for herself and ordered the Husband to pay maintenance for A in the sum of $1,784.71 per month, consisting of $720 paid to the Wife and $1,064.71 paid directly to third parties.35 In dismissing her claim for maintenance, the court noted as follows:36

She is clearly able to provide for herself. In my view, she has considerable income. This is the inference I have drawn from the non-disclosure of complete bank statements and credit card statements and the transactions in the Table 1 provided to you.

The divorce came up for hearing on 16 May 2019 before the learned District Judge Daniel Koh. The Wife’s claim was dismissed and IJ was granted on the basis of the Husband’s counterclaim based on the Wife’s behaviour.37 The Wife says this was pursuant to a mediated settlement.38 The following ancillary matters were adjourned to be heard in chambers:39 Custody, care and control of and access to A; Division of matrimonial assets; Maintenance for A; Maintenance for the Wife; Costs.

The ancillary matters (“AM”) were heard before me on 31 October 2019. The parties are agreed that there will be no maintenance for the Wife while the current maintenance for A will continue.40 The parties are also agreed that the Wife will have care and control of A with liberal access to the Husband41.

Whilst the parties have agreed on most of the issues concerning A, the Wife sees “no reason for joint custody”.42 The Wife wants sole custody while the Husband wants joint custody.43 The Wife exhibited a letter dated 6 August 2018 from A to the Husband’s lawyers that states as follows:44

To: Michelle Woodworth RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP cc: Vincent Yeoh, Malkin & Maxwell LLP

From: [A]

Subject: Divorce of [Name of Wife] and [Name of Father]

I am told that my father wants to have joint custody. However, I do not want it, although I am grateful for his generosity. Previously when I used to live with him, he was rarely at home since he was mostly back to back business trips or always at his office. Even if he sent me to school in the morning or during dinner, he would not talk to me much.

I never really properly connected to him one-to-one as well. Unlike my relationship with my mother, I was very cautious of what I tell when we do talk, because I was mostly afraid of what his reaction would be, especially if it was negative.

Even during dinner, he was always on his phone, texting or calling and due to the quiet and awkward atmosphere, it caused my mother and I to use our phones while eating as well. Therefore we also did not talk to each other. The only person who I have proper conversation with is my mother. My mother and I connect easily and understand each other, making our very conversation enjoyable.

My mother also cooks most of our meals when she was still staying with us, although we have a helper at home. She would also serve us during our meals, making sure we had started eating before she does. She would spend a lot of time cooking food and would always make sure to cook or bake something special for our birthday. For example, during daddy’s birthday, mummy cooked a wide variety of dishes and make a delicious chocolate cake for him.

When I had already moved out, my father did not contact me much and did not take the effort to invite me out to meet him or talk to him.

To sum up, I would much rather stay with my mother than my father. Please show this letter to the judge and tell the judge not to give joint custody to my father of me.

My phone number is [xxx]. You can call me if you want or need to talk to me.

[A]

6/8/18

Whilst the letter is addressed to the lawyers for the Husband, there is a request by A that the letter be shown “to the judge and tell the judge not to give joint custody to my father of me”. Taken at face value, the contents of the letter point to a discernible shift in the attitude of the child towards the Husband after she left home to live with the Wife. The dismissive tone towards the Husband stands in stark contrast to the endearing messages she had previously sent him. The letter conveys a wholesome picture of the Wife whilst painting the Husband in less favourable light in their respective contributions to the family. The overall picture that emerged suggests that the child has been triangulated into the conflicts of the parents.

After the hearing on 31 October 2019, I reserved my decision to give further consideration to the parties’ submissions. I also directed the parties to file a Joint Summary in view of the numerous assets listed for division. The Annex to the Plaintiff’s Submissions listed a total of 192 assets under the Wife’s sole name and 42 assets under the Husband’s sole name. In addition, the Annex also listed a number of joint assets and liabilities. In a case such as the present involving multiple assets, a Joint Summary would be helpful to identify the issues in dispute so that the court’s time and resources are not wasted in sieving through matters that are inconsequential or not disputed. The Joint Summary was duly filed on 2 December 2019 and I thank counsel for their assistance.

At the hearing, the parties confirmed that they have no objections for the decision of the court to be rendered in writing. This is permissible under Rule 670 of the Family Justice Rules.

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1 cases
  • GDD v GDE
    • Singapore
    • Family Court (Singapore)
    • 3 Marzo 2021
    ...of the family court to order counselling on its own motion under s 26(9) of the FJA was also invoked by Chia Wee Kiat DJ in VGR v VGS [2020] SGFC 27 following ancillary proceedings in a divorce. Here, the Parents themselves recognise the value of the therapeutic assistance provided by couns......

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