JudgeJason Gabriel Chiang
Judgment Date18 June 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] SGFC 70
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
Hearing Date08 March 2021,21 January 2021,07 January 2021,26 February 2021
Docket NumberFC/D 5012 of 2018
Plaintiff CounselMs Yvonne Janet Schelkis -Sweeney of Gloria James-Civetta & Co
Defendant CounselMs Tan Sieu Kim of Sterling Law (instructed counsel) and Ms Madeleine Poh of Yeo & Associates LLC
Subject MatterFamily Law,Women's Charter,Ancillary Matters,Division of Matrimonial Assets,Operative dates,Global or Classification Methodology,Adverse Inference,TNL dicta,Child Maintenance,Spousal Maintenance,Custody
Published date30 June 2021
District Judge Jason Gabriel Chiang: Introduction

In this case, custody, care and control and access of the child of the marriage were largely agreed between parties. The key issues in dispute were the division of matrimonial assets, child maintenance and spousal maintenance. The determination of the division of matrimonial assets turned largely on the issues of the operative dates for the assessment and valuation of the matrimonial assets, and allegations of adverse inference and/or dissipation of assets.

In a significant proportion of ancillary matters proceedings, parties’ most significant asset would invariably be the matrimonial home. However, in this case, parties’ other assets far outpaced the value of the matrimonial home, such that the division of the matrimonial home, by itself, was insufficient to satisfy a just and equitable division of all the matrimonial assets.

The 1st set of Written Submissions were filed by both sides on 7 January 2021 (the “1st Submissions”), and after hearing counsel on 21 January 2021 for a half-day hearing, I directed for a 2nd set of Written Submissions which was filed by both sides on 26 February 2021 (the “2nd Submissions”).

Having considered the 1st and 2nd Submissions and the oral arguments canvassed on 21 January 2021, I delivered my oral decision on 8 March 2021. Overall, I ordered in FC/ORC 1336/2021 (“ORC 1336”) for: A 50-50 division of the matrimonial assets, which resulted in the Matrimonial Flat being transferred to the Defendant Wife (“Wife”) and the Plaintiff Husband (“Husband”) having to make an additional payment of S$479,936.72 to the Wife within 6 months of ORC 1336; Monthly Child maintenance of S$6,000.00, with the Husband continuing to pay for the insurance policies he had purchased for the Child and further ensuring that the Child continued to be covered by his Company’s medical coverage. Additionally, the Husband was to reimburse the Wife 80% of any documented medical costs not covered by the medical coverage within 14 days of being informed of such costs with the relevant supporting documents; No spousal maintenance; By consent, joint custody of the Child to both and care and control to the Wife, with certain reasonable access terms for the Husband; and Costs fixed at S$2,000.00 payable by the Husband to the Wife.

The Husband being dissatisfied with my decision filed an appeal, HCF/DCA 34/2021 on 18 March 2021 against the orders for the division of matrimonial assets, child maintenance and costs.

On 26 March 2021, the Husband also filed a summons for a stay of execution of the appealed portions of ORC 1336. On 24 May 2021, after hearing the Husband’s counsel and the Wife, who was by then unrepresented, I stayed the order for the transfer of the Matrimonial Flat, which the Wife also agreed to, but dismissed the other prayers. This was on the basis that the successful litigant should not be denied the fruits of litigation, and that acting on the orders other than the transfer of the Matrimonial Flat would not render the appeal nugatory. There were also no special circumstances to stay those other orders. In this summons, the Husband clarified that his appeal was predicated on the following: That I had miscalculated the total matrimonial pool of assets in respect of the matrimonial assets held by the Wife and the Husband respectively; That I erred in awarding an unduly generous percentage for the Wife’s direct financial contributions; That I erred in awarding an unduly generous percentage for the Wife’s indirect contributions; That I had wrongly drawn an adverse inference against the Husband; That I had wrongly not drawn an adverse inference against the Wife; That I erred in awarding maintenance in the sum of S$6,000 per month for the Child; and That I erred in awarding S$2,000 costs payable by the Husband to the Wife.

Even though the appeal is limited in scope, my full grounds of decision is set out below. In this decision, I have, however, focused on the outstanding issues being raised in appeal.

Facts The parties

The Husband and the Wife were both Singapore Citizens, but were formerly Citizens of the People’s Republic of China. They were married in China on 6 February 2007 and gave birth to a son, the child of the marriage on 14 January 2012 (the “Child”).

Both the Husband and Wife were in their early 40s and the Child had just turned 9 at the time of the Ancillary Matters Hearing. Both the Husband and Wife were university graduates. The Husband was a manager for a multinational technology company (the “Company”) earning a significant income, whereas the Wife was an IT/Support Analyst earning significantly less.

Background to the dispute

The Husband filed for divorce on 30 October 2018. After attending mediation, the parties agreed to the marriage being dissolved on both the Husband’s claim and the Wife’s counterclaim that the other spouse had behaved in such a way that the Husband and Wife respectively could not reasonably be expected to live with the other spouse. Interim Judgment was thus granted on 9 October 2019, with all ancillary matters adjourned for further hearing.

On 14 May 2019, the Wife filed a complaint for spousal and child maintenance. After hearing the contested MSS Trial, the following maintenance order was delivered on 23 August 2019 for the Husband to make the following maintenance payments to the Wife: S$5,100 per month for the Child; S$300 per month for the Wife; The Husband shall pay for the school fees, student care fees and medical insurance for the Child directly to the relevant service provided and he reimburse the Wife for all expenses for student care and all reasonable medical expenses for the Child within 14 days of the production of relevant receipts; The Husband shall continue to pay the Wife’s medical insurance premiums and use his best efforts for the reimbursement of the Wife’s medical expenses diagnosed by a Singapore doctor under his Company’s medical coverage and to reimburse her half of the amount if it is not covered by his employer, within 14 days of being informed of such expenses which are not reimbursable by the Company; and Pending the determination of Ancillary Matters, the Husband is to allow the Wife to rent out the Matrimonial Flat, and for her to retain the entire proceeds for her use.

At the hearing, Parties had confirmed though their counsel that they had been adhering to this maintenance order, since then.

In 2020, 6 interlocutory applications were filed by parties, 2 by the Wife and 4 by the Husband. The Wife’s 2 Applications related to an extension of time to serve her requests for discovery and interrogatories, having missed the extended deadline by 2 days purportedly due to an oversight, and for discovery and interrogatories. The Husband’s 4 Applications related to the striking out of certain portions of the Wife’s Affidavit of Assets and Means, and multiple applications for discovery and interrogatories. In the circumstances, even though Interim Judgment was granted on 9 October 2019, I only first heard the ancillary matters more than a year later on 21 January 2021.

While both sides submitted the 1st Submissions on time on 7 January 2021, only the Wife provided her Ancillary Matters Fact and Position Sheet (“AM F&PS”) on the same day as directed. Upon a reminder by the Court, the Husband also belatedly filed his AM F&PS on 20 January 2021.

Based on the 1st Submissions, parties were fairly close with regard to their positions on the custody, care and control of and access to the Child. At the 1st Ancillary Matters Hearing on 21 January 2021, after both sides’ counsel had the opportunity to confirm instructions with their clients before I recorded an agreement on the relevant terms. This is elaborated below in paragraph 25 to 27.

I then heard arguments on the remaining outstanding issues on the division of matrimonial assets, child maintenance and spousal maintenance and directed both sides’ counsel to address me on outstanding issues in the 2nd Submissions, before reaching my decision.

The parties’ cases

The Husband’s positions were not particularly consistent across the 1st Submissions, AM F&PS, oral arguments at both hearings and the 2nd Submissions. The Wife’s positions were a bit more consistent.

Generally, for the division of matrimonial assets, the Husband initially took the position that the Husband contributed 83% of the direct financial contributions to all matrimonial assets and the Wife contributed the remaining 17%. On Indirect Contributions, he argued that 70% should be attributed to him as opposed to 30% to the Wife. Overall, on equal weightage between direct and indirect contributions, the Husband was of the view that the final ratio was 76.5: 23.5 in favour of the Husband for a pool of matrimonial assets amounting to S$1,830,489.59. To give effect to this final ratio, the Husband submitted that the Matrimonial Flat should be divided and that the Wife should make up for any shortfall to the Husband through her share of the sale proceeds of the Matrimonial Flat, and if that was insufficient, for her to compensate him in cash. Besides that, the Husband sought that each party was to retain all other assets in their respective sole names. Additionally, the Husband claimed that the Wife transferred S$400,000 from his bank accounts over the course of the marriage and sought that the Court make an order for the Wife to return the Husband’s “rightful share in cash”. Notably, these positions were adjusted throughout the course of proceedings, which I will elaborate upon when discussing the specific issues below.

The Wife argued that the Husband’s direct financial contributions amounted to 82%, while her direct financial contributions amounted to 18%. The Wife claimed that 80% of the indirect contributions should be attributed to her. On equal weightage between the direct...

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