VVQ v VVR

JudgeKevin Ho
Judgment Date14 September 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] SGFC 97
Citation[2021] SGFC 97
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
Published date21 September 2021
Docket NumberMSS No 2597 of 2020, District Court Appeal No. HCF/DCA 76/2021
Plaintiff CounselComplainant in person
Defendant CounselRespondent in person.
Subject MatterFamily law,Maintenance for wife,Maintenance for Child
Hearing Date11 June 2021,11 May 2021,09 March 2021
District Judge Kevin Ho: Introduction

In the present case, the Complainant sought a maintenance order against the Respondent, her husband, for him to pay reasonable maintenance for their child, [AR], and herself.

The Complainant’s maintenance application vide. MSS 2597/2020 (“MSS 2597”), was one of three applications which the parties had filed against each other in late 2020. The other two matters were cross-applications for personal protection orders against one another.

I heard the trial for all three applications in March and May 2021. Both parties acted in person throughout the proceedings before me. I delivered my oral decision on all three matters in June 2021.

In summary, in respect of MSS 2597, I allowed the Complainant’s application for maintenance and ordered the Respondent to pay the sum of $600 per month as maintenance for the Complainant and [AR]. I also ordered the Respondent to continue supporting [AR] by paying his school fees in Singapore.

The Complainant has since filed an appeal against my decision. These are my grounds of decision.

Background

The parties were married in India on 11 September 2006. Shortly after marriage, both parties moved to Singapore. [AR] was born to the parties in 2009, and he is currently studying in a local primary school.1

It is undisputed that for most of their approximately 15-year marriage, the Respondent was the main breadwinner of the family while the Complainant was the homemaker.

At its peak, the Respondent’s gross salary was in excess of $7,700 per month.2 However, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Respondent’s former employer, [BCPL], had reduced his monthly salary on several occasions such that at around the time the present application was filed, the Respondent’s net monthly salary was approximately $3,600.

In March 2021, approximately 5 months after the Complainant had filed the present application (but before the commencement of trial), the Respondent left the employ of [BCPL].

Following his resignation from [BCPL], the Respondent unilaterally relocated himself to India while the Complainant and [AR] continued to reside in Singapore at their matrimonial home (which is a 4-room Housing and Development Board flat).

In fact, for the entirety of the trial of MSS 2597 (as well as the family violence trial which came immediately before), the Respondent testified via video-link from India after leave was granted for him to do so.

For completeness, the parties’ disagreement on various financial matters (including whether to sell their matrimonial home in Singapore) formed the backdrop to the various legal proceedings between them – these include the present application for maintenance, the cross-applications for personal protection orders, as well as divorce proceedings which the Respondent has since commenced against the Complainant in India (the “Indian Proceedings”).

The parties’ respective positions

In her Complaint Form, the Complainant initially sought a sum of $5,000 per month from the Respondent even though in her affidavit filed for the purpose of the trial, she provided a breakdown of her monthly expenses totalling only $3,957.28.

The Complainant subsequently clarified, at trial, that she was prepared to seek a lower amount to cover the “necessities”. The Complainant’s final position at trial was that the Respondent should be ordered to pay the sum of $3,950 per month – ie. $2,000 for herself and $1,950 for the child.

On the other hand, the Respondent’s position was simply that he could not provide the maintenance sought by the Complainant. He explained that he had chosen to leave Singapore as he could no longer cope with the expenses he was incurring and the standard of living here, following the reduction in his salary.3 He had asked the Complainant to return to India with him, and to dispose of their Singapore assets (including their matrimonial home) to start afresh, but she was unwilling to do so.

He testified during trial that he had no intention of returning to Singapore in the near future (save where his physical presence is required to sort out the matrimonial assets located in Singapore) and that that he had just started a new business in India. As a result, his income was significantly lower as compared to what he used to earn in Singapore.4

As regards whether he had been maintaining the Complainant and [AR] since his departure from Singapore, he did not dispute that he did not do so save that he had paid for a few items such as the parties’ telephone bill and the child’s school fees.5 He accepted that it was his obligation to support the family, but his position was that he cannot afford to do so.

Applicable legal principles

In respect of a husband’s and/or father’s obligation to maintain his wife and child, Sections 69(1) and (2), Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) (“WC”) provide that:- — (1) The court may, on the application of a wife, and on due proof that her husband has neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for her, order the husband to pay a monthly allowance or a lump sum for the maintenance of that wife.

refused to provide reasonable maintenance for his child who is unable to maintain himself, order that parent to pay a monthly allowance or a lump sum for the maintenance of that child

As regards the issue of what amounts to reasonable maintenance, the Court in assessing this matter may consider the various factors set out in Section 69(4), WC:- The court, when ordering maintenance for a wife… or a child under this section, shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the following matters: the financial needs of the wife…or child; the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the wife…or child; any physical or mental disability of the wife… or child; the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage; the contributions made by each of the parties to the marriage to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family; the standard of living enjoyed — by the wife before her husband neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for her;

by the child before a parent neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the child;

For completeness, although not expressly referenced in Section 69(4), the financial resources and income of the paying party (ie. the husband or parent, as the case may be) are also relevant factors which the Court may take into account in assessing what would be a reasonable amount of maintenance for the wife or child (see TBC v TBD [2015] 4 SLR 596 at [18] and [19]).

Further, insofar as the application before the Court is one seeking interim maintenance under Section 69, WC, the Court’s objective is to address the parties’ immediate financial needs without a full investigation of the parties’ respective financial positions, and that such orders are intended to provide modest maintenance (often calculated on a conservative basis) to tide the parties over pending the final determination of the parties’ divorce (see for e.g., UEC v UEB [2017] SGFC 92 at [10] and Foo Ah Yan v Chiam Heng Chow [2012] 2 SLR 506 at [22]).

My decision

As stated above, I was satisfied, having considered the parties’ submissions and evidence, that a maintenance order ought to be made in the present case.

Did the Respondent neglect or fail to provide reasonable maintenance?

I start with the issue of whether the Respondent had neglected and/or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the Complainant and [AR]. This was a critical issue as the Court’s power to make a maintenance order is premised on the neglect or refusal by a husband (or parent) to provide such maintenance.

On this issue, I agreed with the Complainant that the Respondent had neglected and/or refused to provide reasonable maintenance.

In this regard, it is often the case that an assessment of what constitutes “reasonable maintenance” would precede the determination of whether there was neglect or refusal to provide the same (see UHA v UHB [2020] 3 SLR 666 at [44]). This is especially so in cases where the respondent had been providing a monthly allowance and the question before the Court was whether the amount so provided was sufficient to support his wife or child, as the case may be.

However, in the present case, it was not seriously disputed that up until the time the Respondent left Singapore, he was the sole breadwinner of the family and the person who bore the whole financial burden of supporting the Complainant and [AR].

Indeed, throughout the proceedings, the Respondent repeatedly emphasised that he was the person who solely maintained the family, and that he did so throughout the marriage. By his own estimate (based on the documents he had submitted), he spent in excess of $5,400 for the family each month, before he left for India in March 2021.6

That being the case, his failure to provide any maintenance since his relocation in March 2021 (save for [AR]’s school fees, the Complainant’s telephone bills and the housing loan for the matrimonial home) effectively meant that he had neglected to reasonably maintain the Complainant and [AR].

How much should the Respondent pay as maintenance?

The next question then would be how much maintenance should the Respondent be ordered to pay to maintain the Complainant and [AR].

However, before addressing this issue, I set out below the various matters which I had found to be relevant to my determination on the quantum of maintenance to be ordered : First, I took into account the fact that the maintenance order sought by the Complainant in the present application was akin to an interim...

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2 cases
  • WEK v WEL and other matters
    • Singapore
    • Family Court (Singapore)
    • 13 June 2022
    ...proceedings. Interim awards are calculated on a “conservative basis” and are typically “modest” (UEC v UEB [2017] SGFC 92 (“UEC”) at [10]; VVQ v VVR [2021] SGFC 97 (“VVQ”) at [21]). Accordingly, the primary considerations at this interim juncture are the “immediate financial needs” or the “......
  • WSN v WSO
    • Singapore
    • Family Court (Singapore)
    • 19 December 2023
    ...calculated on a conservative basis) to tide the parties over pending the final determination of the parties’ divorce: see VVQ v VVR [2021] SGFC 97 at [21], citing UEC v UEB [2017] SGFC 92 at [10] and Foo Ah Yan v Chiam Heng Chow [2012] 2 SLR 506 at [22]); see also an academic view at [11] b......

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