District Judge Jason Gabriel Chiang:
This main ancillary matters for this case presented a number of novel issues, among other things, relating to foreign properties in the division of matrimonial assets for a long single-income marriage, spousal maintenance and the maintenance of children undergoing tertiary studies.
Separately, 3 other applications were also dealt with together with the hearing of the ancillary matters (collectively referred to as the “Summonses”): FC/SUM 1920/2021 (“SUM 1920”), the Defendant Wife’s (the “Wife’s”) application for committal relating to the Plaintiff Husband’s (the “Husband’s”) purported breaches of certain interim orders for the rental payment of the Wife’s and one of the Child’s accommodation; FC/SUM 2246/2021 (“SUM 2246”), the Husband’s application to file a 3rd Ancillary Matters (“AM”) Affidavit; and FC/SUM 3028/2021 (“SUM 3028”), the Wife’s application for a mandatory order for the Husband to apply to reinstate or renew the Wife’s Dependant Pass.
Parties had 3 Children of the marriage but had also jointly raised the Wife’s daughter from a previous relationship when the daughter was 5 years old. The 4 Children were: Child 1, aged 26 years old, the Wife’s daughter from a previous relationship, who had difficulty in obtaining an employment pass in Singapore, relocated back to the United States; Child 2, aged 20 years old, Parties’ son who was studying in a university in the United States; Child 3, aged 19 years old, Parties’ daughter who was also studying in a different university in the United States; and Child 4, aged 13 years old, Parties’ youngest son, who was studying in the American International School in Singapore.
SUM 2246 was allowed at the 1st hearing on 6 July 2021, with further orders and costs against the Husband. SUM 3028 was withdrawn by the Wife at the hearing on 13 September 2021, after I had discussed certain issues with the application with parties’ counsel and costs was ordered against the Wife. Even though SUM 1920 had been fixed for a separate trial, the Wife also withdrew SUM 1920 after the full decision on the ancillary matters was rendered on 13 September 2021. There was no order as to costs on this.
At the 2nd hearing on 2 August 2021, partial Ancillary Matters orders were rendered in relation to the children, given that one child was turning 21 years old a mere 9 days thereafter, as follows in Order of Court, FC/ORC 4663/2021 (“ORC 4663”):- A. Custody By Consent, the Husband and the Wife shall have joint custody over the children of the marriage, namely: Child 2; Child 3; and Child 4. B. Care & Control & Access By Consent, the Husband and the Wife shall have shared care and control of Child 2 and 3. Their time with Child 2 and 3 shall be subject to Child 2’s and 3’s wishes, as they are both studying overseas for their tertiary studies. The Husband and the Wife shall have shared care and control of Child 4 as follows:- During School terms, afterschool on every Friday to 9.00 am on Sunday mornings; In the event that Child 4 has homebased learning, the Husband shall have Child 4 no later than 15 minutes before the beginning of school on Friday; Alternate public holidays and special one-day school holidays (e.g. Youth Day, Children’s Day, Teacher’s Day, and PSLE Marking Day), from 9.00 am to 8.00 pm, beginning with National Day on 9 August 2021. In the event that the public holiday or special school holiday falls on a weekend, the relevant day of access would be the holiday provided by the school in lieu of the holiday that fell on a weekend; Half of Child 3’s school vacation, to be arranged between parties; Any additional access to be mutually discussed and agreed between parties; The Husband, the Wife and Child 4 shall attend counselling at Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSA) and shall attend any such further sessions as DSSA so direct. C. Maintenance of the Children By Consent, the Husband shall be wholly responsible for the reasonable expenses of Child 2 and 3. This includes their education fees, lodging and other expenses while they are pursuing their tertiary studies, even when they are beyond the age of 21 years. Payment shall be made by the Husband to Child 2 and 3 directly, and/or to the relevant 3rd parties and/or service providers for such expenses. The Husband shall pay the following as maintenance for Child 4: S$580.00 to the Wife and is to be deposited into the Wife’s Bank Account. The above-mentioned maintenance is to be paid on or before the 1st day of each month with effect from this order. The Husband shall do all thing reasonable to ensure that Child 4’s education continues to be covered by his employed. The Husband shall do all things reasonable for his company’s health insurance policy to cover Child 4’s medical expenses. In the event that the Wife brings Child 4 to seek medical attention, the Wife shall endeavour to ensure that Child 4 is brought to a medical facility that is covered by the Husband’s health insurance policy. The Husband shall be directly responsible for the payment of Child 4’s pocket money, and handphone bills. The Husband shall be at liberty to liaise directly with Child 4 on these matters. In the event that such items in 5(e)(iii)and 5(e)(iv) are paid by the Wife 1st, save for pocket money, or the relevant invoice/bill that is received by the Wife, the Wife shall produce the relevant invoice/bill/receipt, as the case may be, to the Husband, within 7 days from the date reflected on the invoice/bill/receipt, and the Husband shall either pay the service provider or reimburse the Wife within 14 days of the invoice/bill/receipt being furnished to him. The Husband’s payment for Child 4’s share of rental / accommodations / household expenses is adjourned to be determined at a later date. This order supersedes paragraphs 4, 5 (in relation to Child 4) and 6 of FC/ORC 5998/2020, the Order made by District Judge Kathryn Thong on 11 December 2020 (“ORC 5998”), but, for the avoidance of doubt, it does not supersede paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 5 (in relation to the Wife) of ORC 5998. The issue of purported arrears is adjourned for determination at a later date. All further Ancillary Matters and costs are adjourned for determination at a later date. There shall be liberty to apply.
After reviewing further submissions and hearing further arguments, at the hearing on 13 September 2021, I rendered my decision for the further orders of the Ancillary Matters in the Order of Court, FC/ORC 4919/2021 (“ORC 4919”) as follows: A. Division of the matrimonial assets Within 3 months of the date of this Order, all of the Wife’s rights, title and interests in the properties held in parties’ joint names known as and situated at (i) Texas Property 1 (“Haleys Way”); (ii) Texas Property 2 (“Double File”); and (iii) New York Property (“Peaceable”), shall be transferred (other than by way of sale) to the Husband. The Husband shall bear the costs and expenses of the transfer solely. Within 9 months of the date of this Order, the Husband shall pay the sum of S$565,700.39 to the Wife. Parties shall retain all other assets in their own names. Parties shall have no future claims in relation to such assets. Maintenance for wife / incapacitated husband The Husband shall pay to the Wife the sum of S$3,150 every month by the 1st day of the month, beginning 1 October 2021, until the month when the Wife is provided with her share of the matrimonial assets (i.e. maintenance stops the month after). The Husband shall pay to the Wife for the arrears of S$5,450 as of 13 September 2021, in instalments of $500 on the 1st day of the month beginning 1 October 2021. The Husband shall pay for Child 4’s accommodation costs of S$1,250 on the 1st day of the month, beginning 1 October 2021. These orders for maintenance supersede paragraph 1, 2, 3 and 5 of ORC 5998. C. Others Paragraph 3(f) (refer to paragraph 5(c)(vi) above) of ORC 4663, the Order made on 2 August 2021, is varied by deleting and replacing with the following: “Parties shall agree on the appropriate counselling / therapy for [Child 4] and/or parties to attend, and the sharing of such costs. In the event that parties are unable to agree on costs, parties shall seek the court for adjudication.” Each Party is to bear their own costs for the divorce Liberty to Apply.
The Husband being dissatisfied with my decision filed an appeal, HCF/DCA 121/2021 on 22 September 2021 against my orders made in ORC 4919, in relation to the following: The Wife has to transfer her share of the 3 properties located in the United States to the Husband and the Husband is to pay the Wife the sum of S$565,739; Not making the notional return to the matrimonial pool of assets the sums used by the Husband for Child 2’s university fees, Child’s 3’s travel and quarantine fees and the purchase of the Mazda car; Division of assets; and The sum awarded for the Husband’s maintenance and the duration that such maintenance is to be paid by the Husband.
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.
The Husband and the Wife are both non-Singaporeans and are, in fact, Citizens of the United States. The Husband, now aged 48 years old, and the Wife, now aged 47 years old, married on 25 June 2000 in Texas, United States and subsequently registered their marriage on 16 July 2000. Even though they have resided in Singapore for an aggregate of about 18 years, the Husband appears to have remained on an Employment Pass and the Wife was on a Dependent’s Pass based on his employment throughout this time. They did not take up Singapore Permanent Residency.
The Husband was a university graduate, whereas the Wife had received her High School...