WGD v WGC

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeWendy Yu
Judgment Date12 September 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] SGFC 69
CourtFamily Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberMSS 3857 of 2019
Published date15 September 2022
Year2022
Hearing Date13 July 2021,27 August 2021,16 November 2021,16 June 2022,20 June 2022
Plaintiff CounselAlain Abraham Johns (M/s Alain A Johns Partnership)
Defendant CounselLee Yoon Tet Luke (M/s Luke Lee & Co)
Subject MatterSection 69 (Cap 353),Maintenance for wife
Citation[2022] SGFC 69
District Judge Wendy Yu: Introduction

The Complainant Wife (hereinafter referred to as “the Complainant”) took out this application for maintenance on 8 November 2019, on the basis that the Respondent Husband (hereinafter referred to as “the Respondent”) had neglected and refused to maintain her since 13 June 20191. The parties were married on 26 April 19962 and they have a daughter who is 23 years old3. The Complainant’s application is only for maintenance for herself. In the Complainant’s application, the Complainant had asked for a monthly maintenance of $7,500.00 but had reduced her claim to $5,000.00 per month as stated in her submissions4.

According to the Complainant, she remained unemployed5 and lived in Korea. The Respondent is a Director with [A]6 and earned a net salary of more than $20,000.00 per month7. Both parties are Korean citizens8. On 7 September 2019, the Respondent had commenced divorce proceedings against the Complainant in Korea9.

Background

Even though the application was filed on 8 November 2019, there were multiple interlocutory applications filed, including an application for a stay of proceedings and applications for discovery. District Judge Christine Lee had heard the application for stay of proceedings on 12 October 2020 and the application for stay was dismissed. The Respondent had filed an appeal against the stay of proceedings but the appeal was subsequently withdrawn.

At the mention for this matter on 2 June 2021, when the judicial officer hearing the mentions asked parties if they were agreeable to have the matter heard in chambers10 as both parties were represented, the Complainant’s Counsel had informed the Court that they wanted the matter to proceed to trial even though the Respondent’s Counsel had agreed for the matter to be heard in chambers. The matter was then fixed for trial.

The Complainant’s counsel had informed the Court that the Complainant was intending to give evidence from Korea. One of the preliminary issues that had to be considered before the trial started was the giving of evidence by a party outside Singapore through live video or live television link in any court proceedings (other than proceedings in a criminal matter).

According to Paragraph 108A of the Family Justice Practice Directions, the party applying for leave “must make all necessary enquiries, and take all necessary steps, to ensure that the foreign country or territory where the person is giving evidence raises no objection, to the giving of evidence in that country or territory for court proceedings in Singapore.” These steps may include the following11: Obtaining advice from a foreign lawyer qualified to advise on the laws of the relevant foreign country or territory; Making enquiries with the relevant authorities; or Obtaining permission from the relevant foreign country or territory, in accordance with any applicable procedure, for evidence to be given by a person located in that country or territory through a live video or live television link, if such permission is required.

In the Complainant’s affidavit dated 8 July 2021 in support of her application for leave, the Complainant had exhibited a letter dated 16 June 2021 from a Korean lawyer, Mr Kim Eun Seong, from Yon Jae Law Office providing his opinion that having considered the relevant legislation and requirements in force in the Republic of Korea (“ROK”), there were no prohibitions against, or restrictions on the giving of evidence by the Complainant in the ROK for court proceedings in Singapore. The lawyer also confirmed that all necessary enquiries and steps were taken to ensure that the authorities in the ROK does not object to the giving of evidence for court proceedings in Singapore. At the hearing on 13 July 2021, while hearing parties on this preliminary issue, the Respondent’s counsel informed the Court that his client did not have any objections to the Complainant’s application for leave to give evidence from ROK. Relying on the contents of the letter provided by the Complainant’s Korean lawyers and noting the Respondent’s position, I granted leave to the Complainant to give evidence from ROK.

However, after the trial started on 27 August 2021, it came to my attention that according to the Republic of Korea “country profile” on the Hague Conference website12, Part V(b), ROK does not, under Chapter I of the Hague Evidence Convention, allow for the direct taking of evidence by judicial personnel of the requesting State. I was concerned that this was contrary to the opinion provided by the Complainant’s Korean lawyers. I had then informed the parties at the hearing on 16 November 2021 that I needed further submissions on this issue and asked the parties to address the Court on the apparent inconsistency between the authorities’ stated position in the “country profile” on the Hague Conference website and the foreign legal opinion obtained by the Complainant. I was concerned that if the Court continued to rely on the views in the Complainant’s foreign legal opinion, it may result in the possibility of proceedings before the Court as being construed by ROK as an infringement of its sovereignty.

The Complainant’s counsel then informed the Court at the hearing on 16 November 202113 that the Complainant would travel to Singapore to give evidence instead. The matter was fixed for hearing on 8 February 2022 to give time to the Complainant to make arrangements to travel to Singapore. The Complainant’s counsel had then informed the Court on 8 February 2022 that the Complainant was unable to travel to Singapore in view of the COVID-19 situation and that she had approached her Korean lawyers to advise her on the issue of her giving evidence from Korea. At the mention on 22 April 2022, both lawyers confirmed with the Court their clients’ availability for hearing dates to be fixed on 16 June 2022 and 20 June 2022. The Complainant had then made arrangements to travel to Singapore to give evidence.

However, just a few days before the hearing date, the Respondent’s counsel wrote to the Court on 13 June 2022 to ask for the hearing fixed on 16 June 2022 and 20 June 2022 to be rescheduled as the Respondent had to travel to the United Kingdom for his work commitments and the Respondent’s counsel had informed the Court that he had taken the dates due to his oversight. The Complainant’s counsel objected to the request to refix the hearing as the Complainant had already incurred costs to travel to Singapore by then. The Court directed for the hearing date to stand. Both parties agreed, at the hearing on 16 June 2022, for the hearing to proceed in chambers so that it was not necessary for the Respondent to be present in Singapore for cross examination. The matter then proceeded to be heard in chambers.

Orders Made

After hearing the parties, I made the following orders on 20 June 2022: The Respondent is to pay the Complainant a total of $2,000.00 per month as maintenance for the Complainant. The above-mentioned maintenance is to be paid on or before the 1st day of each month with effect from 1 July 2022 and is to be deposited by the Respondent into the Complainant’s KB Kookmin Bank account number ending with 661. The Respondent is to pay the Complainant costs fixed at $5,000.00 (all in, including disbursements)

Appeal

The Respondent has appealed against my entire order. I now give my reasons for the decision.

Parties’ Position The Complainant’s Case

The Complainant’s position at the hearing is that an order for maintenance is necessary as she had been a full-time homemaker14 since the birth of their daughter. The Complainant had disputed the validity of the Settlement Agreement15 that the Respondent and herself had entered into on 4 June 2018 (“the Settlement Agreement”) and averred that the Respondent had deliberately taken advantage16 of the emotional state that she was in and had used threats and violence against her. The Complainant had argued that since 13 June 2019, the Respondent had refused, and continues to refuse to maintain her. The Complainant’s counsel confirmed at the hearing17 that the amount of maintenance that she was seeking was $5,000.00 per month.

The Complainant had set out18 her monthly expenses as follows:

Item Amount
1. Rent $2,170.00
2. Food $1,500.00
3. Transport $600.00
4. Clothes $100.00
5. Shoes $50.00
6. Hair $30.00
7. Cosmetics $100.00
8. Toiletries $100.00
9. Health Insurance $120.00
10. Dental $50.00
11. Gym Instructor $180.00
12. Mobile $50.00
Total: $5,050.00

In the Complainant’s affidavit of 8 July 2021 in support her application for leave that she be allowed to give evidence from Korea, she had included another list19 of expenses and had stated her expenses to be $7,125.25.

The Complainant has also asked for her maintenance to be backdated to 13 June 2019.20 In addition, the Complainant had also asked for the Court to award her with her travel expenses21 as she had travelled to Singapore for the purpose of attending the trial on 16 and 20 June 2022.

The Respondent’s Case

According to the Respondent, the parties had a discussion regarding the state of their marriage in June 2018 while they were living in Singapore and had entered into the Settlement Agreement22 to resolve all ancillary matters between them23. The Settlement Agreement, had, amongst other things, provided that the Respondent would pay the Complainant maintenance of KRW 1,700,000.00 (equivalent to S$2,000.00) per month for six months following their separation. There was also the agreement that they will submit their application to divorce by mutual consent to the Korean Court by 31 July 201824. In line with the Settlement Agreement, the Respondent...

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