Wong Amy v Chua Seng Chuan

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date21 May 1992
Docket NumberDivorce No 2440 of 1989
Date21 May 1992
Wong Amy
Chua Seng Chuan (Tow Lee Cheng Christine, co-respondent)

[1992] SGHC 131

MPH Rubin JC

Divorce No 2440 of 1989

High Court

Family Law–Maintenance–Wife and children–Considerations of relative resources, needs and standard of living–Sections 108 and 123 Women's Charter (Cap 353, 1985 Rev Ed)–Family Law–Matrimonial assets–Division–Husband beneficial and legal owner of matrimonial home–Significance of wife's contributions–Principles to be applied in division of property and assets–Sections 106 (3) and 106 (4) Women's Charter (Cap 353, 1985 Rev Ed)

These were proceedings for maintenance and the division of matrimonial assets, pursuant to an uncontested divorce. The husband had provided the wife and their children maintenance since the granting of the decree nisi.

While the matrimonial home was registered in the husband's name, the wife submitted that she had contributed to the purchase of furniture, fittings and appliances for the house, and the day-to-day expenses. After the breakdown of the marriage, the wife left the matrimonial home in 1987 and purchased an apartment in her sole name with $80,000 of the funding coming from their joint account. The division of these two properties were in issue.

The wife's counsel submitted that the Wachtel v Wachtel“one-third rule” was applicable for purposes of awarding maintenance as the wife had little prospects of remarriage; her source of income as an insurance agent was subject to the vagaries of the economy; the husband earned nearly 4.4 times more than her; and that it was the husband's unreasonable behaviour that brought about the breakdown of the marriage. Counsel for the husband argued that the wife's income was sufficient for her needs and there was no reason to suspect that in the foreseeable future her earning capacity would drop in any significant measure.


(1) Subsections (3) and (4) of s 106 of the Women's Charter (Cap 353, 1985 Rev Ed) (“the Charter”) vested the court with wide powers to order the transfer and settlement of property on termination of the marriage if it was just to do so without having to embark upon a microscopic examination of the precise interest each party has in the matrimonial assets. These enactments provided for a just apportionment for the “homemaker” even though the assets under dispute were acquired during the marriage by the sole effort of the spouse, having regard to the contributions made by the homemaker by looking after the home, caring for the family and the needs of the minor children. Two principles were applicable: (a) that adequate provision be made to ensure the support and accommodation of the children of the marriage; and (b) that provision must be made to meet the needs of each spouse: at [35] and [40].

(2) Where a property was intended to be the matrimonial home and both parties would have continued living there had it not been for the discord and dissolution of the marriage, one spouse bought the property but the other did make some form of contribution listed in s 106 (4) of the Charter, and the other spouse on her own decided to leave the property and purchased the another, for which substantial funds came from a common fund, it would accord with reason and fairness to rule that the other spouse was entitled to a proportion of the net value of the first property. As the second property was bought when the marriage was well past the days of amity and union, and the wife and children needed a home, the wife's rights to that property would remain undisturbed: at [48] to [50].

(3) As the wife was not without resources and means, the husband needed only to pay maintenance that adequately reflected the financial needs of the children, the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage, and the manner in which the parties expected the children to be educated or trained: at [51].

[Observation: Although Wachtel v Wachtelwas decided in the context of English legislation upon which Section 106 of the Charter was not modelled, the lead principles in that case were still of considerable value and provide helpful guidelines for the resolution of contested matrimonial issues in the overall context of the Charter: at [37].]

Backhouse v Backhouse [1978] 1 WLR 243; [1978] 1 All ER 1158 (refd)

Bey Jacqueline v Lee Yok Lung Edmond [1988] 1 SLR (R) 200; [1988] SLR 328 (refd)

Bishop, Re;National Provincial Bank Ltd v Bishop [1965] Ch 450; [1965] 1 All ER 249 (folld)

Martin v Martin [1978] Fam 12 (refd)

Page v Page [1981] 11 Fam Law 149 (refd)

Wachtel v Wachtel [1973] Fam 72; [1973] 1 All ER 829 (distd)

Women's Charter (Cap 353,1985 Rev Ed)ss 106 (3), 106 (4) (consd);ss 108,123

Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (c 18) (UK)s 25 (1)

Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act1970 (c 45) (UK)s 5 (1)

Richard Ang (Ang J W & Partners) for the petitioner

Syed Hassan Almenoar (Tan Rajah & Cheah) for the respondent.

Judgment reserved.

MPH Rubin JC

1 The parties were married on 16 December 1972. The husband was then 27 years of age and the wife 26. They have two sons: Kelvin Chua Keng Ann, now 19 years of age, and Terrence Chua Keng Soon, now 16 years of age. The husband is a President's Scholar. He is working as an international marketing manager with a leading petroleum company in Singapore. The wife, formerly a secretary with an international bank, is now working as an insurance agent.

2 From the petition filed, it would appear that the marriage floundered on account of the husband's unreasonable behaviour or more particularly, adultery. The wife filed her divorce petition on 30 October 1989. Her petition was uncontested and decree nisi was granted by the court on 27 March 1990. On ancillary matters, the parties could not resolve their differences. They are now locking horns on the issue of matrimonial assets and maintenance. Initially, there was also an issue concerning custody of the children but that matter had fortunately been resolved. They now have joint custody of the children but the care and control was, by consent, given to the wife with reasonable access to the husband. I should add that the wife had been receiving a sum of $2,000 per month as interim maintenance from the husband for herself and the children. However, since July 1991, the amount had been increased to $3,000 by consent.

3 The parties have filed altogether 13 affidavits in these proceedings. There was no application by either party to cross-examine the other person. In his affidavit filed on 23 August 1991, the husband gave particulars of his income and expenditure as follows:


Gross taxable income



Gross taxable income


Tax liability


Net income after tax


[sic] (should read as $139,265)


Gross monthly salary


Bonus per month


Total gross per month



Estimated expenses including mortgage payments, car loan and sundries


per month

4 It should be observed that the husband's expenditure include three major items: monthly mortgage payments in respect of 2 Riviera Drive, the former matrimonial home, amounting to $1,253; recurrent expenditure in respect of Grange Heights (another family property which had since been sold) amounting to $1,090 per month, and a monthly repayment of $2,795.83 for a motor car loan. Leaving aside those items, his expenditure in respect of necessaries and incidentals would add up to $3,256 per month. From the available surplus, the husband had been paying voluntarily to the wife, monthly, a sum of $2,000 as maintenance for her and the children. In addition to that, he had also been paying $330 per month for the children's tuition. The maintenance sum, as mentioned earlier, had been increased to $3,000 since July 1991.

5 The wife, in her affidavit filed on 2 September 1991, gave particulars of her income as follows:


Average monthly income for the period January to June 1991


6 In another affidavit filed by her on 2 May 1990, she particularised her monthly expenses as follows:

Monthly expenses

Household expenses and disbursements for mortgage repayments


Expenses for children at $600 per month




7 The parties have also, in their respective affidavits, set out particulars of their other notable assets, iecash at bank, stocks and shares, valuable items such as Chinese antiques and landed properties, owned either solely or jointly, as follows:

Bank balances and shares of the husband (as of August 1991)

Cash at bank


Citibank current account

$2,000 to $4,000

Citibank savings account


7,343 stocks and shares in Royal Trust Singapore Growth Fund purchased before marriage (present value per share is 87 cents)


Savings fund


Bank balances and shares of the wife (as of September 1991)



POSB savings account (1)


POSB savings account (2)




Joint savings with respondent


Shares (total value as of 3 September 1991)


Chinese antiques

8 In addition to the foregoing, the parties have Chinese antiques - a collection of porcelain and furniture, the value thereof is being disputed. According to the wife, the total realisable value of all the antiques is only $16,330 but the husband maintains that the total value of all the antiques, both in his possession as well as with the wife, is $54,540. He alleges that the wife has in her possession the major part of the collection and according to him, the estimated value of what is being retained by the wife is $45,570.


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