SINGAPORE: A family court has granted a woman her request to sell the matrimonial flat in order to claim S$175,000 in maintenance owed to her by her ex-husband.
Another S$370,500 from the sales proceeds is to be paid to her for the maintenance of their two daughters.
The husband had flouted a 2019 court order to make maintenance payments and has not paid his ex-wife anything other than a one-time enforced payment of S$50. He has been imprisoned multiple times for repeatedly failing to pay maintenance.
He also failed to attend the court hearing despite being ordered to, and had not seen his two daughters for some time.
In a judgment published on Wednesday (Dec 7), District Judge Jason Gabriel Chiang said the ex-husband has been “very unfair” to his two children and ex-wife.
“He has also failed to fulfil his parental responsibilities to the children, and as a result, the ex-wife had to be put through exceptional hardship to single-handedly support them, particularly in the last five years,” he said.
Despite receiving notice of court proceedings through multiple avenues, he decided to “ostrich”, said the judge.
He granted the ex-wife sole conduct of the sale of the matrimonial home, so that her share of the matrimonial assets of S$175,000 would be taken from the sale proceeds, with interest accrued.
He also made further orders to facilitate the sale and allowed sums to be transferred from the ex-husband’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) to his wife’s CPF, if the sale proceeds are insufficient.
The ex-wife, a Singapore permanent resident with roots in China, married her Singaporean husband in 2010. They had two daughters shortly after, now aged 11 and 10.
Both the woman and her ex-husband had bachelor’s degrees, but the woman did not earn much in her job and her ex-husband was jobless.
The woman filed for divorce in 2015 and was granted an interim judgment in 2016. Her ex-husband repeatedly failed to pay her maintenance.
He was sentenced to six terms of jail for one day each, and another four terms of imprisonment for two days each, but still failed to make payment.
Both parties previously harassed a judge during a hearing and were sentenced to jail for their acts, which they served.
The certificate of the final judgment of divorce was granted only in January 2018, after 24 summons applications were filed in divorce proceedings.
In December 2018, the ex-wife applied for a variation in orders, and the judge ordered that the ex-husband was to pay his ex-wife S$175,000 by August 2019.
Failing this, he was to sell the matrimonial home and use the proceeds to pay his ex-wife the S$175,000 by November 2019. If the sale proceeds were not enough, he was to transfer the balance from his CPF accounts.
However, the man failed to do any of the above.
In March 2022, the ex-wife filed for another variation of the court orders. Among other things, she asked to have sole custody of their two daughters, that the matrimonial home be sold with her having sole conduct of the sale, and that the payment of S$175,000 be made with interest accrued.
She also asked for the children’s maintenance to be increased from S$1,500 a month to S$5,000 a month or S$2,500 per daughter, and for this to be paid in a lump sum from the sale proceeds of the home.
The ex-wife said the man had persistently defaulted on the court order, failing to pay maintenance for her or the children. She said his conduct had resulted in many years of delay, causing her much anguish and significant suffering for their two children.
She had to borrow from friends and neighbours to meet her daughters’ needs.
The ex-husband did not show up for the court hearing, whether in person or by Zoom.
The resale value of the matrimonial flat is expected to be in the range of S$800,000 to S$1 million. With an outstanding mortgage of about S$300,000, there would be at least S$500,000 to pay for the ex-wife’s share of the matrimonial home, with interest accrued.
The judge also granted a clause so the ex-wife can seek the assistance of the court to sign off on documents for the sale of the home, if the ex-husband fails to sign relevant documents in time.
“This was particularly significant in this case given the ex-husband’s deliberate ignoring of court proceedings,” said the judge.
He added that the ex-husband has remained undeterred by the prospects of imprisonment, as he has already served a total of 14 days’ jail for failing to pay maintenance. Contempt of court proceedings would lack the sting to get him to fulfil his obligations, said the judge.
He found this to be an appropriate case for child maintenance to be paid in a lump sum. He ordered a total of S$370,500 to be paid by the ex-husband for the maintenance of the two children, based on the sum of S$1,500 per month per daughter up to the time they both turn 21.
As the total sum due might exceed the nett sale proceeds of the matrimonial flat, the judge highlighted that the remainder is to be paid from the ex-husband’s CPF to his ex-wife’s CPF.
Despite not showing up, the ex-husband has filed an appeal against the judge’s decision.