SINGAPORE: A lawyer who was approached by a woman for legal advice on immigration matters later courted the woman and promised that he would provide for her if she married him.
The pair married in Singapore in 2020 and entered into an agreement that the man would pay his wife S$2,000 monthly and provide for her daughter from another marriage.
However, the lawyer stopped paying his wife maintenance from August 2021 and she resorted to borrowing money from her friends.
She took to court to get her husband to pay spousal maintenance, seeking a monthly sum of S$8,500, including S$3,500 for rental.
In a judgment published on Saturday (Mar 24), District Judge Kathryn Thong ordered the 53-year-old lawyer to pay his 37-year-old Russian wife S$2,592 as monthly maintenance from December 2021.
Once the wife gets a rental home, her husband is to pay an additional S$3,500 monthly for rent. In total, he will have to pay her S$6,092 monthly once she gets rental accommodation.
The man was also ordered to pay his wife’s medical bills.
THE COUPLE’S STORY
The court heard that the couple met about five years ago. The woman wanted to live and study in Singapore, and for her daughter to study here as well.
She approached the lawyer, who was a partner at a law firm at the time and had been an advocate and solicitor for about 25 years.
She asked the man for legal advice on immigration matters and eventually obtained a student’s pass and studied in Singapore.
The man began showering her with gifts and took her out. They began dating and the man sought the woman’s hand in marriage in October 2019.
He splurged on her with expensive dinners and presents, boasting of his wealth and promising to provide for her if she married him.
He paid for all her expenses from October 2019 and gave her S$1,300 a month for rental. He also transferred a monthly sum of S$500 to her Russian bank account for her mother in Russia.
In June 2020, the couple got married. They entered into a signed agreement before an advocate and solicitor that stated its terms were to take effect upon the solemnisation.
In the agreement, the man said he would pay his wife S$2,000 monthly and also provide for her daughter.
The agreement also stated that all property acquired by the husband in marriage with the wife would be divided in half in the event of divorce.
The property of the wife, whether or not it was acquired during the course of the marriage, would not be subject to division under any circumstances, the agreement stated.
The agreement also stated that the man was “obliged” to transfer S$100,000 to the woman by a date in July 2020.
The woman later moved into a unit in Tanglin with her daughter, while the man stayed with his mother in Bukit Timah and visited his wife.
WIFE DISCOVERS SEX CALLS
Towards the end of March 2021, the woman discovered that her husband had been engaging in paid sexual video calls with Russian women both in and outside of Singapore.
She confronted him and forgave him, but later found that he had not stopped his ways and drove him out of the Tanglin unit.
The man stopped paying for his wife’s expenses, including her daughter’s school fees. He also withdrew his sponsorship of his wife’s long-term visit pass and asked the woman to move out by end July 2021.
He began spending nights in the Tanglin unit.
In August 2021, he stopped giving his wife any money. The woman commenced a suit in the State Courts against her husband in November 2021 and filed a maintenance claim in the Family Justice Courts in December 2021.
At the time of the hearing, she was still staying in the Tanglin unit with her daughter but was looking for alternative accommodation.
THE WIFE’S CASE
During the trial, the woman said her husband had aggressively pursued her, painting a rosy picture of their future together in Singapore.
He said he had a business in Malaysia and would be obtaining about S$500,000 because of a case he was working on.
She said she believed he would provide for her and her daughter, but instead, she had to borrow money from her friends after he stopped paying maintenance.
She said she owed her friends S$11,000 as of mid-January 2022.
She said she could not work on a short-term visit pass, and that her husband should pay her expenses as he had been doing.
THE HUSBAND’S CASE
The man said that his wife had failed to fulfil her wifely duties towards him on many levels, including failing to welcome him into their home or bed and to be cordial and supportive to make theirs a successful marriage.
He also said she failed to share cooking and laundry duties and said she could be entitled to maintenance only if she “behaved” as a wife.
He said he was already paying for the Tanglin unit so his wife had accommodation.
He also said the ongoing suit in the State Courts means the wife is no longer entitled to any maintenance.
He claimed that his wife had properties in Russia, on top of the money he had already given her.
Asked about the agreement, he said he did not believe it was legally enforceable at the time he entered into it.
He also said he had fallen on hard times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was drawing only S$4,000 a month and was self-employed.
Before that, he was a salaried partner at a law firm where a close relative of his was the managing director.
The judge said the woman could not continue to stay in the Tanglin unit for various reasons.
The couple had an acrimonious relationship, with the man calling his wife a “prostitute” and expecting her to have sex with him in exchange for maintenance.
Judge Thong said she saw no reason for the man to insist on living at the Tanglin unit, “given that he was comfortably living at his mother’s house in Bukit Timah before their marital woes started, and he had his laundry and cooking done by the domestic helpers there with nary a complaint”.
Judge Thong said that the husband’s “rather nebulous concept” of wifely duties “not only had a whiff of chauvinism” but was also “measured by his yardstick”.
“If he is unhappy with his wife’s behaviour and believes he has grounds to file for divorce, he is at liberty to do so; I make no comment on whether he would succeed,” said the judge. “But he cannot deny her maintenance on the sole basis that she has not acted in a manner that pleased him.”
Judge Thong added that it was “rather rich” of the husband to say his wife had failed to honour her covenant, as he had admitted to paying Russian women to perform for him in video calls.
“Under cross-examination, he replied in an indignant tone that these calls were not sexual in nature as one cannot have sex virtually – they were simply ‘sexy’ video calls. On another occasion, he insouciantly shrugged off as ‘friendly’ a text message that he sent to a former lover about wanting to get naked with someone,” said the judge.
The wife had asked for monthly maintenance of S$8,500, but the judge found that S$6,092 was a reasonable figure instead.
She declined to order the man to pay allowance to his wife’s parents.
Judge Thong found that the man had the means to support his wife, pointing to credit card bills that suggested he earned more than the S$4,000 he claimed.
The man has filed an appeal against the decision.