SINGAPORE: A woman who was in a DINK (dual income, no kids) marriage is set to get an extra sum of about S$267,000 (US$197,700) from her ex-husband in their divorce proceedings, after partially succeeding in her appeal against the ruling in the case.

In a judgment published on Wednesday (Jul 10), Judicial Commissioner Mohamed Faizal found that the lower court judge who made the ruling had failed to consider both sides’ indirect contributions to the marriage.

After adjusting for the indirect contributions, the judge ordered the husband to pay the wife another S$266,723.09. 

He also reversed the lower court’s order of costs against the wife, such that each party bear their own costs instead.

THE MARRIAGE

The couple got married in October 2011 and did not have children throughout their union of about eight-and-a-half years. 

They owned a matrimonial Housing Board flat, which was purchased just before the marriage, but did not stay in it.

Instead, they lived with the husband’s parents. They also agreed that the wife’s parents would stay in their matrimonial flat in exchange for a monthly rental fee, and subsequently sold this flat in 2018.

When the couple lived at the husband’s parents’ house, there were helpers who cleaned and cooked for them.

The judge noted that the couple did not appear to have an especially close relationship, and that they gave different underlying reasons for this.

The wife claimed the husband would spend time pursuing his own interests, neglecting her and causing them to drift apart for years.

She said they had only “sporadic sex”, which was undertaken simply to “get it out of the way” rather than because of love.

The husband claimed that the wife started an affair a year into the marriage, meeting her boyfriend in hotels and travelling together on the pretext of taking business trips.

He alleged that the lack of meaningful interaction between the couple was because the wife chose to spend her free time with other people.

The wife moved out from her husband’s family home in November 2020, with both sides giving different explanations for this.

The woman claimed that she “sought solace in a male friend, as a friend” and told her husband about it. She said her husband then tried to work on the marriage, but she felt he did not do enough, which made her continue to feel unloved.

Finding his behaviour intolerable, she then moved out and stayed with her own parents.

The man claimed that he had told his wife to leave as he suspected her of having a new affair.

Divorce proceedings began in March 2022, with an interim judgment granted in June that year.

THE DISTRICT JUDGE’S FINDINGS

The district judge found that the total matrimonial assets amounted to about S$3.2 million, with the husband contributing S$2.99 million directly (93.33 per cent) and the wife contributing S$213,773.28 (6.67 per cent).

The lower court judge found that this was a “short dual-income marriage” and relied on a previous judgment, saying that in a short and childless marriage, the division of matrimonial assets will usually be in accordance with the parties’ direct financial contributions as non-financial contributions will be minimal.

Therefore, the district judge assessed only the couple’s direct contributions and gave zero weight to the indirect contributions.

The district judge found that the husband was entitled to about S$2.99 million, while the wife was entitled to S$213,773. The husband also owed the wife another sum of about S$9,800, which the district judge ordered him to transfer to the woman.

ON APPEAL

The woman, who was represented by Mr Alfred Dodwell, appealed against the decision. While the High Court dismissed most of her arguments, the judicial commissioner found that the district judge had erred in holding that indirect contributions were irrelevant as this involved what he saw as a “short” marriage.

Judicial Commissioner Mohamed Faizal said “short marriages” in previous cases were so brief that they did not even factually last the mandatory three-year period before a party may file a divorce application.

“For marriages of even a slightly longer (if nonetheless relatively modest) nature, our courts have typically given weight to the parties’ indirect contributions,” he said.

He said the general principle to accord some weight to indirect contributions in most circumstances should “apply with equal force to marriages in which children do not feature”.

“There is, after all, intrinsic value in the institution of marriage itself, which must feature in the division process,” said Judicial Commissioner Mohamed Faizal.

He said that marriage, in most cases, serves as a supportive framework within which husband and wife pursue their professional careers.

“One should therefore not downplay the role that marriage plays in facilitating each party’s professional and personal achievements. In particular, the successes and achievements attained by each party to a marriage in a double-income, childless marriage should not generally be seen as being the result of individual hard work and effort, but as inextricably intertwined with the support, encouragement and sacrifices made by the parties to each other,” he said. 

“This can manifest in a multitude of ways, from one partner taking on more domestic responsibilities to allow the other to excel in their career, to providing important emotional support to each other when facing the many hurdles of life.”

The judge said the wife had very much overstated the point by saying that the district judge’s failure to give any consideration to indirect contributions “effectively indicates that a childless wife is a worthless wife and her works and contributions to her husband are not recognised or accorded any weight”.

However, he accepted that even in the context of a childless marriage, the couple would have ordinarily invested deeply in each other’s personal and professional growth.

“The law in relation to the division of matrimonial assets should therefore, where possible, reflect the holistic nature of the institution of marriage and, in the process, honour the shared journey and investment (of time, effort and sacrifice) made as a partnership,” he said.

ARGUMENTS ON INDIRECT CONTRIBUTIONS

In their arguments on how much indirect contributions they had made, the wife said she had supported the husband in his personal and professional endeavours.

She said she accompanied him to social activities, cared for their pet dogs’ needs and ensured the dogs received medical and grooming services as well as day-to-day care.

She claimed she attended to her husband’s needs as a devoted wife, helped with household chores and accompanied her mother-in-law to help with chores.

The husband, who was represented by Ms Amy Lim Chiew Hong and Ms Rae-Anne Lim Xiaohui, argued that he paid for his wife’s yoga classes, beauty regimens and pet dogs, which he also cared for. 

He said he instructed his parents’ helpers to cook his wife’s favourite dishes, do her laundry and wash the car.

The husband’s parents gave the couple the master bedroom, and the husband said he paid S$500 each month to his parents as the couple’s contributions towards the costs of the household.

He said he fetched his wife to the airport, bought gifts for her and paid for dinners on anniversaries and other special occasions.

The judge said it appeared that the parties’ indirect contributions were roughly equal and split them 50-50.

As for the alleged affairs, the judge said it “is not the function of this court to cast blame on who is more responsible for the breakdown of the parties’ relationship”.

“However, I would observe that the fact that a party had an extramarital affair does not mean that the other party had not neglected the marriage as well,” he said. 

“In the circumstances, I would generally view such assertions (even if they were true, which is not a matter I need to make a finding on here) as a largely neutral factor in ascertaining the ratio of parties’ indirect contributions relative to each other.”

The judge then applied the relevant framework afresh, according direct contributions to the husband as 93.33 per cent and 6.67 per cent in direct contributions to the wife.

He accorded indirect contributions equally among both parties at 50 per cent, and rounded off the final ratio as 85 per cent to the husband and 15 per cent to the wife.

Under the new percentages, the husband is entitled to S$2.7 million and the wife to about S$480,500. The court ordered the man to transfer the extra S$266,723.09 owed to the ex-wife in cash within four weeks.

Share.

Leave A Reply

© 2024 The News Singapore. All Rights Reserved.