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How do Courts Divide the Matrimonial Assets?

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To avoid overvaluing or undervaluing indirect contributions, the recent 2015 Court of Appeal in ANJ v ANK has laid down a structured approach comprising the following steps:

  1. express as a ratio the parties’ direct contributions relative to each other, having regard to the amount of financial contribution each party made towards the acquisition or improvement of the matrimonial assets;
  2. express as a second ratio the parties’ indirect contributions relative to each other, having regard to both financial and non-financial contributions; and
  3. derive the parties’ overall contributions relative to each other by taking an average of the two ratios above, keeping in mind that one of the two ratios may be accorded more significance than the other. Adjustments could also be made in respect of other relevant factors under s 112 or 114(1) of the Women’s Charter

Below, we will summarise two cases using this approach. It is hoped that this will give you a better understanding of how the court will divide your matrimonial assets.

1. TIT v TIU and another appeal [2016] SGHCF 8

Direct contributions
100%of the contributions came from the husband and this was undisputed.

Indirect contributions
For the first 11 years of the marriage, the Wife was the sole anchor in the home. During this time, the couple relocated seven times and had four children closely spaced together, in the span of seven years. Even if, as the Husband contended, the Wife had help from a grandmother and uncle at various points, this does not detract from her substantial role for these first 11 years. In 2009, the Wife’s household burden was lightened with, inter alia, a maid, but she still had charge of all household matters.

While the Husband took over household matters in 2012, this too, was with the help of a maid; and this was already the 14th year of the marriage, when the youngest was about 5 years old, past the most punishing babysitting years. His failure to inform the Court of his remarriage plans and his decisions which sought to marginalise the Wife from the lives of the children were not made in the children’s best interests, and may be taken into consideration.

It was held that 65% of the contributions came from the wife.

Average of two ratios
While the Wife’s contributions to the home were substantial, this was so for a period of just under a dozen years, and the Husband has been in charge of the home since sometime in 2012.

While the Husband was solely responsible for the accumulation of the family wealth, the total asset pool was modest (approx. 1.6 million).

Hence, both direct and indirect contributions were given equal weightage. The final distribution was 67.5 : 32.5 in favour of the husband.

2a) TNC v TND [2016] SGHCF 9 – Group A assets

Direct contributions
The Wife made financial inputs towards investments and it was not possible to calculate mathematically the exact yields the financial contribution produced. Hence, the Court found it just to use a broad brush approach in ascribing a ratio for the Wife’s direct contributions.

The Court took into consideration the fact that the total value of the matrimonial assets is massive, reaching more than S$20m (in Group A alone), and that much of this was acquired in the later years of marriage, largely due to the Husband’s efforts and business acumen.

However, this was balanced against the fact of the use of the Wife’s income in the acquisition of the properties (which enabled the parties to produce property assets of substantial values) as well as her direct efforts in managing the property business are also her direct contributions. Thus, while the wife’s direct contributions were calculated to be 6.72%, it was held that it was appropriate to ascribe to her a higher percentage than shown in the calculations.

The Court attributed to the Wife direct contributions to the matrimonial assets in Group A at 15%.

Indirect contributions
The parties were married in 2001. The Husband left Singapore sometime around 2005 and the Wife travelled to be with him on and off over the years during the rest of the marriage. The Husband stated that the parties were completely separated in January 2013 and that parties had already been substantially living apart even earlier. Their child was born in May 2011.

The Wife was the primary carer of the child and took on a larger role in the domestic sphere. The Wife had undergone fertility treatment and had cared for the child in Singapore as well as when they were abroad. Prior to the child’s birth, the Wife had also given support to the Husband, living in other countries now and then, accompanying her Husband and adapting to new home environments and a life which involved some travelling. At the same time, she had to manage matters in Singapore as well.

The Court attributed 65% indirect contributions to the Wife and 35% indirectcontributions to the Husband. The Husband, who took on the role of breadwinner, had provided financially for the family and this indirect contribution was recognised.

Average of two ratios

Wife Husband
A. Direct contributions 15% 85%
B. Indirect contributions 65% 35%
Average of A and B 40% 60%


2b) TNC v TND [2016] SGHCF 9 – Group B assets

The Court found that the full agreed value of the Jalan Pinang properties was mainly attributable to the Husband’s efforts. The Court did not put the Wife’s direct contributions towards the Jalan Pinang properties of massive value at 15%. Applying the broad brush approach, the Court assessed the Wife’s direct contributions at no more than 5% and the Husband’s at 95%. Averaging the percentages for direct and indirect contributions would have yielded the following result in respect of the Jalan Pinang Properties:

  Wife Husband
A. Direct contributions 5% 95%
B. Indirect contributions 65% 35%
Average of A and B 35% 65%


Conclusion

The Court takes into consideration many factors in dividing the matrimonial assets. While this new approach lends more structure to the process, it serves only as a guide. It is best to get a family lawyer to give advice that is specifically targeted at your situation.

As one of Singapore`s largest matrimonial law departments, our team of Family Law Specialists, Trained Mediators, Collaborative Lawyers and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners are able to dedicate considerable resources to ensuring our clients achieve the best possible results on their cases.
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