Recognition of a Homemaker Wife’s Contribution in the Division of Matrimonial Assets

recognition of homemaker

In the context of a divorce, the division of matrimonial assets is a complex and usually emotionally-charged issue.

Often, a homemaker wife may be concerned that she would not receive a fair proportion of the assets as the breadwinner husband was the one who paid for these assets.

In this blog, we aim to shed light on how the Courts give recognition to the contributions of a homemaker wife in the division of matrimonial assets.

Applicable Law

Pursuant to Section 112(1) and (2) of the Women’s Charter 1961, the division of matrimonial assets is to be done in a just and equitable manner, taking into consideration all circumstances of the case and the extent of each parties’ contributions towards the acquisition of the matrimonial assets.

This includes:

  • Direct financial contributions towards the acquisition of the assets, such as downpayments and mortgage repayments;
  • Indirect financial contributions such as paying for the household expenses like groceries, utilities or paying for the children’s education expenses; and
  • Indirect non-financial contributions for the welfare of the family, such as taking care of the children, caregiving for elderly parents, maintaining the upkeep of the home, or cooking.

Read more: Division of Matrimonial Assets for Single-Income Marriages

Court’s Recognition

It is the duty of the Court to recognise the reality of family dynamics and to give due weight to all indirect contributions of one party, which are by their nature not reducible to monetary terms.[1]

The law accords equal value to all roles during a marriage because all of these roles must have been discharged optimally if the marriage partnership was to function well and prosper.

Often, the efforts and support given by the homemaker wife to her husband would contribute significantly to his success and accumulation of matrimonial wealth.

Therefore, the contributions made by a homemaker wife towards parenting, caregiving and the maintenance of the home are to be recognised and given weight during the division of matrimonial assets.

These contributions are recognised and considered together with corresponding factors such as length of the marriage, standard of living maintained, the financial and employment sacrifices made, the number of children, whether or not the children required special care and/or whether there were elderly parents to care for.

Read more: Can a Wife Claim her Husband’s Property in a Divorce?

Recent Judgement WGE v WGF [2023] SGHCF 6

The recent Court of Appeal decision WGE v WGF [2023] SGHCF 6 affirms the Court’s recognition of the contributions of a homemaker wife in the division of matrimonial assets.

In considering the indirect contributions of a homemaker wife, the Court considered precedent cases where the indirect contributions of a homemaker wife were recognised and accorded weight:

  • Wife had to care for four babies and young children born in quick succession and unfamiliar surroundings given that the family relocated multiple times in the span of seven years.[2]
  • Wife sacrificed her full-time job and became homemaker after getting married, caring and raising one child while supporting husband whose focus was on his career.[3]
  • Wife was the main caregiver for four children, by managing their daily needs, assisting them with homework, sending children for their enrichment classes and also caring for one of the children with cancer. The wife also continued to care for the children by herself after the parties’ separation.[4]
  • Wife was the primary caregiver for two children, spending significant amount of time with the children after their birth. Wife left her job for the sake for the family to be a homemaker when the family relocated for the husband’s work.[5]
  • Wife worked in the early years of the marriage and became a homemaker towards the second half of the marriage. The wife was also the primary caregiver for the parties’ son who has special needs. The role of caring for their son and the household also fell on the wife when the husband relocated overseas.[6]

In this case, the wife had to leave her full-time job to take on the childcare and homemaker role and that she did so without the assistance of a domestic helper and/or family members while the husband focused largely on his career which involved long working hours and overseas travel.

The burden on the wife also became more onerous after the husband left the matrimonial home and the wife had to take on the full responsibility.

Read more: Is This Still Mine? – Ringfencing Pre-marital Assets

Court Ruling

Having reviewed the facts of this case, the Court found that the ratio of 52:48, which was extremely close to a 50:50 split, is clearly inequitable to the wife. Taking a broad-brush approach, the Court found that the equitable indirect contribution ratio would be 70:30 in the wife’s favour

The Court also held that while credit ought to be given to the husband’s substantial indirect financial contributions, that alone cannot swing the balance towards a roughly equal ratio of indirect contributions.

Further, while the husband did make effort to spend time with the child, it is not disputed that since the child’s birth, the wife was the primary caregiver who has borne substantially most of the responsibility of raising the child.

Read more: How do Courts Divide the Matrimonial Assets in Divorce?

In conclusion, while a homemaker wife may not be making substantial financial contributions to the household, her contributions to the marital partnership extends beyond that. Her dedication to childcare, management of the household, spousal support and career sacrifices often would form the bedrock of a stable and thriving family.

As such, when dividing matrimonial assets, it is crucial to recognise and acknowledge these contributions to ensure a just and equitable outcome for the parties involved.

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