Family Law & Divorce Law

Division of Matrimonial Assets

division of matrimonial assets

How does the court deal with division of matrimonial assets in a divorce?

Division of matrimonial assets – Recently, our team led by Deputy Head Dorothy Tan won a significant and landmark case at the Court of Appeal for the husband (Twiss, Christopher James Hans v Twiss, Yvonne Prendergast [2015] SGCA 52). This is a landmark case because the Court of Appeal reaffirmed and summarised the new Singapore law on division of matrimonial assets.

This case is extremely important and significant because the Court of Appeal reaffirmed and clarified its recent decision in ANJ vs ANK that in determining what is a fair and equitable division of matrimonial assets, the court will follow a structured approach consisting of 3 broad steps. These 3 broad steps are:

(a) 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;

(b) Express as a second ratio the parties’ indirect contributions relative to each other, having regard to both financial and non-financial contributions; and

(c) Derive the parties’ overall contributions relative to each other by taking an average of the two ratios above, keeping in mind that, depending on the circumstances of each case, the direct and indirect contributions may not be accorded equal weight and one of the two ratios may be accorded more significance than the other.

What Are Considered Matrimonial Assets?

Any other assets of any nature acquired during the marriage, but may also include assets acquired before marriage.

The cash balance in the parties’ respective Central Provident Fund Accounts, the family car, jewelry, shares and savings, all accumulated during the marriage are considered as matrimonial assets and therefore will be divided between the parties to the marriage upon the marriage being dissolved.

After a marriage has been dissolved, the Court would decide how the matrimonial assets are to be divided between the husband and the wife.  The Court has to make an order as to the division between the parties of the matrimonial assets or the sale of any such assets and the division of the proceeds of such a sale in such proportions as the Court considers fair.

In deciding on the division of the matrimonial assets, the Court will take into account various factors including the following, which are not exhaustive:-

  • The extent of the contributions made by each party in money, property or work towards acquiring, improving or maintaining the matrimonial assets;
  • The needs of the children of the marriage;
  • The extent of the contributions made by each party to the welfare of the family, including looking after the home or caring for the family or any aged or infirm relative or dependant of either party;
  • Any agreement between the parties with respect to the ownership and division of the matrimonial assets made in contemplation of divorce.
  • The Court is directed to pool all the matrimonial assets together and give appropriate consideration to the above factors and then make a decision on a just and equitable division of the total value of this pool of matrimonial assets.

The Court may make any one or more of the following orders:-

  • an order for the sale of any matrimonial asset or any part thereof and for the division of the proceeds;
  • an order vesting any matrimonial asset owned by both parties jointly in both the parties in such shares as the Court considers just and equitable;
  • an order vesting any matrimonial asset or any part thereof in either party;
  • an order for any matrimonial asset, or the sale proceeds thereof, to be vested in any person to be held on trust for such period and on such terms as may be specified in the order;
  • an order postponing the sale or vesting of any share in any matrimonial asset, or any part of such share, until such future date or until the occurrence of such future event or until the fulfillment of such condition as may be specified in the order;
  • an order granting to either party, for such period and on such terms as the court thinks fit, the right personally to occupy the matrimonial home to the exclusion of the other party; and
  • an order for the payment of a sum of money by one party to the other.

How Does The Court Decide On Our Shares Of The Matrimonial Assets?

The Court will look at:

  • each spouse’s direct financial contributions, such as salary earnings;
  • the children’s needs;
  • each spouse’s non-financial contributions to the welfare of the family, including looking after the home and caring for the family; and
  • any agreement that both of you may have made regarding the division of the matrimonial assets in case of a divorce.
  • the length of marriage.

Related Articles:

Dorothy Tan wins important and landmark Court of Appeal decision on division of matrimonial assets

Twiss, Christopher James Hans v Twiss, Yvonne Prendergast[2015] SGCA 52

Division of assets – what it means for single-income and double-income families.

When can divorcing parties spend money from their own accounts?

At what date should matrimonial assets be valued?

Some common questions

What happens to your HDB flat upon Divorce?

Under the HDB’s prevailing policy for divorce (not due to non-consummation of marriage or annulment or break-up of Fiancé / Fiancée relationship), a divorced party who has the custody of the child (including care and control) is allowed to retain the flat subject to the eligibility conditions.

If there are no children from the marriage, the divorced party (flat owner) may retain the flat under the Single Singapore Citizen (SSC) Scheme, provided:

  • he / she is a Singapore citizen
  • he / she is at least 35 years old
  • the matrimonial flat must be a resale flat purchased from the open market without the CPF Housing Grant for Family

If the matrimonial flat is bought directly from HDB (including resale flats bought with the CPF Housing Grant for Family), the 5-year minimum occupation period (MOP) must be satisfied before the divorced party is allowed to take over the flat under the SSC Scheme.

Alternatively, the divorced party may include another person to retain the flat, subject to the prevailing eligibility criteria and eligibility scheme regardless of the occupation period.

If the divorced owners wish to resell their flat in the open market, they must have completed the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) for the flat, as at the date of divorce completion. If the divorce is within the MOP and none of the owners is eligible to retain the flat, the owners may have to return the flat to HDB, subject to HDB’s approval. The compensation for the return of flat will be determined by HDB.

What If One Or Both Of Us Is Bankrupt?

When a person is made bankrupt, the Official Assignee will step in to manage all his assets except for the HDB flat and CPF money.

The Court will still divide the matrimonial assets in the same way as in a case where neither spouse is bankrupt. But the Official Assignee may attend the hearing to make representations on behalf of the bankrupt spouse. If you and your spouse have reached an agreement on the division of the matrimonial assets, you will need to obtain the Official Assignee’s approval before the Court will endorse your agreement.

Recent CPF Rule Changes – To Help Divorced Women Get Their Fair Share From Sale Of Matrimonial Home

DIVORCED couples have benefited from recent changes in Central Provident Fund (CPF) rules, which allow for a more ‘equitable’ distribution of their CPF monies when they divide their matrimonial assets.

Previously, divorced women often got very little from the sale of the matrimonial home. The changes are an attempt to help them get more money and not face financial hardship.

One of the changes allows a member to transfer money from his or her CPF account into the CPF account of his or her former spouse.

For instance, under the old ruling, if $100,000 had been used out of a member’s CPF account to buy the matrimonial property, the $100,000 would have had to go back into his CPF account together with the accrued interest once the property was sold. This was the case even if the court had awarded his ex-spouse half the proceeds, or $50,000. The reason was that members were not allowed to withdraw their CPF money until the age of 55.

With the change, the court can order the transfer of $50,000 from the member’s CPF account into his ex- spouse’s account.

Another change allows for the immediate transfer of a piece of property to the former spouse.
In the past, when a member had used his CPF money to buy property and the court ordered ownership to be transferred to his ex-spouse, the member had to return the due amount to his CPF account.

In cases where a wife had no money to make the refund to her ex-husband’s account, the transfer could not take place. The court might then have to order a sale of the property, which might not be ideal in a weak property climate.

With the rule change, the member or his former spouse no longer needs to put back into his CPF account whatever money had been taken out for the property.

Related Articles:

What happens to your HDB flat in a divorce?

Annulment of marriage and how it affects your HDB flat

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