Top 6 Dirty Divorce Tricks

Beware of the Top 6 ‘Dirty’ Divorce Tricks – by Lim Chong Boon and Dorothy Tan

A divorce can unfortunately bring out the worst in your spouse.  He or she may be so aggrieved and resort to underhanded or undesirable conduct.   If your spouse is bent on spoiling for a fight, here are the common dirty divorce ‘tricks’ that you should be aware of.

We do not recommend these tricks and some of them are illegal.  However, you should be aware of them and get advice on how to protect yourself.

1.   Dissipation of assets

Most spouses know they are going to get divorced long before proceedings are commenced. No matter how much or how little wealth and assets they have, it seems to be an instinctive reaction to downplay wealth and hide assets.  They do this by putting assets in a relative’s account, or moving monies out, or claiming that they have lost money in bad investments.

However, everyone should be aware that in Singapore, parties have a legal obligation to make full and frank disclosure of their assets and means. If a spouse fails to do so, the court will draw an adverse inference against him/her which is usually far higher than the actually amount of wealth stashed away.   As lawyers are first and foremost officers of the court,  divorce lawyers have a duty to act honestly and not to participate in such dissipation.   At PKWA Law, we insist that the client makes full and frank disclosures, otherwise we will not be able to act.

2.    Cessation of maintenance

In cases where one spouse has significantly more financial resources than the other, it is not uncommon for money to be used as leverage. This usually takes the form of cessation of maintenance to cause litigation fatigue, ie. limit the funds available to the other spouse for legal representation.

However, as with everything else on this list, this strategy can possibly backfire. For instance, if the husband stops maintaining the wife even though that was the case throughout the marriage and this forces her to take out an application for maintenance. If the husband chooses to resist the application, not only will he likely be ordered to continue paying maintenance, but possible back-maintenance and costs as well – on top of his legal fees.

3.   Cancelling the spouse’s Dependant Pass

Many expatriate spouses are in Singapore with a Dependant Pass (DP) pegged to the other spouse’s work pass (also known as a ‘trailing spouse’). Arguably, the trailing spouse cannot expect to be provided with a DP indefinitely as parties have to be married for the DP to be renewed.

However, a common tactic employed is the early cancellation of the DP before it expires. This will likely throw the trailing spouse off as he/she is forced to relocate almost-immediately. Upon cancellation of the DP, the trailing spouse will only be able to stay in Singapore for 30 to 90 days and he/she is not allowed to work during this period.

The stresses of relocation aside, the most onerous downside of this is that, more often than not, the trailing spouse will have to leave without his/her children. Under Singapore law, a parent cannot take the children out of the country without the consent of the other parent. Doing so will entitle the other parent to make an application for the leaving parent to bring the children back.  Usually, the ones who really suffer are the children as they will lose daily contact with the parent who is left behind.

4.   Secretly recording evidence and accessing personal information

When a spouse is suspected of having an affair, the other spouse may resort to a variety of surveillance techniques – secret recorders in the home, car, or office, or by hiring a private investigator.   A client once told me that her husband bugged her car to log where she was going.  She only found out when her car mechanic found the device in her car.  Although it appeared to give the husband the satisfaction to catch her red-handed, there was no legal need to obtain this evidence.

The same goes for secretly recording information from a spouse’s computer and later feigning ignorance as to how the information was obtained. Methods include purchasing a piece a software or equipment to download the device’s hard drive, or an IT expert is secretly called in. These are common but almost always illegal methods that, if found out, will do more to harm than help the case as the spouse is left exposed to civil and criminal liabilities.

We do not advise clients to resort to secret recordings or illegal access to computers.   It is usually the case anyway that a lot of information will not be useful.   Clients are better off (and stay clear of illegal wrongdoing) by  obtaining information that is relevant to their case via a court governed discovery process.

5.   Divorce by ‘social media’

Some spouses may turn to social media or other public platforms to sling mud at the other spouse. This could be because the other spouse has abandoned the family, committed adultery or neglected to maintain the family. Nevertheless, this usually does nothing more than adds fuel to an already stressful situation.

Such actions can also have negative consequences, as it will reflect badly on that spouse’s case. The court also does not look too kindly on such behaviour where there are children involved, as children should be kept out of their parents’ divorce as much as possible.

Also, proceedings might be dragged out further as applications might be taken out to stop the harassment if it gets out-of-hand.

6.   Using children as ‘weapons’ in divorce

How often have we seen one parent turn their children against the other parent?  These parents are so hurt that they want to get back through the children.   They are determined to punish the other parent by refusing contact with the children or ‘poisoning’ the minds of the children.   We have come across cases where one parent calls the other “useless’, ‘ugly,” “good-for-nothing” in front of the children.   Or, one parent repeatedly tells the children that the other parent does not love them. Or refuses to let the children see the other parent.

As lawyers, we end up making urgent applications to court to solve the problem.   This is unnecessary and costly.    The repeated episodes of using the children as weapons often leave a big emotional scar on the parents and the children.

Unfortunately, the real victims are the children.  So, however you feel, do not use your children as ‘weapons’ in divorce.

Conclusion

It is better to conduct divorce in a proper and civil manner.  The goal of a good divorce lawyer is to encourage settlements, not arguments.   While emotions may run high in a divorce, conduct that is unreasonable, illogical or ‘dirty’ will only serve to prolong the litigation and hurt parties’ pockets or worse, adversely affect the children.

Related Articles:

Maintenance for Wife and Children

Contested Divorce v Uncontested Divorce

Singapore Divorce Process

About PKWA Law

At PKWA Law, our team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore divorce lawyers by respected independent legal publications such as Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review, Global Law Experts and Doyle’s Guide to Singapore Family Lawyers.   If you have any questions, please contact us at 6397-6100.

Child Custody – Do children get a voice?

Pink shoes standing at the crossroad – mom or dad

Child Custody – Do children get a say?

Case Commentary – AZB v AZC [2016] SGHCF 1

Child Custody – The issue of the desirability of judges speaking directing to children in parenting disputes has been debated extensively in the common law jurisdictions. More recently, Singapore has joined in with other common law jurisdictions of England and Australia to moving in favour of interviewing children.

In the case of AZB v AZC [2016] SGHCF 1, the Honourable Debbie Ong JC encouraged the use of judicial conversations with children but that the court should only do so for the children’s welfare and where the child is of sufficient maturity to express an independent opinion. Although there are legitimate concerns over the limitations and risks of judicial interviews of children, it should only serve to spur the family justice system to provide an environment most conducive to an effective process and eliminate or reduce as many of the limitations and risks as possible.

She further emphasised that the judicial interview of children should remain an important option within the family justice system, when appropriate in light of the circumstances of each case, which employs a judge-led approach to proactively manage cases and protect the welfare of children.

In AZB v AZC, the judicial conversations with the children, aged 13 and 11 years old, proved to be crucial in providing corroborative evidence to the court that there was material change in circumstances to vary an access order. This position was contrary to a similar application heard before the High Court where the court took the view that a judicial interview of children was not necessary so as to allow stability and peace of mind for the children.

Related Articles:

Understanding custody, care and control of children

The Law on Child Relocation 

ABOUT PKWA Family Lawyers

PKWA Law is a leading family law firm in Singapore.   Please contact us at 6397-6100 for any enquiries.

How to choose a good divorce lawyer in Singapore?

good divorce lawyer

A 2016 Prudential Relationship Index, based on an online survey of 500 Singaporeans, shows about a quarter of married people are thinking of divorce.Also sobering for couples are divorce statistics from 2015.  In 2015, there were 7,522 divorces and annulments, the third highest annual figure on record, according to a report by the Department of Statistics.

So if you are the 1 in 4 who have decided that your marriage is no longer working, the first thing you might want to do is to find a good divorce lawyer in Singapore.

But where do you begin to find a good divorce lawyer?

We offer some suggestions on how you can find a good divorce lawyer  Use these strategies to find a good divorce lawyer if you wish to take the first step towards ending your marriage and getting on with your life.

1.  Ask around for recommendations

Talk to friends and family members who have already been through a divorce about their experiences with their lawyers.  Chances are, someone you know has gone through a divorce and will recommend a good lawyer to you.

2.   Search online

Use a search engine like Google to find out about the divorce lawyers in Singapore.   Read their websites and see if the lawyer is reputable and comes from a good reputable law firm.

3.   The first consultation

After you have shortlisted the lawyers you want, go to the first consultation with a list of questions.  Most divorce lawyers offer a free first consultation, so make use of this to see a few lawyers.  Ask yourself:

  •  How prompt did the lawyer get back to my request for a first consultation?
  • Is the office a professionally equipped outfit?  Is it busy?
  • Is the lawyer a specialist in divorce, or a jack of all trades?
  • Is the lawyer too anxious to close the deal?   Does the lawyer get upset when you say you are also seeing other lawyers?

4.   Do you like your lawyer?

This is the most important rule.  You must be comfortable and like your lawyer.   Your lawyer is going to be the one whom you are going to share very intimate personal details of your private life with, so choose someone you are comfortable with.

Liking your lawyer also means that you think he/she is competent to handle your divorce.

Choose someone likeable, who listens to you, who understands you.  There are no compromises.  If your lawyer makes you feel uncomfortable or is dismissive of you, he/she is not right for you.

5.   Temperament

If your lawyer is spoiling for a fight against your spouse, that lawyer may not be right for you.   You want a divorce lawyer who has good manners and good temperament.   Lawyers who are calm and reasonable are more likely to offer solutions instead of fighting out in court and draining your finances.

You want a lawyer who encourages settlements, not arguments.

6.   Promises

What kind of promises did the lawyer make about your case?   Be careful of lawyers who make wild promises.   Divorce cases are rarely about one party winning everything.   You should choose a lawyer who does not go overboard and makes bold promises.

7.   The lawyer’s office and support staff

A lawyer cannot do everything by himself and it is essential that your lawyer has good support staff from other lawyers and paralegals.

8.   Divorce fees

Make sure that you have some idea of your lawyer fees.  There is no reason why your lawyer cannot give you an indication of how much your divorce will cost you.

About PKWA Law

PKWA Law has one of the largest specialist family law practice in Singapore. The PKWA family lawyers are consistently named as Leading Family Lawyers by Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review, Global Law Experts and Doyle’s Guide.

Keen to discuss more?

Please call PKWA Law 6854-5336 / 6397-6100.

Wills, Probate, Executors and Inheritance

Probate and Inheritance

What is Probate?  Think of it as the legal steps to get your inheritance.

When someone dies, you’ll need to get the legal right to deal with their property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’).   You cannot simply just walk into the bank and ask to withdraw the deceased’s money.  Neither can you simply transfer the deceased’s property to your name.

You will need to take legal steps to lawfully claim your inheritance.  This is what probate lawyers do – to help the next-of-kin or the executors get Probate so that they can claim the deceased’s assets and distribute them to the rightful beneficiaries.

To get your inheritance, you have to apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’ (if there was a Will) or “Letters of Administration” (if there was no Will).   At PKWA Law, we assist clients to obtain probate for fees as low as $1,200.

Most cases follow the same basic process.

  1. Check if there’s a will – this normally states is the named Executor of the estate. If there’s no will, the next of kin can apply.
  2. File the application for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
  3. Collect the estate’s assets, for example money from the sale of the person’s property and monies in his bank accounts.
  4. Pay any debts.
  5. Distribute the estate – this means giving any property, money or possessions to the people entitled to it (‘beneficiaries’).  The beneficiaries will thus get their inheritance.

Related Articles:

Probate Lawyer – Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration

ABOUT PKWA PROBATE TEAM

At PKWA Law, we have a highly experienced and efficient team of Probate Lawyers to assist you to obtain Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration quickly and at a affordable fixed fee.  Contact us today at tel 6854-5336.

How much does Divorce cost?

affordable divorce lawyer

Affordable divorce lawyer fees – How much does divorce cost in Singapore?

At PKWA Law, we offer Fixed Fee Uncontested Packages that are simple, clear and affordable.   With our Fixed Fee Packages, you get peace of mind as you will know exactly how much you are paying.

What You Get With Our Uncontested Divorce Fixed Fee Divorce Package:

  • Clear, transparent and fixed fees.
  • We handle everything – from instruction to conclusion of the divorce.
  • Peace of mind – Deal with experienced family solicitors at one of Singapore’s largest specialist family law firms.
  • Proper legal advice –  we will advise you whether your divorce terms are fair.
  • No need to go to court – you and your spouse are not required to attend court.
  • Quick – As long as you and your spouse co-operate, we will be able to get you the divorce (Interim Judgment plus all the settlement terms) within 3 to 4 weeks, with the Final Judgment to follow 3 months after that.

Here are some tips on how you can further save money for your divorce:

Consult a lawyer before acting

It is important to obtain legal advice early and to know your rights and obligations before committing to any settlement or agreement.   It costs more to vary or undo a court order.

Talk to your spouse

There are no absolute winners in divorce.  Communicate with your spouse in a constructive manner, and be willing to compromise.   When you are able to negotiate with your spouse, you will reduce the amount of time that a lawyer needs to spend on your case.

Communicate with your lawyer efficiently

When talking to your lawyer, be concise and to-the-point.   When your lawyer requests documents and/or information from you,  provide the information as soon as you can. If you do not readily provide it, your lawyer is then required to spend additional time, resulting in additional fees, chasing you for the requested documents and/or information.

Related Articles:

Divorce Fees

Uncontested Divorce Fixed Fees

Family Law Fixed Fees by PKWA Law

ABOUT PKWA LAW

Getting a divorce does not have to be expensive. At PKWA Law, we pride ourselves in being able to offer low cost solutions for uncontested divorces.   We do not charge clients on an hourly basis for simple divorce matters.

Contact PKWA Law today for your free 1st consultation: Tel 6854-5336 or 6854-3065.

How to apply for Grant of Probate and the law on inheritance – FAQs

Probate Document

Grant of Probate, Executors and Inheritance Law in Singapore – In Singapore, you need to apply for a Grant of Probate to distribute the deceased’s assets in accordance with the law.   A person has to be appointed by the Court as an executor or administrator before he or she can administer the estate.   At PKWA Law, we are normally able to extract (obtain) your Grant of Probate within 1 to 2 months.

How to apply for Grant of Probate

There are 3 stages:-
1. Filing the application
2. Providing the supporting Affidavit and OIT of Summons, Schedule, Sureties
3. Extracting the Grant.
 

Stage 1 

Your lawyer will file:
Originating Summons (cause book searches), Statement, Administration Oath
CTC of Death Certificate or Order of Court for presumption of death of Deceased
Renunciation
CTC of will & codicil (if any), including translation (if any) certified by lawyer)
Foreign Grant (for resealing of foreign grant);
Consent of Co-administrator (if any);
Inheritance Certificate (for Muslims);
Others e.g. Court Orders, Affidavit of Foreign Law

Stage 2 

Supporting Affidavit (to be filed within 14 days from filing of OS)
Supplementary Affidavit (if Schedule is not filed in Supporting Affidavit)
Others eg. Summons for Dispensation of Sureties, Affidavits, Orders of Court etc (if there are vulnerable beneficiaries or Family Division of the High Court cases)

Stage 3 

Request to Extract Grant
Administration Bond
Request to Extract Memorandum of Resealing.

 The executor is under a duty to distribute the assets in accordance with the Will.

What if there is no Will?  How does the executor distribute the assets?  

If there is no Will, Section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act spells out who gets what:

No. Who survives the deceased (i.e. who is alive at the time the deceased passed away)? Who are the beneficiaries and what are their shares of the estate?
1 Spouse.
(No issue or parents.)
Spouse – 100%.
2 Spouse and issue. Spouse – 50%.
Issue – 50% in equal portions.
(The descendants of any deceased child will only inherit their deceased parent’s share.)
Issue.
(No spouse.)
Issue – 100% in equal portions.
(The descendants of any deceased child will only inherit their deceased parent’s share.)
Spouse and parents.
(No issue.)
Spouse – 50%.
Parents – 50% in equal portions.
Parents.
(No spouse or issue.)
Parents – 100% in equal portions.
Siblings and children of deceased siblings.
(No spouse, issue or parents.)
Siblings – 100% in equal portions.
(The children of any deceased sibling will only inherit their parent’s share.)
Grandparents.
(No spouse, issue, parents, siblings or children of siblings.)
Grandparents – 100% in equal portions.
Uncles and aunts.
(No spouse, issue, parents, siblings, children of siblings or grandparents.)
Uncles and aunts – 100% in equal portions.
None of the above. Government – 100%.

Need to discuss more?  Contact PKWA Law today.

The latest Singapore decisions on division of matrimonial assets – what it means for single-income and double-income marriages

The latest law on division of matrimonial assets in Singapore – What it means for single-income and double-income families

Commentary by Lim Chong Boon and Sophie Claire Chew

Two recent cases, decided within weeks of each other, have introduced notable developments in the law governing the division of matrimonial assets in Singapore. In March 2017, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in TNL v TNK and another appeal and another matter [2017] SCGA 15 (“TNL v TNK”), followed shortly after by the release of the written judgment in UBM v UBN [2017] SGHCF 13 (“UBM v UBN”). These cases are significant for, inter alia, their refinement of the application of the “structured approach” to division of assets laid out in ANJ v ANK [2015] SGCA 34 (“ANJ v ANK”).

Division of matrimonial assets in Singapore

Since the decision in ANJ v ANK, the “structured approach’’ has prevailed as the favoured methodology guiding the courts in their division of matrimonial assets, albeit to be used complementarily with the overarching “broad-brush” approach and the obligation imposed by Section 112 of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353) to divide the assets in a just and equitable fashion. The three steps of the “structured approach” may be summarised as follows:

Step 1: Determine the parties’ direct financial contributions towards the acquisition or improvement of the matrimonial assets. Each party’s percentage of the direct financial contributions shall then be represented as a ratio.

Step 2: Express the parties’ indirect contributions as a second ratio, having regard to both financial and non-financial contributions; and

Step 3: Average out the two ratios, based on the weightage given to each type of contribution, to arrive at a final ratio. The court may decide on the weightage to be accorded to each type of contribution depending on the circumstances of each case, and may exercise its discretion by adjusting the final ratio to achieve a just and equitable outcome. The Court of Appeal was nonetheless careful to emphasise that these principles were “not necessarily exhaustive”, nor “hard and fast rules that must be immutably applied even in cases of exceptional facts”.

In TNL v TNK, the Court of Appeal took the opportunity to revisit the “structured approach” and qualify the circumstances under which it should be applied. It affirmed that while the structured approach would continue to apply to dual-income marriages (being marriages where both spouses are working, and consequently able to make both direct and indirect contributions towards the household), it should not be applied to single-income marriages (where one spouse is the sole income earner and the other plays the role of homemaker). In this case – concerning a single-income marriage with grown children and of 35 years’ duration – the Court of Appeal declined to disturb the lower court’s ruling of equal division.

The Court of Appeal recognised that, in the context of a single-income marriage, the framework of the structured approach unduly favours the working spouse at the expense of the non-working spouse. Under the structured approach, the working spouse would be given credit for their financial contributions at two stages: at Step 1, he or she would be accorded 100%, or nearly all, of the direct financial contributions, and would be guaranteed an additional percentage at Step 2 purely by virtue of his or her indirect financial contributions. The breadwinner could thus always be assured of being accorded a substantial percentage over both Steps 1 and 2 even if his or her indirect non-financial contributions were minimal, leaving the non-working spouse “doubly disadvantaged”.

In this regard, the Court of Appeal held that such an outcome was inconsistent with the court’s philosophy of marriage as being an equal partnership, to which both financial and non-financial contributions are equally crucial. The Court of Appeal further observed that in cases of long single-income marriages, precedent cases showed an inclination towards equality of division (as in TNL v TNK itself). However, while it suggested that different considerations would apply to short single-income marriages, it declined to elaborate on these at the time.

The written judgment of Debbie Ong JC in UBM v UBN, released just weeks after the judgment in TNL v TNK, elaborates on the principles espoused in the latter. It bears noting, however, that UBM v UBN was decided prior to the judgment in TNK v TNL, and thus made use of the structured approach even though the circumstances in that case concerned a long single-income marriage. Debbie Ong JC nonetheless opined that the outcome in that case – a final award of 40% for the homemaker wife, achieved through the use of the “structured approach” with broad-brush adjustments – was consistent with the principles set out in TNK v TNL.

In UBM v UBN, Debbie Ong JC suggested that the definition of a single-income marriage, as posited in TNK v TNL, should not be interpreted in an excessively rigid manner “with a thick black line separating cases where the main homemaker worked intermittently for a few years over the course of a long marriage, from ones where the homemaker did not work at all.” Consequently, rather than a strict focus on exclusive roles in the breadwinning and homemaking spheres, a single-income marriage would also encompass situations where one spouse was “primarily the breadwinner and the other primarily the homemaker”, with the key approach being a qualitative assessment of the roles played by each party. Debbie Ong JC was nonetheless careful to warn parties in marital disputes against drawing out litigation by nit-picking over how the marriage ought to be classified.

Besides reiterating the non-applicability of the “structured approach” to long single-income marriages, Debbie Ong JC also sought to extrapolate trends from past cases as to what constitutes a “just and equitable” division, particularly as concerns the nascent taxonomy of marriages which has emerged post- TNL v TNK.

For instance, in cases of short single-income marriages, without going so far as to set out the applicable considerations, Debbie Ong JC cited Zhou Lijie v Wang Chengxiang [2015] SGHC 316 as a starting point for childless, single-income marriages of moderate length. While the “structured approach” would continue to apply to dual-income marriages going forward, sensible adjustments within the same, taking the factual nuances of each case into consideration, would help achieve a fair result. For instance, a higher weightage might be accorded to direct financial contributions in short dual-income marriages, as in the case of ATE v ATD [2016] SCGA 2, while Debbie Ong JC observed that equality of division might prevail in cases involving long marriages with children, whether they are single- or dual- income. In any regard, the broad-brush approach remains fundamental in guiding the court’s exercise of discretion, and preventing matrimonial disputes from descending into protracted, coldly calculative litigation.

In considering these recent developments, one might recall the rationale for the introduction of the “structured approach” in ANJ v ANK. In replacing the “uplift methodology”, previously used to recognise the indirect contributions of one spouse, the “structured approach” represented a shift towards, firstly, system and consistency, and secondly, the affirmation of the philosophy of marriage as an equal partnership of different, but equally valuable, efforts.

TNL v TNK and UBM v UBN thus provide a timely and important qualification as to the application of the structured approach, ensuring a just and equitable outcome is not sacrificed at the altar of consistency. While certain areas of the law remain to be addressed – most visibly, the applicable considerations in cases of short single-income marriages – neither does the emerging taxonomy of marriages necessarily herald a return to the wilderness of the uplift methodology. The precedent cases cited in UBM v UBN demonstrate how the “structured approach”, when used together with appropriate internal adjustments and the fundamental broad-brush approach, may achieve outcomes which are both equitable and consistent. What is certain, however, is that in re-evaluating the road to a just and equitable outcome, the developments in this area of the law will continue to be watched with interest.

Related Articles:

Division of matrimonial assets 

Keen to discuss more?  Contact PKWA Law at 6397-6100.

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