SINGAPORE DIVORCE – HOW DOES THE COURT DIVIDE MATRIMONIAL ASSETS?

There is no presumption that assets will be divided 50-50.  The court looks at all factors in deciding what is fair and equitable.

 .division of matrimonial assets - what is your fair share?

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HOW DOES THE COURT DIVIDE MATRIMONIAL ASSETS IN SINGAPORE?

Section 112(10) of the Women’s Charter defines a ‘matrimonial asset’ as:

a.  any asset acquired before the marriage – that asset becomes a ‘matrimonial asset’ if  it was used by the parties during marriage as a shelter or for family purposes.

b.  any asset acquired before marriage – that asset becomes a matrimonial asset if it was improved during marriage by either spouse.

c.  any asset acquired during the marriage – clearly, this asset is a matrimonial asset regardless of who paid for it.

Section 112 of Women’s Charter also states what is not a matrimonial assets.  An asset is not a matrimonial asset if it was a gift or inheritance and that has not been substantially improved during the marriage by either spouse.

Therefore, it you inherited a house, and that house was renovated by your spouse, it becomes a matrimonial asset.

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How are matrimonial assets divided?  .

Once the court has decided what constitutes matrimonial assets, the court will divide matrimonial assets by using the guidance provided in s 112(2) of the Women’s Charter:

(a) the extent of the contributions made by each party in money, property or work towards acquiring, improving or maintaining the matrimonial assets;

(b) any debt owing or obligation incurred or undertaken by either party for their joint benefit or for the benefit of any child of the marriage;

(c) the needs of the children (if any) of the marriage;

(d) 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 dependent of either party;

(e) any agreement between the parties with respect to the ownership and division of the matrimonial assets made in contemplation of divorce;

(f) any period of rent-free occupation or other benefit enjoyed by one party in the matrimonial home to the exclusion of the other party;

(g) the giving of assistance or support by one party to the other party (whether or not of a material kind), including the giving of assistance or support which aids the other party in the carrying on of his or her occupation or business.

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Court looks at all factors to arrive at a just and equitable division

There is no presumption that assets will be divided 50-50.  The court looks at all factors in deciding what is fair and equitable.

Generally, if the marriage is short, the court is more inclined to divide assts in accordance with parties’ direct financial contributions towards the assets.   If the marriage was long, a party’s indirect contributions will feature more prominently in the court’s decision to divide assets.

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Court has wide discretion but will also use a structured approach in dividing matrimonial assets

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.

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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.

In short, in determining what is a fair and equitable division of matrimonial assets in Singapore, both direct and indirect contributions are important. Direct contributions will feature prominently if the marriage is short.  If the marriage is a long one, the courts recognises that the party with the greater indirect contributions should be awarded a fair and equitable share.

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RELATED ARTICLES:

When does an asset become a matrimonial asset?

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