The Ancillary Matters case conference, which signals the inception of the second stage of divorce proceedings, is held to determine whether or not settlement is possible and to prepare parties for the imminent hearing. If parties are unable to settle the ancillary matters amicably, the Family Court may advise divorce mediation. This would save considerable legal costs and time.
Depending on whether a Settlement between both spouses is Possible or Not Possible, the following will happen:
(i) Settlement Is Possible
The Family Justice Court may refer the case for counselling with a professional Court counsellor, or to the Family Resolutions Chambers. Should an agreement be reached, a Draft Consent Order must be prepared and signed by both parties. This will be followed by a Consent Ancillary Matters Hearing.
(ii) Settlement Is Not Possible
The Court will direct the parties to file an Affidavit of Assets and Means. Judges expect parties to take the duty of full and frank disclosure of their assets very seriously. Where they suspect a failure in the execution of this duty, the Court may make an adverse inference against the erring party. After the three rounds of the Affidavit of Assets and Means, a Contested Ancillary Matters Hearing will be held.
The Family Justice Courts place great emphasis on the welfare principle, in which the welfare of the divorcing couple’s children is given top priority in all decisions, especially in orders of custody, care and control and access.
There is no concrete definition for custody in the Women’s Charter, but it is widely accepted as the decision-making power over three major aspects of the child’s life: the child’s education, which religion the child will heed and the sort of medical care he/she will receive should the need arise. If the Family Court decides not to make a custody order, both parents can be involved in all three aspects. Usually, the Court makes joint custody orders to reflect children’s need for both parents’ input in such crucial decisions. This is the case except in exceptional circumstances, for example if the child has faced abuse on account of one party.
b) Care and Control
Care and control concern daily matters in the child’s upbringing- this will be one parent’s responsibility. Since the party granted care and control is required to take care of the child’s necessities, mothers are usually awarded care and control unless they have been abusive or neglectful. Fathers may try to pursue shared care and control although shuttling between both parents will be disruptive to the child’s routine and this will certainly contravene the welfare principle. Capability, or wealth, is not an important factor when ascertaining which party should be awarded care and control – the foremost factor is the party’s ability to care for the child.
The parent who does not have care and control will have reasonable access rights to the child. The quantum of access granted to the non-custodial parent will depend on the child’s needs and wishes and the previous history and contact between the child and non-custodial parent. For information on supervised and non-supervised access orders as well as access periods, visit http://www.lawgazette.com.sg/2006-4/April06-insidebar.htm .
If the divorcing couple can agree on the child’s living arrangements, the Family Court need not adjudicate on this. An order made, whether of custody, care and control or access, is variable or can even be discharged to further the interests of the child (Section 10 Guardianship of Infants Act). Before making such variations, the views of the children can be taken into account through judicial interviews.
Section 46(1) of the Women’s Charter highlights parental responsibility: parents should cooperate with each other to fulfil their responsibilities to their children. Any hostility or tension between the two is expected to be brushed aside for this purpose. One aspect of post-divorce parental responsibility is ensuring that sufficient financial provisions are made for the children, even amidst a change in living arrangements. This should not be seen as a burden as it is merely a continuation of his/her parents’ responsibility toward him/her.
Husbands can now claim maintenance from their wives provided they are incapacitated or are unable to support themselves.Section 69(4) of the Women’s Charter lists the circumstances to consider when ordering maintenance. The circumstances include the financial needs of the wife and children, contributions each party made to the marriage and each party’s conduct toward the marriage.
Both parents are equally liable to provide reasonable maintenance to a dependent child. The parent to be subjected to a maintenance order depends on who has not been contributing enough or financial ability. Maintenance is to be paid until the child turns 21 years old, except when the child is serving NS, has a physical disability, is undergoing educational or vocational training or in the event of other special circumstances.
An order of maintenance supplements the order for the division of matrimonial assets. In other words, the Court prefers to order property divided before considering whether an order of maintenance is necessary. This is a tool to even out any residual financial inequalities (BG v BF ). Where a wife is financially independent, maintenance may be denied (ASP v ASQ ). The Court will also weigh the possibility of maintenance being paid in one lump sum or several installments as opposed to a periodical basis to achieve a clean break from the other party. This will end when either spouse dies, when the wife remarries or when the Court orders it to end.
(iii) Enforcement of Maintenance Order
Ideally, the Defendant makes payments required of him or her without any external pressure. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in reality. However, defaulters are more easily held accountable now with the various ways the Courts can enforce payments. Aside from the rather draconian sentence of imprisonment pegged to the number of months unpaid, the Courts can order a defaulter to undergo financial counselling, perform community service or deduct the defaulter’s salary to pay the Complainant. There is more information on the Courts’ ways of encouraging timely payments here.
Section 112 of the Women’s Charter provides a broad definition of matrimonial assets. Generally, a property is a matrimonial asset if it is connected in time with the marriage and it has benefited somehow from the personal efforts of either the husband or the wife. The family car, HDB flat, savings and shares all fall into this realm.
The Family Courts in Singapore have the power to order the just and equitable division of matrimonial assets upon divorce (Section 112 of the Women’s Charter). In line with Section 46(1), the law regards both spouses as having contributed equally to obtaining the property regardless of who paid for it. The Courts acknowledge the non-financial contributions and efforts of the homemakers and take them into account. The full list of factors to consider when making this order is found in Subsection 2 of Section 112, and includes financial independence of each party post-divorce, financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage and the needs of the child.
The case of ANJ vs ANK  provides a structured step-by-step approach in determining the just and equitable division of contested assets. An illustration of this can be found at http://huffe.com/division-of-matrimonial-assets-singapore/. A large majority of orders made fall in the range of 35:65. Where the marriage lasted for a long time before divorce, the Courts may order a 50:50 split.
Following statutory amendments in 1999, Muslim parties can choose to apply under these parts of the Women’s Charter instead of under Muslim law. Upon the termination of a Muslim sought in the Syariah Court, the two divorced Muslim parties can agree to choose to make an application for any or all of these matters to the Family Court. This allows them greater choice in settling their ancillary issues.
Founder and Principal Lawyer
of Yeo and Associates LLC
Beatrice Yeo Poh Tiang
Having handled over 10,000 divorces since 2006, Ms. Beatrice Yeo, the Founder and Principal Lawyer of the firm, is widely acknowledged as one of the best divorce lawyers in Singapore.
She has extensive experience in all aspects of Matrimonial Law, including Nullity Proceedings, Contested & Uncontested Divorce and Mediation.
It is Beatrice’s personal endeavour to make sure that her clients get her personal and specialised attention.
Contact Ms. Beatrice Yeo right away for a FREE phone consultation on legal costs and divorce procedure. You may also fill up the enquiry form above to be contacted by Yeo & Associates LLC.
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