Division of Matrimonial Assets in Singapore – Understand how the Division of Assets in Divorce is done in Singapore
1. Overview



In Singapore, an Interim Judgment will first be granted when the Family Justice Court is satisfied that there is ground for divorce. Thereafter, the Family Court will deal with the divorce ancillary matters, which include divorce maintenance, custody, care and control of children, and division of matrimonial assets.

The diagram below illustrates the divorce procedures for the division of matrimonial assets in Singapore:

Division of Matrimonial Assets Flowchart (Huffe)

Division of Matrimonial Assets Flowchart (Huffe)

 

2. What are Matrimonial Assets?



Matrimonial Assets are assets that were acquired during the marriage and also assets acquired before marriage that were used or improved by either party, both parties or any children of the marriage. These matrimonial assets will be included into a pool of assets for division.

The following list provides examples of matrimonial assets:

(a) Cash balance in the parties’ respective Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts

(b) Shares

(c) Savings

(d) Gifts by third parties to both parties

(e) Family car(s)

(f) Jewellery

(g) Valuable art pieces

(h) Club memberships

(i) Insurance policies

Note that the following are not considered matrimonial assets:

(i) Assets received by one party as gifts or inheritance

(ii) De minimis gifts (i.e. gifts that have no substantial value, and tend to be highly personal in nature)

3. Factors Considered for the Division of Matrimonial Assets



The court will determine the ratio of division according to factors listed under Sections 112 and 114 of the Women’s Charter. The aim of the court is to achieve a “just and equitable” result for the parties.

(A) Extent of Contributions

The court will consider the extent of the contributions made by each party towards acquiring, improving or maintaining the matrimonial assets. The contributions are categorized as (1) direct contributions, and (2) indirect contributions.

Direct Contributions are financial contributions made towards the accumulation of assets, which include cash payment for the matrimonial home, CPF deductions and mortgage repayments.

Indirect Contributions are further divided into indirect financial contributions and non-financial contributions.

(i) “Indirect financial contributions” include payment for renovations, the maintenance of property and the payment of utility bills and taxes.

(ii) “Non-financial contributions” relate to the contributions made by the parties to the welfare of the family, which include:

Taking care of the household b) Caring for the family c) Caring for any aged or infirm relative or dependent of either party d) Giving of assistance or support which aids the other party in the carrying on of his or her occupation or business

(B) The Needs of The Children of The Marriage

The court will take into account the financial and non-financial needs of the children of the marriage, and the party to whom care and control of the children have been given to.

(C) Agreements Between The Parties in Contemplation of Divorce

Any agreement between the parties with respect to the ownership and division of the matrimonial assets made in contemplation of divorce will also be taken into consideration. Examples of such agreements include prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements.

4. Application of a “Structured Approach”



After taking into consideration the factors stated above, the court would adopt a structured approach towards the division of matrimonial assets.

(i) First, the court would decide on a ratio representing the parties’ direct contributions towards the accumulation of matrimonial assets.

(ii) Then, the court would decide on a second ratio representing the parties’ indirect financial and non-financial contributions towards the welfare of the family. (iv) The court would then average the two ratios to derive each party’s overall contribution to the family.

Illustrated diagrammatically, the “Structured Approach” is as follows:

Note that this “average percentage contribution” is a non-binding figure, so the court has the power to make adjustments whenever it is necessary. One situation in which the court would make an adjustment is when the parties’ collective direct contributions do not carry the same weight as that of the parties’ collective indirect contributions. This is a fact-sensitive inquiry and it would depend on the exact circumstances of your case.

The Singapore court has provided three broad categories of factors that it will consider when weighing the parties’ collective direct contributions against their collective indirect contributions:-

(a) The length of the marriage. Indirect contributions are generally more significant in longer marriages, and minimal in short and childless marriages.

(b) The size of the matrimonial assets and its constituents. For example, if the pool of matrimonial assets is large and was largely the result of one party’s exceptional efforts, then direct contributions would probably hold more weight than indirect contributions.

(c) The extent and nature of indirect contributions made. Note that not all indirect contributions carry the same weight. The weight given to the parties’ indirect contributions may be reduced due to the engagement of a domestic helper, whereas more weight would be given to homemakers who have made significant career sacrifices to raise their children to adulthood.

The new structured approach taken by the Singapore court emphasises the need to use a broad brush method in dividing matrimonial assets. For example, where evidence regarding the parties’ direct contributions is lacking, the court would have to assess the available evidence and make rough and ready approximations of the figures. The broad brush method is even more vital when assessing the parties’ indirect contributions because these contributions cannot be monetised. The court would have to broadly derive figures to represent the parties’ indirect contributions after evaluating the parties’ evidence.

Lastly, the court maintains its powers to draw adverse inferences against a party who has failed to make full and frank disclosure of the matrimonial assets. The court would generally award a lower proportion of the known assets to the party that has been found to be dishonest.

 

5. Orders That Can Be Made By The Family Court



The Family Justice Court has the power to make all such other orders and give such directions as may be necessary or expedient to give effect to the division of matrimonial assets. Also, the court also has the power to extend, vary, revoke or discharge any orders made.

The following list contains examples of orders that can be made by the court in achieving a just and equitable division of matrimonial assets:-

(a) Sale of matrimonial assets and for the proceeds of sale to be divided

(b) The allocation of shares in a matrimonial asset that is jointly owned by both parties

(c) Vesting any matrimonial asset or any part thereof in either party

(d) Vesting any matrimonial asset or the sale proceeds thereof in any person (including either party) to be held on trust for such period and on such terms as may be specified

(e) Postponing the sale or vesting of any share in any matrimonial asset until a future date, the occurrence of a future event or the fulfilment of any specified condition

(f) Grant to either party, for such period and on such terms as the court thinks fit, the right to personally occupy the matrimonial home to the exclusion of the other party

(g) Payment of a sum of money by one party to the other

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