Navigating the intricacies of matrimonial assets in Singapore requires understanding the finer details of assets acquired and how they are divided. Matrimonial assets are not limited to tangible properties such as the family home or shared bank accounts. They can also encompass intangible assets contributing to the household’s well-being during marriage. The concept of division of matrimonial assets extends beyond a simple mathematical calculation. It considers both parties’ direct and indirect contributions, underpinning the principle of just and equitable distribution. This article will guide you through these nuances, shedding light on the complex yet vital subject of matrimonial assets in Singapore.
We aim to comprehensively understand how assets acquired during the marriage are categorised and divided. Moreover, we will delve into the importance of direct contributions, such as financial investments into the property or the home, and indirect subsidies, which include any non-financial input, such as household chores or caregiving duties.
Recognising and comprehending these distinctions is crucial in gaining a well-rounded perspective of the division of matrimonial assets in Singapore. Whether you’re a newlywed couple or going through a separation, this knowledge is critical to ensuring a fair and just division of assets.
1. What Is Considered A “Matrimonial Asset”?
In Singapore, the Women’s Charter governs the Court’s decision on dividing matrimonial assets. The definition of or what constitutes “matrimonial assets” are also outlined in the charter.
The following types of property are considered matrimonial assets:
- The matrimonial home
- Property that was acquired during the marriage
- Property that was acquired before marriage was:
- Ordinarily used by the family
- Substantially improved by both or the other party
- Gifts that have been substantially improved by both or the other party
- Property that was acquired before the marriage does not otherwise constitute matrimonial assets
Anything of value that was obtained by the couple throughout their marriage and had benefited either/both them and their children is considered a matrimonial asset. For a clearer picture, some examples of matrimonial assets include:
- Family car
- Stocks and bonds
- Vacation homes
- Lottery winnings
- Insurance policies
- Central Provident Funds (CPF)
2. How Are Matrimonial Assets Divided In Singapore??
The division of matrimonial assets in Singapore usually happens during the ancillary stage, after the initial divorce proceedings. Apart from matrimonial assets, the Court also addresses child custody and spousal/child maintenance. All of these take place during an Ancillary Matters Case Conference. The Court initiates the hearings usually a month after they hand down their Interim Judgement or order for divorce.
The Court is empowered to order the division of any matrimonial asset according to an apportionment that is just and fair by giving adequate and appropriate weight to each party’s direct and indirect contribution toward the marriage:
- Direct contributions include financial contributions made towards the acquisition or improvement of the matrimonial assets.
- Indirect contributions include efforts to improve or maintain the well being of the family.
- The parties’ roles as financial providers or homemakers are both equally recognised because both must have been performed equally for the marriage to continue or flourish.
3. Systemised Approach To Dividing Matrimonial Assets In Singapore
It’s generally within the Court’s discretion to divide the matrimonial assets as they see fit and fair. But, in a recent case, the Court took on a more structured approach. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the Court’s systematic approach to dividing marital assets:
- Step 1: After each couple fully discloses their assets (direct/financial and indirect/non-financial contributions), the Court will begin examining the assets.
- Step 2: The Court will determine a preliminary ratio based on the parties’ direct contributions. The Court will do the same for the indirect contributions.
- Step 3: The Court will average the two percentage ratios from each party. The result will serve as a basis for their decision.
With this approach, the divorced parties are on equal footing. Even if one of the parties has made more financial contributions, they aren’t guaranteed a larger share of the matrimonial assets. Likewise, a party that has made more non-financial contributions may end up with a more significant percentage of the assets. No two cases are the same, and the Court takes time to understand the nuances of each to hand down a just and equitable decision.
4. What Factors Are Considered In The Division Of Matrimonial Assets?
The Court will decide on dividing or appropriating the matrimonial assets after considering the following factors:
Financial Contributions Made By Each Party
The Court will examine the parties’ contributions to acquiring, improving, or maintaining the matrimonial assets. Some examples include income and capital investment.
If the party has more contributions in this regard, the Court will likely reward them with a bigger portion of the matrimonial assets.
Debt Owed Or Obligation Incurred
A couple will incur debt throughout the marriage. They may owe money to creditors or banking institutions. Or they may also have car loans and mortgages. These will also affect the Court’s decision on who should get a greater share of the assets.
For example, if a party has incurred higher debt, the Court will award them less. Similarly, if the other party took on the obligation of paying for that debt, they may be rewarded more.
Needs Of The Children
The Court also considers the needs of the children when dividing assets. For example, the needs of the children may require that the matrimonial property not be divided and that the children be allowed to live in the property until the youngest child is 21 years old.
The Court recognises that children’s needs are paramount, which is why they must also be put to the fore, if applicable.
Contributions Made By Each Party Towards The Family’s Welfare
Domestic roles may be considered archaic or old-fashioned. In a marriage, there are traditional expectations that the wife is the caregiver for the children and dependents. Meanwhile, the husband is usually the provider.
While a typical Singaporean family may have come a long way in subverting these stereotypes, the Court still emphasises familial contributions.
Parties may have made contributions to advancing the welfare of a family member. For example, the wife was a homemaker and a caregiver, while the husband helped create and maintain a positive home environment.
Prenuptial Agreements Made Between The Parties
Prenuptial agreements in Singapore tend to have no legal enforceability. However, the Court may consider them depending on the facts of the case.
Period Of Rent-Free Occupation Enjoyed By One Party
For example, one of the parties may have rented an HDB flat before the marriage. During the marriage and after the wife has moved in, the husband took it upon himself to shoulder the rent, tax, and other dues. The period until the wife decides to share the financial costs of the flat is called “rent-free-occupation”.
The Court will also consider how long one of the parties lived rent-free in the other’s housing. A longer duration may mean a much lower share for that party.
Financial And Non-Financial Support
The Court will determine if one of the parties has provided financial or non-financial support to help the other party. Another example would be a family-run business. If the wife has provided more services to advance the business, they may get more out of the matrimonial assets than the other party.
Amount Of Maintenance Paid To The Former Wife/Husband
According to section 69 of the Singapore Women’s Charter, spousal maintenance is a monthly or lump sum payment made to a former wife or husband. This payment is made during and after divorce/matrimonial proceedings if either spouse cannot financially support themselves.
Ex-spouses are legally obliged to give some financial support after divorce. The Court may grant a larger portion of the matrimonial asset share to a husband/wife who has fulfilled spousal maintenance duties.
5. The Importance Of Legal Guidance In Matrimonial Assets
Navigating the division of matrimonial assets can be daunting, especially considering the intricacies involved, such as the nature of assets acquired and potential future events.
For instance, properties, investments, and even retirement funds like the Central Provident Fund (CPF) are considered matrimonial assets subject to division. These assets may hold significant financial and emotional value, making it crucial to clearly understand their implications during the division process.
Seeking legal guidance is essential to ensure a fair and just division of matrimonial assets. An experienced family lawyer can provide valuable insights into the legal framework governing matrimonial asset division in Singapore. They can help you understand your rights and obligations, assess the value of different assets, and determine the most appropriate approach for division. You can confidently and clearly navigate the complex legal landscape with their expertise.
Furthermore, legal professionals can assist in negotiating and mediating with the other party, striving for an amicable resolution.
In cases where an agreement cannot be reached, they can represent your interests in Court proceedings. Their knowledge of family law and understanding of the intricacies involved in asset division can be instrumental in securing a favourable outcome.
Remember, each case is unique, and the division of matrimonial assets should be approached with careful consideration and expertise. Engaging legal guidance ensures that your interests are protected, and you have a comprehensive understanding of the process, enabling you to make informed decisions and work towards a fair resolution.
Need to consult with a female divorce lawyer in Singapore? The Singapore Family Lawyer is here to help. We’re a team of divorce and family lawyers who can provide expert legal advice for your case. Call us now for a free 30-minute consultation!
Feel free to make inquiries about other information. Aside from the division of matrimonial assets, we also handle uncontested/contested divorce, child maintenance, spousal support, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions About Division Of Matrimonial Assets In Singapore
Does The Court Split Matrimonial Assets Equally?
No. The Court does not assume the position that both parties equally provided their fair share during the marriage.
How Is Property Divided In A Divorce In Singapore?
The Court may consider these factors in the division of property:
- Length of marriage
- Coverage of the matrimonial pool
- Needs of the children (if any)
How Much Property Does The Wife Get After A Divorce?
It depends on the Court’s decision. As mentioned, the Court does not split the matrimonial assets 50/50 in favour of both parties. Instead, it will deliberate on several case-specific aspects.
Do You Have To Show Bank Statements During A Divorce?
Yes. You’re required to disclose your finances and assets legally. Doing so will allow the Court to determine each party’s share in the divorce.