New approach to dividing matrimonial assets to recognise indirect contributions more appropriately

by | Jun 27, 2016

If you did not work during your marriage and had instead devoted yourself to looking after the children and family, your non-financial contributions will still be recognised by the Court in dividing the matrimonial assets.

In the ground-breaking case of ANJ v ANK [2015] SGCA 34, the Court of Appeal provided a new approach to determine how to divide the matrimonial assets in a divorce in a fair and fair manner:

  • Step 1: The Court will ascribe a ratio that represents each party’s direct (i.e. financial) contributions towards the purchase or improvement of matrimonial assets.
  • Step 2: The Court will ascribe a ratio to represent each party’s indirect (or non-financial) contributions to the well-being of the family.
  • Step 3: The Court will divide the matrimonial assets by taking into account each party’s respective average percentage contribution (i.e. averaging a party’s ratio from Step 1 and ratio from Step 2).

The Court of Appeal also noted that some of the following factors would affect whether or not the components are given equal weightage:

  • The length of the marriage. This is because longer marriages generally involve greater indirect contributions being made.
  • The size of the matrimonial assets. This is because a very large pool of matrimonial assets that is accumulated by one party’s efforts may justify direct financial contributions being given greater weightage.
  • The extent and nature of the indirect contributions. For example, just as a party who has sacrificed her career advancement for the sake of bringing up the children would justify greater weightage being given for her indirect contributions, a party who has engaged a domestic helper (or who has made less of a personal sacrifice) in bringing up the children would justify less weight being given for her indirect contributions.

Ultimately, the main aim of the Court’s approach is to arrive at a just and fair division by ensuring that each party’s contribution towards the marriage is given adequate weight whilst appropriately taking into consideration a party’s indirect contributions.

The Court of Appeal also gave a reminder that if a party has failed to make full and frank disclosure of matrimonial assets, the Court can and may draw an adverse inference against that party and also alter the weightage of the known assets in favour of the other party.

More information on the case may be found in the Grounds of Decision here.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.