How Matrimonial Assets Get Divided in a Divorce in Singapore
Marriages do come to an abrupt end. Divorce is an unfortunate aspect of life that is inevitable in some cases. For newlyweds, a divorce is the last thing that can ever ring-bills in their minds. However, ones the unfortunate comes calling, then tough and difficult decisions must be made. Matrimonial assets split is one such decision that must be made before a divorce is finalized.
Just as is the case in other parts of the world, the splitting of matrimonial assets is always a hotly contested issue in divorce cases in Singapore. While it is always appropriate for parties in a divorce to reach an agreement for on amicable division, the same is not always the case. The courts always act as the final resort, which most spouses seek refuge in.
Understanding what matrimonial assets are is essential. Under Section 112 (10) of the Singapore constitution, assets are considered matrimonial if:
- they were acquired when two parties were in marriage
- they were acquired before marriage but improved over time while the two were in marriage
- they are used by at least one party to cater to the needs of children involved
Shares, savings, cars, cash balances, properties, valuable art pieces are some of the hotly contested matrimonial assets in divorce cases in Singapore.
Under Singapore laws, assets received as gifts, grants or by inheritance are not considered matrimonial.
Division of Matrimonial Assets: The Process
Once a divorce case is a field in court, the presiding judge has the discretion to determine the proportion of the matrimonial assets up for split, which each party will walk away with. The proportion must be fair and equitable, based on what each party contributed while in marriage.
Aggrieved parties must first make full disclosures of all assets in their possession regardless of how or when they acquired them. A court has the discretion of offering a higher proportion of the matrimonial assets to one spouse if the other spouse is found to have hidden some evidence.
It is common for courts to prescribe ratios based on the divorcing party’s direct contribution to matrimonial assets when it comes to division. The structured approach also sees courts ascribe a ratio to indirect contributions made by each party on the development of matrimonial assets at stake. By taking an average of the two ratios, judges can then proceed to see each party’s contribution before coming up with a final decision on who gets what.
However, it is essential to note that the average percentage contribution is not a binding figure. A court may decide to make adjustments prior to carrying out a matrimonial asset split. Such adjustments may come into play if direct contributions of one party do not carry the same weight as the indirect contribution of the other spouse.
Below are some of the factors taken into consideration when it comes to matrimonial asset split.
Proportion of Contribution
The biggest factor that courts consider when it comes to matrimonial asset split is the extent of the contribution, made by each party in the acquisition, improvement, and maintenance of matrimonial assets. Direct and indirect contributions are taken into account as both play a pivotal role in homemaking
Direct contribution includes financial contributions made towards the acquisitions of matrimonial assets up for division. It also includes cash payment towards matrimonial home, mortgage payments, or CPF deductions.
Indirect contributions, on the other hand, account for things like payment for renovations, maintenance of the property as well as payments of utility bills. Non-financial contributions geared towards the wellbeing of a family such as taking care of the family and household account for indirect contributions.
Conversely, courts consider the extent of each contribution is it direct or indirect. Contrary to perception, there is no starting presumption that parties contributed equally. While financial contribution would be easy to account for, courts also have a responsibility to take into account the non-financial contributions that supported the welfare of the family. Non-financial support most of the time, allow one party in a marriage to pursue their dreams.
The Length of The Marriage
The length of the marriage will most of the time dictate which party gets to walk away with the largest share of the matrimonial assets. In short, marriages, parties who made indirect contributions are always at risk of walking away with a smaller share of the matrimonial assets. Conversely, in longer marriages, indirect contributions entitle partners to a bigger share given their input that allowed the other party to acquire or develop a given asset.
Matrimonial Assets Size
Direct contributions tend to hold more weight compared to indirect contributions when it comes to the division of very big assets. This is especially the case where there is a belief that the asset in question was generated’ by one party. However, the court is also obliged to take into consideration the role that the other partner played through indirect contributions.
The needs of The Children
While dividing matrimonial assets, the court is obliged to take into consideration the needs of the children. The person under whom the care and control of the children vests could end up with a bigger piece of the pie given the increased responsibility of taking care of the kids
Agreements Signed At The Time Of Marriage
Some couples do sign agreements when entering marriage. The prenuptial and postnuptial agreements also to some extent form the basis of matrimonial asset split. A court may be obliged to enforce any prior signed agreements on merit.
How Courts achieve equitable distribution of Matrimonial assets
Divorce courts have the discretion of calling for the sale of matrimonial assets to ensure equitable distribution. A court may also allocate shares in a matrimonial property to one party.
A court may also postpone the sale or the vesting of a share of matrimonial property, until a future date when certain conditions are met. A court may also vest an entire asset on either spouse.