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ARY v ARX and another appeal [2016] SGCA 13

Outcome: Husband’s appeal dismissed and Wife’s appeal allowed.


1  There are two related appeals against the decision of a judge on the division of matrimonial assets and maintenance in the ancillary matters of a divorce. One of the issues was on what the operative date for determining the pool of matrimonial assets for division in a divorce should be (the “operative date”). 

Court’s decision

2  The Court of Appeal’s position is that the court has the discretion to select the appropriate operative date. However, that discretion is not a free or an unguided one: at [26].

3  There are four possible operative dates: (a) date of separation; (b) the date the writ of divorce was filed; (c) the date of interim judgment; (d) the date of the ancillary matters hearing. Parliament had not prescribed any of these four options as the appropriate cut-off date but had left the choice to the court: at [28].  

4  While the court retains the discretion to select the appropriate operative date to determine the pool of matrimonial assets, unless the circumstances or justice of the case warrant it, the starting position should be the date that interim judgment is granted. The interim judgment puts an end to the marriage contract and indicates that the parties no longer intend to participate in the joint accumulation of matrimonial assets. There is no reason why the actual division should not be done when the interim judgment is granted if all the relevant material is before the court at that time; it does not accord with good sense to encourage parties to drag out ancillary proceedings: at [31], [32] and [33]

5  The court may depart from the starting point (i.e., the date that interim judgment is granted) when there are cogent reasons to do so. For instance, where a party incurs a large amount of expenditure from having “indulged in certain vices” such that the matrimonial assets have been “unfairly or unjustly depleted by the unacceptable actions of that party”. Even when the court does not depart from the starting point, it can also take into account accruing benefits and restore expenditure notionally to the pool of matrimonial assets: at [35].

6  When choosing to depart from the starting point, the court must exercise care and provide reasons whenever it does so. This is because the court has not only the discretion to select the operative date to determine the pool of matrimonial assets, but it also has the discretion to determine the date at which those assets should be valued and the discretion to determine how those assets should be divided: at [36].

This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.

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