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ATE v ATD [2016] SGCA 2

Outcome: Appeal allowed in part


1 Both parties appealed against the High Court Judge’s decision on the issues of maintenance for the Wife and the division of matrimonial assets.

Court’s Decision:

2 The Court of Appeal rescinded the High Court Judge’s order, which had been for the Husband to pay the Wife nominal maintenance of $1 per month. For the division of assets, the order was varied so that the Husband was to pay the Wife $63,000 to account for her share of the matrimonial assets.

3 Nominal maintenance is ordered to preserve the right of the wife to apply for substantive maintenance if necessary in the future – if an application for maintenance (except interim maintenance) is made and rejected, the former wife will not be able to apply for maintenance in the future. This involves a factual inquiry where the court must carefully and closely examine the facts and circumstances of the case to arrive at a principled decision: at [27].

4 Nominal maintenance is not ordered automatically or as a matter of course. It is insufficient for the wife to argue that she is entitled to nominal maintenance simply because her situation might change in the future, as generally, it is not the duty of the courts to compensate parties for the vicissitudes of life: at [28] and [29].

5 The court should keep in mind the basis of maintenance for the former wife, which is to maintain her at a standard of living which corresponds, to a reasonable extent, with what she enjoyed during the marriage. However, an order for maintenance for the former wife is not intended to allow her life-long dependency on the former husband: at [31].

6 As the court’s power to order maintenance is supplementary to its power to divide matrimonial assets, a former wife who receives a fair share of the matrimonial assets or substantial properties, such that the financial statuses of the spouses have been equalised by such division, may receive nominal or even no maintenance: at [34].

The full text of the decision can be found here.

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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