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Chen Siew Hwee v Low Kee Guan (Wong Yong Yee, co-respondent) [2006] SGHC 172

Outcome: Shares given to the husband by way of gift was not substantially improved during the marriage and the husband did not demonstrate an intention for assets derived from the shares to form part of the matrimonial asset. 


1 The proceedings in this case related to ancillary matters concerning maintenance and division of matrimonial assets. The central issue before the court was whether certain assets derived from shares given to the husband prior to the marriage were excluded from the pool of matrimonial assets such that the wife was not entitled to a share in those assets. This issue turned on the proper interpretation of the definition of “matrimonial asset” under s 112(10) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 323, 1997 Rev Ed) (“the Act”). The court also discussed the concept of substantial improvement within the context of s 112(10)(a) of the Act and the tracing and transformation of gifts. 

Court’s Decision:

2 The High Court held that the qualifying words in s 112(10) of the Act, which imposed conditions on the circumstances under which an asset acquired by way of gift or inheritance fell within the pool of matrimonial assets, applied to both paragraphs (a) and (b) of s112(10) of the Act: at [37]

3 The High Court also held that indirect financial contributions alone were too vague and remote to justify a finding that the spouse concerned had helped to substantially improve an asset. However, this was not to say that indirect contributions can never justify such a finding. A direct casual connection had to be proved between the contributions and the improvement of the asset: at [51]

4 Where funds derived from a gift were used to acquire a new asset, the new asset qualified as an asset acquired by gift within the qualifying words of s 112(10) of the Act unless it can be shown that the done had demonstrated a real and unambiguous intention that the new asset should be considered part of the pool of matrimonial assets. Before one can undertake this enquiry of whether the nature of the original asset should be that of the new asset, it is necessary to first consider whether the new asset was traceable to the assets that constituted the original gift to begin with: at [58], [59].

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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