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TNL v TNK and another appeal and another matter [2017] SGCA 15

Outcome: Appeal allowed in part


1 The parties appealed against the High Court’s decision on division of assets, maintenance, and costs. One of the issues on appeal was whether, on the facts of this case, the High Court should have adopted the structured approach for division of assets set out in ANJ v ANK [2015] 4 SLR 1043 (“the ANJ approach”).

Court’s Decision:

2 The Court of Appeal allowed the appeals in part and clarified its previous decision of ANJ v ANK [2015] 4 SLR 1043. The Court also explained how substantial sums expended when divorce proceedings are imminent or after interim judgment is granted should be treated.

3 If, during the period (a) in which divorce proceedings are imminent; or (b) after interim judgment but before the ancillaries are concluded, one spouse expends a substantial sum, this sum must be returned to the asset pool if the other spouse is considered to have at least a putative interest in it and has not agreed to the expenditure. This remains the case regardless of whether: (a) the expenditure was a deliberate attempt to dissipate matrimonial assets; or (b) the expenditure was for the benefit of the children or other relatives. The spouse who makes such a payment must be prepared to bear it personally and in full. What constitutes a substantial sum is a question of fact: at [24].

4 The ANJ approach should not be applied to Single-Income Marriages where one spouse is the sole income earner and the other plays the role of homemaker: at [43] to [46].

5 Step 2 of the ANJ approach should not be further broken down into two sub-steps such that separate ratios are assigned to indirect financial contributions and non-financial contributions: at [47].

6 In long Single-Income Marriages, the precedent cases show that our courts tend towards an equal division of the matrimonial assets: at [48].

7 The decision in Ong Chen Leng v Tan Sau Poo [1993] 2 SLR(R) 545 was not intended to be the only method of quantifying the appropriate multiplier for a lump sum maintenance award. Ultimately, the award of maintenance is a multi-factorial inquiry which requires the court to have regard to all circumstances of the case including the factors listed in ss 114(1)(a) to 114(1)(g) of the Women’s Charter.

8 For matrimonial appeals, in the interest in encouraging parties to move on instead of re-fighting old battles, appeals will generally not be sympathetically received where the result is a potential adjustment of sums awarded below that is less than 10%. Costs can be awarded against a successful party if the court is satisfied that the appeal was a disproportionate imposition on the unsuccessful party. Unsuccessful appellants in matrimonial appeals should expect to have costs awarded against them: at [68] to [69].

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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