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UEQ v UEP [2019] SGCA 45

Outcome: Appeal allowed in part


1 The Husband appealed against the High Court’s rulings on the division of matrimonial assets. The main question on appeal was whether contributions by the other spouse to the asset before it was gifted to the recipient spouse can be taken into account for the gift to be considered a matrimonial asset under s 112(10)(b) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed). 

Court’s Decision:

2 The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in relation to certain assets gifted to the husband. 

3 Under s 112(10)(b) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed), the default position for gifts (not being matrimonial homes) is that they are not to be included in the matrimonial pool of assets unless the gifts were substantially improved by the other spouse during the marriage or by both parties to the marriage. The focus of this proviso is directed at the non-recipient spouse and the extent to which the contributions have improved the value of the gift. It also centred on the recognition of the donor’s intention as well as the concomitant need to prevent unwarranted windfalls accruing to the other party to the marriage: at [13] and [14]

4 On the donor’s intention, the starting point is that if one gave a gift to someone, he did not intend that person’s spouse to have a share in it. The inference of such an intention was even stronger where the donor, despite knowing that the other spouse had contributed to the asset, still specifically decided to give it only to the recipient spouse: at [14]

5 In the case of a donor giving a gift only to one spouse despite knowing that the other spouse has contributed to it, the aspect of fairness – that there would be less of a windfall to the other spouse if he or she contributed to improving the gift – had to be considered with the stronger inference of the donor’s intention not to benefit the other spouse in mind: at [15]

6 Another consideration is that the contribution of the other spouse to the asset in question was with the knowledge that the asset belonged to a third party without any expectation of either party to the marriage acquiring it, i.e., the other spouse treated the asset as a third party’s while contributing to it. Seen in this way, the gift, if included in the matrimonial pool, would be an unwarranted windfall because the contributions of the other spouse would by then be something that has happened and cannot be changed: at [16]

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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