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UJM v UJL [2021] SGHC(A) 10

Outcome: Appeal dismissed.  

Facts

1 The Wife filed an application for financial relief in the Singapore courts under Ch 4A of Pt 10 of the Women’s Charter 1961 (“Ch 4A”) as the divorce order obtained previously in the Pakistani courts made no reference to the children or division of matrimonial assets. The judge in the lower court granted financial relief to the Wife in the division of matrimonial assets and granted maintenance for the four children of the marriage. The Husband filed the present appeal against the judge’s decision only on the division of matrimonial assets and costs. 

2 The Husband’s main argument was that the Singapore court should not grant the Wife any financial relief under Ch 4A because she had already agreed to certain terms under a Settlement Agreement, which she had signed.

Court’s Decision:

3 The court may still grant additional relief whether in the domestic context or in an application under Ch 4A if it is in the interest of justice to do so, taking into account the interests of the parties and the children of the marriage. Under s 121G of the Women’s Charter 1961, which is under Ch 4A, the court may make an order under s 112 of the Women’s Charter 1961 in the like manner as if a decree of divorce, nullity or judicial separation in respect of the marriage had been granted in Singapore. Under s 121F(2)(d) of the Women’s Charter 1961, which also comes under Ch 4A, the court should have regard to any financial benefits which an applicant or a child of the marriage receives by virtue of any agreement before making an order for financial relief: at [14] and [15].

4 While a settlement agreement in contemplation of divorce is not conclusive in the determination of financial relief, the court will decide what weight to give to it. Where parties have properly and fairly come to a formal separation agreement with the benefit of legal advice, the court will generally attach significant weight to that agreement unless there are good and substantial grounds for concluding that to do so would effect injustice. Nonetheless, even in such cases, the court will always examine the precise circumstances before it to determine whether in the instant case it would be unfair to do so. In determining whether such unfairness exists, the court will not accord great significance to the fact that it might have made a different distribution than that agreed to. The grounds for disregarding such a separation agreement would have to be more substantial than a slight difference of opinion on the fairness of the distribution provided for by the agreement: at [16] and [17].

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.

2022/07/22

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