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UZN v UZM [2020] SGCA 109

Outcome: Appeal allowed

Facts

1 The High Court Judge found that the Husband failed to make full and frank disclosure of his assets, and awarded the Wife 8% more of the pool of matrimonial assets. The Wife’s appeal concerned the way in which the High Court Judge gave effect to the adverse inference, and the extent of the Husband’s non-disclosure.

Court’s Decision:

2 In the division of matrimonial assets upon divorce, the court is concerned with ensuring just and equitable division of the material gains of the marital partnership between spouses. Prior to division, it is necessary that there is a fair assessment of the size of the pool of matrimonial assets to be divided. Parties’ duty of full and frank disclosure is particularly significant as there is no cross-examination involved in determining the matrimonial pool: at [16] and [17].

3 An adverse inference may be drawn against a party who fails to make full and frank disclosure in ancillary matters proceedings, if the following criteria are met: (a) there is underlying evidence establishing a prima facie case against that party; and (b) that party must have had some access to the information he is said to be hiding. The drawing of an adverse inference allows the court to reach a fair assessment of the total pool of matrimonial assets to be divided: at [18] to [21].

4 A detailed analysis of parties’ earnings and expenditure to determine the extent of matrimonial assets should not be undertaken as a matter of course, but may be undertaken if there is reason to suspect preliminarily that there is a mismatch between a party’s assets and their means. Here, there was sufficient basis for a closer look at the Husband’s cash flow as his low disclosed cash balance was not consistent with his significant income from his law practice: at [25] and [26].

5 There are generally two approaches to give effect to an adverse inference. First, the court may make a finding on the value of the undisclosed assets based on the available evidence, and include the value in the matrimonial pool for division, unless the dissatisfied party can show that the value attributed is unreasonable (“the quantification approach”). Second, the court may order a higher proportion of the known assets to be given to the other party (“the uplift approach”): at [28].

6 The court should adopt the approach which is most appropriate in achieving a just and equitable result. Where there is genuine doubt or dispute as to the true extent of non-disclosure, the court should prefer a finding which results in a higher share of matrimonial assets being awarded to the other party: at [29] and [35].

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.
 
2022/01/11

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