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VJP v VJQ [2021] SGCA 82

Outcome: Appeal allowed

Facts

1 The Wife filed an appeal on the question of whether an appellate court, which had excluded certain assets from the matrimonial pool that was assessed by the lower court, was required to recompute the distribution of assets using the same division ratio arrived at by the lower court. The question arose as the High Court Judge had decided that the amount due to the Wife would be unchanged despite the decrease in the value of the matrimonial pool due to certain assets being excluded on appeal.

Court’s Decision:

2 The Court of Appeal allowed the Wife’s appeal and adjusted parties’ shares of the matrimonial assets such that the Wife’s share was increased from 44% to 44.8% (and as a result, $117,665.73 rather than $65,000 was due from the Husband to the Wife).

3 If the pool of matrimonial assets is reduced on appeal, the ratio of parties’ direct contributions should be readjusted: at [21].

4 The first step in the approach under ANJ v ANK [2015] SGCA 34 (“ANJ approach”) involves assessing the amount of financial contribution made by each party towards the acquisition or improvement of the matrimonial assets. If there is insufficient documentary evidence to determine the precise financial contribution made by each party, the court exercises its broad discretion to make a “rough and ready” estimation. However, if there is no dispute over which party made the financial contribution or the exact amounts contributed, the computation of the ratio of parties’ direct financial contributions is a purely arithmetical exercise where the court’s discretion is not involved – in such situation, a reduction in the matrimonial pool would have to be matched by a change in parties’ direct contributions ratio: at [22].

5 The above analysis is subject to the following three qualifications: (at [23] to [26]­)

(a) The analysis applies only to cases where the ANJ approach is applicable, that is, in cases involving dual income marriages where both spouses are working and can make direct and indirect contributions to the household.

(b) In cases where re-computation would lead only to a trivial difference in each party’s percentage or absolute share of the matrimonial assets, the appellate court can decline to adjust parties’ percentage shares, but should express its reasons.

(c) The analysis is not a license for parties to re-litigate the values of the matrimonial assets or their financial contributions, and the appellate court will only interfere in the lower court’s decision for such matters in exceptional situations.

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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