Divorce proceedings in Singapore involve two stages. At the first stage, the court considers whether a divorce should be granted. After the divorce has been granted, the court considers ancillary divorce issues, which may include custody, care and control of the children, maintenance of the wife and children and division of matrimonial assets. This is the second stage. The court can also deal with the ancillary issues in the second stage, even where there is no divorce application or divorce order by the court.
In most cases of divorce, division of matrimonial assets would involve division of the matrimonial home. Apart from the question of custody of the children, most of the disputes at the second stage centre on the matrimonial home.
In Singapore, a large number of such disputes involve HDB flats bought with CPF savings. Recently, rules have been introduced to deal with division of these flats. These rules, which came into effect on 1 December 1998, apply where a husband and wife own an HDB flat that is to be divided upon divorce. A Matrimonial Property Plan, either agreed or proposed, will have to be drawn up. The HDB and CPF Board have to agree to the plan.
Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan (“AMPP”)
An AMPP is drawn up where the husband and wife agree on how the HDB flat is to be divided. An AMPP is a plan setting out the parties’ agreement as to the way in which an HDB flat is to be divided if a writ for divorce to end the marriage is granted. The Plaintiff (the party filing for divorce) must serve the AMPP on the HDB and the CPFB who will within one month of service, give a written reply, as to whether they agree to the plan.
Proposed Matrimonial Property Plan (“PMPP”)
A PMPP is drawn up where the husband and wife cannot agree as to the way in which the HDB flat is to be divided. A proposed matrimonial property plan is a plan setting out the proposals of the husband and wife (separately) as to the way in which an HDB flat is to be divided if a writ for divorce in respect of their marriage is granted. The Plaintiff has to send standard queries (in standard formats) to the HDB and CPFB who will, within one month, provide answers to the standard queries. The Defendant (the other party to the marriage) who has been served with the PMPP will have to file with the court, within 2 months of service, the PMPP with the Defendant’s portion duly completed together with the written reply from the CPFB.
ONE of the following options may be jointly selected by the parties to the marriage as the basis of their agreement if the AMPP is to be drawn up. If a PMPP is to be drawn up, the options may be selected separately by the wife and the husband as their own proposed mode of division of the HDB flat. The option (for AMPP) or options (for PMPP) will help the Court in ordering the division between the parties of the HDB flat. The Court decides whether to adopt or reject the whole or any part of the AMPP or PMPP. The Court can also modify the proposals. Note that, apart from considering the AMPP or PMPP, the Court will also consider a number of other factors. Some of these factors are: the financial and non-financial contributions of the parties towards acquiring, improving or maintaining the HDB flat, the contributions made by each party to the welfare of the family, the needs of the children of the marriage, whether the husband or the wife has custody, care and control of the children.
Option 1: The flat will be surrendered to the HDB (i.e. where parties are in physical possession of the HDB flat). Under this option, the parties are to agree or propose:
- How the compensation for the surrender of the flat will be used.
- Who will bear the outstanding HDB loan or monies due to the HDB. If both are to pay, the proportions that each will pay will have to be stated.
- Who will refund the CPF monies which have been withdrawn for the purchase of the flat and to whose CPF account the refund will be made.
- Who is to bear the conveyancing, stamp, registration and administrative fees of the surrender.
- How the balance or shortfall will be divided.
Option 2: The Agreement for Lease with the HDB will be terminated (i.e. where the parties are not in physical possession of the HDB flat). Under this option, the parties are to agree or propose:
- Whose CPF withdrawal (for the purchase of the flat) is to be refunded from the deposit refunded by the HDB.
- Who will refund the monies withdrawn from the CPF accounts.
- How is the shortfall or balance to be divided.
Option 3: The flat will be sold in the open market. Under this option, the parties are to agree or propose:
- How the selling price is to be determined.
- How the sale proceeds will be used.
- How the outstanding HDB loan or monies due to the HDB may be repaid.
- Who will refund the CPF monies withdrawn for the purchase of the flat.
- Who will bear the cost of the sale.
- How the balance of the proceeds or shortfall will be divided.
Option 4: The wife’s share in the flat will be sold/transferred to the husband or the husband and children or to a third party.
Option 5: The husband’s share in the flat will be sold/transferred to the wife or the wife and children or to a third party.
Under these options the parties are to agree or propose:
- how the sale or transfer is to take place, including how the valuation of the flat is to be determined.
- who will refund the CPF monies withdrawn for the purchase of the flat.
- how the outstanding HDB loan or monies due to the HDB may be repaid.
- who will bear the cost of the sale.
The Family Court was established with the aim of providing a forum to decide on family disputes in a divorce. It also has convenient means to assist parties to resolve their family disputes amicably. Division of matrimonial assets through the use of the matrimonial property plans can help to resolve a major area of conflict between spouses. However, the Court has to be satisfied that the agreement reflects an effective and fair resolution between the parties for the disposition of matrimonial property.