What are considered matrimonial assets?
- Any asset acquired before the marriage by one party or both parties but ordinarily used or enjoyed by both parties or their children while residing together during the marriage;
- Any assets acquired before the marriage by one party or both parties but which have been substantially improved during the marriage by one party or both parties to the marriage;
- Any other assets of any nature acquired during the marriage.
Matrimonial assets therefore do not include assets that were given to one party as a gift or inheritance unless the other party can show that the said gift or inheritance has been substantially improved during the marriage by him/her or both the parties or that the gift or inheritance is the matrimonial home.
The cash balance in the parties’ respective Central Provident Fund Accounts, the family car, jewelry, shares and savings, all accumulated during the marriage are considered as matrimonial assets and therefore liable to be divided between the parties to the marriage upon the marriage being dissolved.
After a marriage has been dissolved, the Court would have the unenviable task of deciding how the matrimonial assets are to be divided between the husband and the wife. The Court has to make an order as to the division between the parties of the matrimonial assets or the sale of any such assets and the division of the proceeds of such a sale in such proportions as the Court considers fair.
In deciding on the division of the matrimonial assets, the Court will take into account various factors including the following, which are not exhaustive:-
- The extent of the contributions made by each party in money, property or work towards acquiring, improving or maintaining the matrimonial assets;
- The needs of the children of the marriage;
- The extent of the contributions made by each party to the welfare of the family, including looking after the home or caring for the family or any aged or infirm relative or dependant of either party;
- Any agreement between the parties with respect to the ownership and division of the matrimonial assets made in contemplation of divorce.
- The Court is directed to pool all the matrimonial assets together and give appropriate consideration to the above factors and then make a decision on a just and equitable division of the total value of this pool of matrimonial assets.
The Court may make any one or more of the following orders :-
- An order for the sale of any matrimonial asset or any part thereof and for the division of the proceeds;
- An order vesting any matrimonial asset owned by both parties jointly in both the parties in such shares as the Court considers just and equitable;
- An order vesting any matrimonial asset or any part thereof in either party;
- An order for any matrimonial asset, or the sale proceeds thereof, to be vested in any person to be held on trust for such period and on such terms as may be specified in the order;
- An order postponing the sale or vesting of any share in any matrimonial asset, or any part of such share, until such future date or until the occurrence of such future event or until the fulfilment of such condition as may be specified in the order;
- An order granting to either party, for such period and on such terms as the court thinks fit, the right personally to occupy the matrimonial home to the exclusion of the other party; and
- An order for the payment of a sum of money by one party to the other.
Whilst making the decision to split may be a painful one if not devastating, the sooner one comes to terms with it the better. One must try to deal with one’s fears and the other spouse’s threats and come to a compromise. With the assistance of the Court through mediation, parties (together with their divorce lawyers) should be able to work towards having their marriage dissolved on an uncontested basis and all their ancillary issues settled on an amicable basis. This would not only minimize the acrimony that is inherent in a divorce, it would certainly help in bringing an otherwise disintegrating partnership to a bittersweet end.
This is the fourth part of a four-parts series on divorce matters and proceedings in Singapore.