Divorce is an emotionally turbulent time. While there are cases that are settled in an amicable manner, there would be some that manifests into a messy affair. This usually involves financial tussle between the parties involved due to the division of matrimonial assets:
– Owned by both parties during the marriage;
– Acquired before the marriage and is used by the couple or their children during the marriage or has been substantially improved during the marriage.
These could be a home, or other properties, shares or investments.
According to the Women’s Charter, matrimonial assets have to be divided between the two parties. This is based on the principle of “just and equitable”, taking into account the parties’ direct and indirect contributions, as well as the length of the marriage.
We take a look at how some matrimonial assets and financial matters are handled in a divorce case, and what you should consider in an event of an unfortunate case of a divorce.
#1 Matrimonial Home
Properties will be liable to be divided upon divorce if the court considers it to be a matrimonial asset.
For HDB flats however, if the Minimum Occupation Period of five years is not satisfied upon divorce, the flat must be surrendered to HDB at the prevailing HDB rates.
However, if the MOP is satisfied, either party may request to have the flat retained under the following circumstances:
– If names of any party’s parents are listed in the original application of the flat;
– If court has granted the custody of the child;
– If either party is over 35 years old the flat can be retained under the single Singapore Citizen Scheme.
If the situation leaves no option except to sell the house, it is prudent to work out the ratio with the ex-spouse before the proceeding begins. If the percentage of share cannot be agreed upon, the matter will be brought to the court.
For those using their CPF monies to buy the flat, following the sale of the flat, the principal has to be refunded to CPF account with accrued interest. Should a shortfall occur, the amount has to be topped up with cash.
If the court rules that a transfer of one party’s share of the property to the ex-spouse should take place, it is possible that a partial refund to the CPF account, or no refund is made.
#2 Bank Accounts And Shared Debts
Monies in a joint account will be considered as a matrimonial asset. Going back to the principal of “just and equitable”, the monies in the account will be divided taking into account the parties’ direct and indirect contributions.
In an event where one deposits most of his or her savings in the joint account, caution should be exercised when attempting to make withdrawals during the proceedings. In usual cases, withdrawal of shares of savings without finalising an agreement with the ex-spouse could be detrimental to one’s case.
Hence, it is a good idea to open a new single bank account and begin depositing any earnings there once the proceeding commences.
For joint loans, which includes property loan, it is essential to devise a plan to negotiate with the other party on how to settle the debts. Any missed payment can reflect badly on the credit score of both parties, that is why if need be, one should speak to the bank to find alternate ways to reduce or pay off any joint debt.
#3 Maintenance Fee
According to Women’s Charter, the court can order a man to pay maintenance to his ex-wife during or after divorce proceedings.
This maintenance amount is arrived at after taking into consideration different factors, including:
– Wife’s salary and her assets earmarked for her during the division;
– The couple’s financial responsibilities towards children if any;
– The standard of living, contributions towards family expenses, and future earning capability.
This sum is either paid monthly or as a lump sum.
If the wife earns significantly higher than the husband, the court may award a small sum as maintenance fee to the wife or may relieve the man of paying maintenance to the wife.
In addition, an amendment to the Women’s Charter in 2016 allows for a man to request for maintenance from his ex-wife, if he was to suffer from physical or mental trauma and is unable to earn and support himself because of the situation.
#4 Maintenance For Children
A child below the age of 21 years is entitled to maintenance from their biological parents, and the orders will cease when the child turns 21.
If the couple undergoing divorce has a child, the maintenance of the child is usually settled together with the proceedings, together with other ancillary matters.
As long one party has successfully gained the custody of the child the custodian can make the application for child maintenance.
However, in exceptional cases, a dependent child above the age of 21 may also be eligible for maintenance if the child suffers from physical or mental disability, is serving or awaits to serve National Service full-time, or is undergoing studies or training for a vocation.
Exceptions could also apply if there are special circumstances, where the court has deemed necessary for maintenance to be provided.
One notable example was the case that occurred in August 2019, where a father, who has since remarried, was ordered to fund his 22-year-old’s son university studies.
When it comes to child maintenance, the court takes into account several factors before narrowing down the maintenance fee, including standard living of the family, financial needs of the child, earning capabilities of the parents, and if the child has physical or mental disability or not.
Failure to comply with the maintenance order can result in a fine or jail for the offending parent.
Divorce is certainly something nobody wants to see happening on themselves or others. However, if it has to be pursued, being prepared for any financial considerations that may come along the way can help one to go through this unpleasant chapter of life.
Read Also: How Much Could A Divorce Cost in Singapore?