June 17, 2007


Court will decide how matrimonial home is split

Q I PURCHASED a $675,000 condominium unit with my husband in 1995 under a tenant-in-common agreement.

The proportion of Central Provident Fund contribution towards the purchase of this condominium is unequal - his share being two-thirds and mine one-third.

Upon divorce, if I were to sell this apartment at $600,000, can the proceeds minus mortgage loan be divided 50:50?

My husband will be 55 years old in October.

If it is not possible, can I fight for equal share based on the following information:

1) The proceeds of our former Housing Board flat was used as part payment towards the purchase of this apartment.

2) I have been responsible for the upkeep of the apartment.

3) I have been paying the monthly maintenance.

4) I intend to get a four-room HDB flat to live in with my children.

A UPON divorce, the condominium, being a matrimonial asset, will be subject to division between husband and wife.

It does not matter that you hold the property as a tenant-in-common.

In the absence of an agreement between the parties, the court will order the sale proceeds from the condominium - after repayment of outstanding housing loan - to be divided in a proportion that the court thinks is fair and reasonable.

Your respective shares in the condominium will not be strictly commensurate with your respective financial input.

The court takes a broader view than just the meticulous calculation of financial contribution. Non- financial contributions and other relevant factors will also be considered.

Hence, it is possible that the court orders an equal division of the sale proceeds - after repayment of the outstanding loan - even though your husband's financial contribution towards the acquisition of the flat exceeds yours.

To determine the proportion for division of the condominium between your husband and you, the court will consider a matrix of factors including:

# 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; and

# Any agreement between the parties with respect to the ownership and division of the matrimonial assets made in contemplation of divorce.

As for the factors you mentioned, namely:

# The source of funds for purchase of a condominium is partly from sale proceeds of a previous matrimonial asset;

# You made financial contributions towards the acquisition/maintenance of the flat by paying for the outgoings like the maintenance;

# You made indirect contributions in your work towards the maintainence/improvement of the condominium;

# The children will be living with you and need a roof over their heads.

These are all factors in your favour that will persuade the court to be inclined towards an equal division.

However, the court will measure all these factors against all other relevant factors which favour your husband, such as his greater proportion of financial contribution.

The court will hear all the evidence and make a fair and reasonable division of the sale proceeds.

Your husband and you are required to make the necessary refunds to the CPF Board according to the CPF rules from your respective shares of the division of sale proceeds.

If you have not turned 55, you need to refund the CPF amount withdrawn with interest.

If your husband is over 55 years old at the time of division and he had pledged the condominium as his Minimum Sum, he needs to refund the pledged amount plus interest.

If he is over 55 years old at the time of division and did not pledge the condominium as part of the Minimum Sum, he need not refund anything.

Lie Chin Chin
Managing director
(Incorporating Lie Kie Pong Partnership)

Advice provided in this column is not meant as a substitute for comprehensive professional advice. E-mail questions to [email protected]