Case Summaries

UEQ v UEP [2019] SGCA 45

SUPREME COURT OF SINGAPORE

1 August 2019

Case summary

UEQ v UEP [2019] SGCA 45
Civil Appeal No. 149 of 2018

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Decision of the Court of Appeal (delivered by Justice Steven Chong):

Outcome: CoA allows appeal in part and holds that a gift to a spouse can only be considered a matrimonial asset if it is substantively improved by the other spouse after the gifting.

 

1          This was an appeal against the High Court’s decision on the division of matrimonial assets between the parties. Among the grounds of appeal, the appellant, who was the Husband, argued that the 20,000 shares and the 60,000 shares he had received from his father as gifts were not matrimonial assets. The Court of Appeal dismissed all the grounds of his appeal, except on one ground: the court held that the 60,000 shares that were gifted to him were not matrimonial assets.

 

The material facts

2         The parties were married in May 2003 and their marriage lasted 12.5 years. The Wife filed for divorce in November 2015. The Husband worked in his family business, a supermarket chain (“the Supermarket”), at the time of the proceedings in the Family Court. He holds 8% of the shares in the Supermarket, his father owns 85%, his mother owns 5% while his sister owns the balance 2%. The Husband also has interests in other businesses: [5].

3         The Wife previously worked as a senior bank officer before she resigned in February 2004, shortly after their marriage. Whether she then worked for the Supermarket and/or the Husband’s other businesses was a matter of dispute between the parties. According to her, she worked until the birth of their third child in November 2012. It was not disputed that she remained on the payroll of the Supermarket until November 2015. The Husband’s case was that she did not actually work for the Supermarket at all and the monies that she received as salary were given by his father to her as part of the arrangement he had in place for all his daughters-in-law, and the monies were actually part of the Husband’s salary: [6].

4          It was not disputed that the Husband’s father gave him 20,000 shares in the Supermarket before the marriage in 1999 and 60,000 shares during the marriage in November 2012: [7].

 

Decision on appeal

5          The Court of Appeal found no reason to disturb the findings in the courts below that the Wife had worked in the Supermarket and played a fairly important role in the day-to-day administrative running of the Supermarket: [9].

6          For the 20,000 shares that were gifted to the Husband before the marriage, the Court of Appeal agreed with the decision in the court below that they were matrimonial assets, because they were substantively improved by the Wife during the marriage, through her work for the Supermarket: [10].

7          As for the 60,000 shares that were gifted to the Husband at about the same time when the Wife stopped working for the Supermarket, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the court below and agreed with the Husband that they were not matrimonial assets. The Court of Appeal held that substantive improvement by the other party to the asset before it was gifted to the recipient spouse should not be taken into account for the purposes of s 112(10) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed): [12] to [18].

 

This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s grounds of decision. 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 grounds of decision.

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