How to Protect Your Assets During a Divorce

by 11 July 2021Family Law & Divorce, Knowledge & Insights

When getting divorced in Singapore, the Court decides on the division of matrimonial assets if you and your spouse are unable to agree. Once an Interim Judgement of Divorce has been granted, the next step is to deal with ‘ancillary matters’. Issues related to custody of children, property and assets, and maintenance fall under ancillary matters.

In certain situations – like when a settlement is not possible or if parties have decided to apply for ancillary relief – both parties will need to submit an Affidavit of Assets and Means to the Court declaring and disclosing all information related to their assets, income, liabilities, and contributions made to the family, financial and non-financial.

It is extremely important to be fully transparent when declaring your matrimonial assets. Failure to do so may result in consequences against you during the divorce hearings.

In this article, we’ll go through what counts as a matrimonial asset, and what factors the Court will take into consideration when deciding on the distribution of matrimonial assets.

1. What Are Considered Matrimonial Assets?

Matrimonial assets are defined under section 112(10) of the Women’s Charter, but generally, whether an item or property is considered a matrimonial asset depends on when it was acquired and how it was used.

Generally, all assets acquired during marriage by either or both parties are considered matrimonial assets. Common examples include property, businesses, insurance policies and payouts, savings, stocks and shares, family cars, Central Provident Fund (CPF) balances, jewellery, and pets. Lottery winnings obtained during the marriage are also considered matrimonial assets in Singapore.

Assets acquired before the marriage by either or both parties can also be considered matrimonial assets if:

  • They were ordinarily used or enjoyed by both parties or one or more of their children
  • They were substantially improved during the marriage

For example, one party purchases a piece of property on their own before marriage. After getting married, both spouses live on that property with their children. As the property served as the matrimonial home for the family, it is considered a matrimonial asset, even though it was acquired before the marriage.
If an asset was acquired before marriage but does not fulfil either of the above, it’s considered a non-matrimonial asset.

2. What Are Non-Matrimonial Assets?

Non-matrimonial assets will not be considered during the divorce proceedings. In addition to the above, the following are also considered non-matrimonial assets:

  • Gifts received from an external party (meaning not gifted from one spouse to the other)
  • Inheritance
  • Assets that have not substantially improved in value during the marriage

The definition of gifts, however, can be slightly tricky. For example, if one spouse gifted something to another which was purchased using money earned, it may be considered a matrimonial asset. However, if the gift was purchased using money received from an inheritance, that gift may be considered a non-matrimonial asset.

If you’re unsure of what constitutes a matrimonial asset, it’s recommended that you seek legal advice from an experienced divorce lawyer in Singapore to avoid under- or over-declaring your assets.

3. Are Assets Always Split 50/50 In A Divorce?

Not necessarily. There is no default when it comes to the division of matrimonial assets in Singapore, and each divorce is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

According to section 112(2) of the Women’s Charter, the Court’s decision to divide matrimonial assets is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Direct financial contributions in monetary terms
  • Indirect non-financial contributions towards the welfare of the family
  • The needs of the children
  • Any debt owed
  • Presence of any prenuptial and postnuptial agreement between parties
  • Any period of rent-free occupation or other benefit enjoyed by one party in the matrimonial home
  • The support by one party to the other party

The Court ascribes a preliminary ratio of each party’s direct financial contributions to the matrimonial assets and any indirect, non-financial contributions to the family’s well-being. It will then take the average of the two ratios to determine each party’s overall contributions to the marriage.

4. How Does The Court Determine The Division Of Assets?

In addition to the above, the Court will also take into account the following when adjusting the ratio of each party’s contributions, direct and indirect:

  • The length of the marriage: Indirect contributions are generally more significant in longer marriages involving children.
  • The size of the matrimonial assets: If assets are very large and accumulated by a single party, direct contributions will be given more weight.
  • The extent and nature of the indirect contributions: Not all indirect contributions hold equal weight. For example, if one party had sacrificed career opportunities to stay home and care for the home or children, their indirect contributions might hold more leverage. On the other hand, if a domestic helper had been hired to help out in the household, the indirect contributions by both parties would be considered less significant.

5. What Happens If My Spouse Doesn’t Disclose Their Matrimonial Assets?

In some cases, one of the spouses may attempt to hide information about matrimonial assets from their partner. If you think your husband or wife may not have been truthful about their assets, here’s what you should know:

Declaration Of Assets

As mentioned, couples must disclose their assets during the ancillary hearing. Assets should include everything that has value:

  • Properties
  • Bonds
  • Mutual funds
  • Cash value of insurance policies
  • Cash
  • Savings

Sometimes, spouses may attempt to withhold information regarding their assets without legitimate reasons. For example, they may overstate their debts, under-declare their income, or transfer assets to close friends or relatives.

How To Find Hidden Assets

Any suspicions regarding under-declared assets must have evidence to support them. If you need to obtain concrete evidence against your spouse, you can formally request a full disclosure of your spouse’s assets from the Court.

Before you request a full disclosure or a discovery, you must state your reason for the request and the documents needed. For example, you may need your spouse’s tax income returns. Other documents may include:

  • Loan applications
  • Personal net worth statements
  • ATM withdrawals
  • HDB title deed
  • Credit card receipts

If you can’t obtain this evidence alone, you may resort to questioning your spouse. Ask them specific questions about their assets. Don’t be too aggressive, as this could leave you empty-handed. Instead, be upfront and rationalise the importance of disclosing their assets with your spouse.

Conclusion

The divorce rate in Singapore is considered one of the highest globally. It’s no surprise that many of these divorces often end up contested. Couples will take to Court to appeal a divorce settlement, including the division of matrimonial assets.

The Court will weigh several factors in distributing matrimonial assets. Marriages are often complicated, and no umbrella decision can apply to each case. You must speak to an experienced divorce lawyer to clarify your divorce situation.

Tembusu Law is a modern-day Singapore law firm dedicated to providing tailored legal advice to our clients. Whether it’s dispute resolution, corporate, criminal, or family law matters, we’re prepared to help. Get in touch with us for a free 30-minute legal consultation regarding your case.

Frequently Asked Questions About Division Of Matrimonial Assets In Singapore

Are Matrimonial Assets Split Equally In A Divorce?

No. The Court does not presume an equal distribution of the assets between the couple. Their ruling will be based on direct (financial) and indirect (non-financial) contributions.

Who Is More Financially Well-Off After A Divorce?

On average, men become more financially well-off compared to women after a divorce. Men may gain a 30% increase in income, while women may experience a 20% drop.

How Are Matrimonial Assets Divided After A Divorce In Singapore?

The Court usually looks into a couple’s direct and indirect contributions. However, it may also consider the following when dividing matrimonial assets:

  • Marriage duration
  • Matrimonial pool size
  • Children’s needs (if any)

How To Financially Protect Your Assets From Your Spouse During A Divorce?

  1. Produce a copy of your credit report
  2. Separate your debts
  3. Know your assets
  4. Analyse your cash flow
  5. Legally file for separation/divorce

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.

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