SINGAPORE- A man who left his wife 19 years ago has filed for divorce, but will not get a cent from their flat.
The High Court, in decision grounds released yesterday, dismissed Mr Andrew Sim's claim for an equal share of the $400,000 Housing Board flat, finding that his spouse Wee Siew Gee's indirect contributions to the family outweighed any share he would have got.
Judicial Commissioner George Wei ruled it was the "just and equitable" thing to do, under the circumstances, and affirming the decision of the family court where the case was first heard.
He made clear in a 74-page judgment that "the division of matrimonial assets must not be reduced to a mathematical exercise of addition, subtraction and percentage. A holistic approach must be taken". The decision was based on the unique circumstances of a long marriage and the court found it fair for Madam Wee to keep the flat without having to reimburse any sum to her husband.
Mr Sim, a 63-year-old cabby, and Madam Wee, 62, were married for 39 years but lived apart after he left the Tampines family home in 1993. They have a daughter now aged 37.
When he took steps to divorce her last year, the issue of dealing with their joint asset and maintenance came up for a decision.
District Judge Sowaran Singh ruled in June the flat was to be handed over to Madam Wee and with no order as to maintenance. The judge also ruled there would be no refund of his CPF monies used in buying the flat, about nine times that of her CPF contribution. On appeal, Mr Sim, through lawyer Tan Siew Kim, argued he took care of all major household and family expenses in the 20 years before he left, even after he was made bankrupt in 1984.
But the court found the evidence of Madam Wee, defended by lawyer Thian Wen Yi, to be more credible. Mr Sim had been a bankrupt for about 15 years and showed no documentary evidence of his contributions to the flat renovations or household expenses. After he left, he provided no financial support to the family.
The court accepted that he "occasionally" contributed towards some household expenses, but Madam Wee's share towards renovations, homemaking, parenting and household expenses were were "far higher" and "far more significant" than Mr Sim's.
It emerged that he left in 1993 after an altercation which led to a police report, had gambling debts and served jail time in 1983 for cheating. The family helped pay off some of his debts.
Judicial commissioner Wei said a clean break was in the best interest of the parties.
Asked why he waited for 19 years before filing for divorce, his lawyer Ms Tan said he "wanted his wife and daughter to have the comfort of home to live in".
Mr Wee did not file even when his daughter got married in 2010.
"It was only after his wife moved to their daughter's home that he realised she no longer needed the home and decided to file for divorce. He is now a virtual destitute, having lost the case."
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