Judge in divorce dispute recuses himself

SINGAPORE - A High Court judge chose not to continue hearing a bitter dispute between a divorced couple after the man made certain allegations maligning the judge.

Although the allegations were untrue, the judge recused himself because he did not want the man to feel he would not get a fair hearing after making those unfounded complaints.

The case then moved to Justice Judith Prakash, who explained in her judgment last week why the first judge made that rare move.

It was in April last year that the first judge issued a maintenance order for the woman against her former husband. Both doctors, they were in a bitter 30-month battle over the custody of their sons and a division of assets.

The 53-year-old husband appealed against the order, made certain allegations and wanted the judge to stop hearing the rest of the case.

After considering the matter, the judge told them he would recuse himself. Justice Prakash said this was not because there was any truth in the husband's allegations, but because "after the allegations were made, the husband might apprehend that he would no longer get a fair trial from the judge he had maligned".

She took over, and delivered her grounds of judgment last week over who should get what from the matrimonial assets.

The couple married in 1990 and split in 2011 after the woman discovered her husband was having an affair.

Both had agreed to joint custody of their two sons, aged 19 and 16. They agreed to shared care and control of the elder son, but fought over the younger son.

Justice Prakash decided that the younger boy would be better off with his mother, although the father would have reasonable access to him.

The judge noted that the man tried to influence the boys by taking them to expensive restaurants and introducing them to high living so they would choose him over their mother.

The court also heard how he took the elder son clubbing.

Among other things, the woman was concerned that his relationships with women would adversely impact the boys' moral values. The man had an affair with a young woman in 2009, and started going out with another woman the next year.

Overall, the husband had assets worth $6.8 million while the woman's assets were valued at $1.8 million. The couple also jointly owned a three-storey bungalow worth $7.8 million.

The assets were divided 37:63 in favour of the husband. The wife would also get 50 per cent of the value of the bungalow plus a $1.4 million lumpsum maintenance. Overall, she would get more than $7 million.