SINGAPORE - A pair of newly-weds who relocated themselves to Australia after the husband was sent there for a work assignment, became caught in a battle over their matrimonial flat in Sengkang after they became involved in a motor vehicle accident that left the wife paralysed.
Madam Ho Shin Hwee, had been working as an accountant, but she gave up her job to join her husband, Mr Kwik Mak Seng, Mark.
Then in July 2003, Mr Kwik, now 37, was driving when he fell asleep at the wheel and became involved in an accident. Madam Ho, now 35, was a passenger onboard the vehicle at the time. She was left permanently disabled and later received an insurance payout of $4.56 million (AUD$3.8 million) in August 2011.
They returned to Singapore, but Mr Kwik left their home in July 2004, a year after the accident.
The couple were separated, and in December 2010, Madam Ho filed for a divorce.
Madam Ho went to court to ask for their matrimonial flat, valued at $490,000, to be solely under her name, without any refund to Mr Kwik's CPF contribution towards the flat. She also wanted a lump sum maintenance of $276,000 from her ex-husband, or a monthly alimony of $2,300 for a period of 10 years.
Before the divorce, Mr Kwik paid about $46,000, while Madam forked out about $23,500 to re-pay the loan on their flat.
However, Mr Kwik claimed 80 per cent of the net proceeds from the sale of their flat. He was also unwilling to pay any maintenance towards Madam Ho's upkeep as his monthly salary is $2,500. $950 of that goes to rental expenses.
But the High Court ruled that Madam Ho should receive 47 per cent of the net proceeds from the sale of the matrimonial home, while Mr Kwik should receive 53 per cent.
Judge Lionel Yee said in his judgement that he arrived at this allocation after taking into account both parties' financial and non-financial contributions when dividing the matrimonial flat. These included their CPF contributions in purchasing the flat, which was about 33.87 per cent by Madam Ho and 66.13 per cent by Mr Kwik.
Meanwhile, Madam Ho's non-financial contribution to the marriage, particularly when she left Singapore to be with Mr Kwik, and she took care of the household when they were based in Australia was a lot less as the couple had only lived together for about 10 months.
In addition, Madam Ho has been receiving rental income of $2,100 a month from their flat since October 2011.
Judge Yee also ruled that Mr Kwik will still have to pay alimony, and set the amount at $450 a month, or a lump sum of $54,000. After the sale of their Sengkang flat, he will still have enough money to buy a new flat after paying the alimony.
Madam Ho was also given the option to buy over Mr Kwik's share of their Sengkang flat. After deducting the alimony payment, she will have to fork out a remaining sum of $205,700 to buy over Mr Kwik's share.
Shin Min Daily News reported that Mr Kwik is not pleased with the verdict and has already filed for an appeal.
Sent back to Singapore partially paralysed
Madam Ho was 25 years old when the accident happened. After the accident, she fell into a coma and was hospitalised for two months. When she came out of her coma, she had become partially paralysed and was in a semi-conscious state. She later came back to Singapore for therapy.
Madam Ho has been receiving physical therapy until last July, reported the evening daily, and had suffered from depression, though her condition is said to have improved.
Her insurance only covered about 85 per cent of her medical expenses, with the rest of the medical fees being paid for by her family.
In 2004, Madam Ho's mother explored the possibility of claims, and their relatives introduced a lawyer, Rengaraju Kurubulan, to them.
Wife's former lawyer suspended for champerty
Lawyer Rengaraju Kurubulan was suspended from practice for six months for champerty.
His suspension came after a 2006 agreement with Madam Ho to bring a lawsuit in Australia, over the injuries she had suffered there, according to www.law.com.
Kurubulan bankrolled the case in exchange for 40 per cent of any settlement or award over $329,298.
Madam Ho reached a settlement with the insurer for a sum of $4.6 million, after which Kurubulan sought to collect about $1.3 million from her.
She refused to pay, and after Kurubulan threatened to file a suit against her in Australia and Singapore. She responded by filing a complaint against Kurubulan with the Law Society of Singapore, which brought the champerty claim against him.