Court refuses man divorce

More than 7,000 marriages have been dissolved annually since 2007.

But the courts do occasionally throw out a divorce application.

It happens so rarely that there were only 10 such cases from 2011 to 2013, a Subordinate Courts spokesman said.

She said this happens when a case falls short of the legal requirements or has failed the Court's scrutiny of evidence, or both.

Earlier this month, a former banker tried to divorce his wife of nearly 40 years. They are in their 60s and have a daughter, who is in her mid-30s.

The husband had claimed that his wife had behaved in an unreasonable manner, such that he could not reasonably be expected to live with her.

As part of the divorce, he was claiming a division of the matrimonial assets, which included their $50 million bungalow in the Bukit Timah area.

His wife, a partner in a firm, denied that the marriage had broken down irretrievably due to her unreasonable behaviour. The case went to trial.

We are not naming the parties involved to spare them embarrassment.

The court heard the testimonies of the husband and three witnesses he had called - a business partner, a friend and a former personal assistant.

After that, his wife's lawyers, Mr Irving Choh and Ms Stephanie Looi, of Optimus Chambers, submitted that she had no case to answer and the suit should be dismissed.

JUDGE SAYS

District Judge Jen Koh agreed with the submission, ruling that the husband could not prove his wife's unreasonable behaviour.

This was because he had married her and had accepted her personality over their years of marriage - as could be seen from the fact that he had moved out and moved back in over the years, Judge Koh said.

She added that he had seemed evasive during cross-examination when he was asked about his relationship with a woman from China, who was alleged to be his mistress, as well as other women.

HUSBAND SAYS

To prove his case, the husband had cited incidents such as his wife throwing a glass of water at him when he commented on her "wind-blown hair".

In another incident, they were at the airport waiting for her flight when she asked to check his phone.

After seeing a missed call from a "BT Xiu Fen", she assumed this was a girlfriend and flung the phone to the ground.

In fact, the call was from a Business Times reporter, he said in his affidavit.

He added that his wife had cancelled his spouse membership at the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) without telling him, thereby affecting his social life.

WIFE SAYS

"I am not an unstable person who would throw a glass of water at (him) in public over a harmless comment (about) my hair," she said in her affidavit, denying the incident.

As for the phone incident, she said she had noticed that he kept looking at his phone and suspected the call was from the Chinese mistress.

She said she wanted to find out if this was true as he had told her the relationship was over.

When she grabbed the phone to check, he reacted by plunging forward and trying to wrestle the phone away, she said. He eventually got away with the phone.

She admitted to cancelling the SICC membership in 2009 after finding out about his affair.

"I did not want (him) to bring (her) to the club as several of my friends and business associates usually hang out at SICC and this would cause embarrassment for all parties involved," she said in her affidavit.

"If the marriage had broken down, it would be due to (his) own affair with (the woman)."

HIS NEXT OPTION

Lawyer Gloria James-Civetta, who is not involved in the case, said that since the husband could not prove unreasonable behaviour, his next option would be to re-file for divorce in four years' time on the grounds of four years of separation.

No fault would be needed, but he will have to provide and show clear evidence of them living apart, said Ms James-Civetta, who has seen three divorce suits dismissed in her 18 years of practice.

"Usually we advise clients to move out of the matrimonial property, live in another residence, and change the address on the IC," she said.

MOST DIVORCES NOT CONTESTED

The Subordinate Courts spokesman said the Court will investigate a case based on the legal principles and facts presented before granting a divorce.

"This is done regardless of whether a divorce is or is not contested," she said.

She added that in most cases, after a divorce writ is served and where both parties recognise the marriage is at an end, it's likely the divorce will be uncontested.

Lawyers estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of divorce cases are contested.

Mr A. P. Thirumurthy, of Murthy and Co., said some contest the divorce out of spite.

"After all, they have already been fighting like cats and dogs. They might want to prove a point - the wife might call it adultery (grounds for divorce), but the man might argue that it's only inappropriate association," he said.

2010

NUMBER OF MARRIAGES

24,363

DIVORCES & ANNULMENTS

7,338

2011

NUMBER OF MARRIAGES

27,258

DIVORCES & ANNULMENTS

7,604

2012

NUMBER OF MARRIAGES

27,936

DIVORCES & ANNULMENTS

7,237

Source: Singapore Department of Statistics

CONDITIONS FOR DIVORCE

The Court will be satisfied that a marriage has broken down with no way of reconciliation if the plaintiff can prove one or more of the following:

ADULTERY

The defendant had committed adultery and the plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the defendant.

UNREASONABLE BEHAVIOUR

The defendant has behaved in such a way that the plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her.

DESERTION

The defendant has deserted or left the plaintiff for a continuous period of two years with no intention of returning.

SEPARATION FOR THREE YEARS

The couple have lived apart for a continuous period of at least three years and the defendant agrees to a divorce.

SEPARATION FOR FOUR YEARS

The couple have lived apart for a continuous period of at least four years. No consent is required from the defendant.

Source: Law Society of Singapore


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