Dividing matrimonial assets in a divorce: do my contributions count?

Marriage is a union which involves sacrifice and cooperation on the part of two people. This may take the shape of one parent leaving a well-paying job to look after the children and household, another working multiple jobs to make ends meet, or another changing his/her lifestyle to juggle family and work commitments. Parties also work together to acquire matrimonial assets such as properties, stocks, cars, jewelry, furniture, etc. Thus, when the marriage breaks down, one of the things which soon-to-be divorcees want to know is whether they are entitled to a share of the matrimonial assets and if so, how much is this share.

Direct and non-direct contributions

In Singapore, the answer to this depends mainly on the parties’ respective contributions to the marriage. Both direct contributions (ie direct financial contributions) and indirect contributions (ie indirect financial contributions and non-financial contributions) count. Some examples include:

  • direct financial contributions toward acquiring or improving the matrimonial assets;
  • indirect financial contributions toward the household’s expenses;
  • indirect financial contributions toward the children’s expenses;
  • non-financial contributions toward looking after the household such as buying groceries, cooking, cleaning, etc;
  • non-financial contributions toward raising the children.

The weightage

The court may also consider the following factors when deciding how much weight to place on either direct or indirect contributions:

  • the length of the marriage (pre-marriage cohabitation is not included);
  • the size of the matrimonial assets and whether it was acquired by one party’s exceptional efforts;
  • the extent and nature of the indirect contributions made.

For example, if there are four children in the marriage and the wife sacrificed her career in order to raise them to adulthood, then the court may place more weight on indirect contributions.

Generally, the court will ascribe a ratio and divide the matrimonial assets based on the extent of the each party’s contributions. For example, if the court divides matrimonial assets worth $2 million in the ratio of 40:60 in favour of the wife, then what this means is that the wife’s share of the matrimonial assets would be $1.2 million.

Frequently asked questions

  1. If my spouse committed adultery, does this mean that I will receive a larger share in the matrimonial assets?

Answer: No. The division of matrimonial assets is based on parties’ respective contributions and not on the fault of one party (insofar as such fault does not affect their contributions).

  1. If before our marriage, I had lived together with my spouse for 6 years, will my contributions during these 6 years count?

Answer: No, only contributions during the marriage count.

  1. If during our marriage, I inherited a sum of money from my deceased parents, is my spouse entitled to share in it?

Answer: Generally, no because the sum of money is not considered a matrimonial asset.

  1. If during our marriage, I inherited a condominium from my deceased parents, is my spouse entitled to share in it?

Answer: Generally, no because the condominium is not considered a matrimonial asset. However, if your family had lived in the condominium for the better part of the marriage (ie the condominium is the matrimonial home) or if your spouse had substantially improved the condominium (for example, by paying for renovations), then the condominium may be considered a matrimonial asset and your spouse may be entitled to a share in it.

This article is written by DC Law LLC. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice. If you would like to consult us, we are contactable by email at info@dclaw.com.sg or by phone at +65 6589 8118.

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