How does divorce property settlement in Singapore work? Does it include matrimonial assets located overseas? What is the meaning of matrimonial assets in Singapore?
Under the Women’s Charter, the Court has the power to order the division of matrimonial assets. The Court may also order for the sale of matrimonial assets and for the proceeds to be split between parties in such proportions deemed just and equitable by the Court.
Meaning of Matrimonial Assets
What is the definition of matrimonial assets? Matrimonial assets, under the Women’s Charter, include:
1. Assets acquired during the marriage by one or both parties.
2. Assets acquired before the marriage if:
a. The asset is ordinarily used by or enjoyed by both parties or their children for shelter (i.e. like a matrimonial home) or transportation (i.e. like a family car) or education, recreational or social purposes when the parties are still living like a married couple.
b. The asset is substantially improved (e.g. renovated substantially) by the other party or by both parties.
c. The matrimonial home.
Assets acquired by one party by way of a gift or inheritance which has not been substantially improved by the other party or both parties are excluded from the meaning of matrimonial assets.
Matrimonial assets located overseas are included in the process of divorce property settlement in Singapore as they fall within the meaning of matrimonial assets.
Matrimonial Assets Based Overseas
The Singapore Courts are not precluded from making an order on matrimonial assets based overseas. However, there are potential issues arising from the enforcement of a Singapore Court order in relation to matrimonial assets based overseas. The overseas jurisdiction may not give effect to foreign Court orders (such as a Singapore Court order) concerning properties in their jurisdiction.
To circumvent this, the Singapore Courts do not physically divide the assets between parties when dealing with the issue of division of matrimonial assets. The Courts will calculate a total asset value (including overseas assets) nett of outstanding mortgage loans. The nett asset value will then be divided between parties in just and equitable proportions.
Subsequently, the Court will either:
1. Order the sale of the foreign asset(s) and for the proceeds to be divided between parties in the ordered proportion.
2. Make orders based only on assets based in Singapore, having in mind the value of the assets based overseas.
Despite the practical problems of enforcing a Singapore Court order in an overseas jurisdiction, the Singapore Courts have other options that will minimize enforcement issues. This is especially true if the couple own assets in Singapore as well as the Court will be able to adjust division of Singapore-based assets according to the overall division of nett asset value to minimize ownership/ transfer issues from overseas assets.
Divorce property settlement in Singapore can be complex, especially if you have assets based in other countries. Such issues are getting more prevalent as:
1. More Singaporeans are married to foreign spouses.
2. More Singaporeans are also buying assets overseas.
3. More foreigners residing in Singapore habitually have decided to get divorce in Singapore.
An experienced divorce lawyer (and perhaps an accountant) will be helpful in giving you advice on issues arising from divorce property settlement in Singapore. If you wish to have a consultation with the only family lawyer- accountant in Singapore, contact us at +6598330314 (whatsapp).
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