Matrimonial assets – what are ‘Indirect Contributions’?

Matrimonial assets – what are ‘Indirect Contributions’?

In deciding on division of matrimonial assets, the court must make a finding on parties’ direct and indirect contributions.

What are ‘indirect contributions’?

Indirect contributions consists of:

(i) non-financial contributions such as looking after the household and caring for the family, and

(ii) indirect financial contributions for the benefit of the family.

Evidence for non-financial contributions would usually come in the form of the parties‟ own assertions in their affidavits. It is not uncommon that there is little or no evidence to substantiate. The court often gets mired in numerous unpleasant cross-allegations between the parties, and would find it difficult to tell where the truth lies without independent evidence.

Affidavits by parties who would have first-hand knowledge of the family situation would be helpful, such as from grownup children of the marriage. In Leong Choon Kum v Chia Kin Tuck, for example, the sons had affirmed an affidavit confirming the wife as their principal caregiver. In Tang Ngai Sheung Peggy v Wong Yeu Yu [2008] SGHC 22130, the evidence of the son regarding his parents‟ indirect contributions seemed to be important, as the court quoted the son‟s testimony in its judgment on this matter.

Documentary evidence for indirect financial contributions could be obtained, in the form of bills and receipts – but these are often not kept by parties, especially those who mingle their finances, and where the payments have been made some time back. In Lim Cheok Kwang v Chew Fong Heng Shirley [2010] SGHC 21429, for example, the wife could not prove she paid for furniture and fittings and renovations for matrimonial flat, and the court stated that it could not give credence to her bare assertion that she paid for these items.

(ii)A very wide range of activities can count as indirect contributions – they can range from essential tasks such as cooking for the family and paying the utilities bills, to non-essential ones such as shampooing the other party‟s hair (see Ah So Etee (alias Chua Ming Soo) v Fan Moli [2008] SGHC 14231), and paying for family holidays.

It is worth repeating that when it comes to division of matrimonial assets, the courts have repeatedly and consistently said that it will adopt a ‘broad brush’ approach and will decide based on what is ‘just and equitable.’ The courts will not go into a detailed investigation of each and every single expenditure or expense.



Matrimonial assets – what are ‘Indirect Contributions’?

When can you vary a Divorce Court Order?


Variation of Divorce Court Order

Variation of Divorce Court Order – An applicant may at any time vary or rescind any order made during the course of matrimonial proceedings or subsequent to the final judgment in relation to maintenance, custody, care and control, or access. The applicant must satisfy that the order was based on any misrepresentation or mistake of fact or there has been any material change in the circumstances (Sections 118 and 128 of Women’s Charter).

The principles to be applied for a variation of a child-relation order are set out in ATS v ATT [2013] SGHC 156 where the court held the burden is on the applicant to prove that there has been a material change in circumstances. The court’s paramount consideration in relation to child-related orders is the welfare of the children.

With regards to any order of maintenance pursuant to Section 69 of Women’s Charter, an application to vary or rescind may be made on proof of a change in the circumstances of that person or for other good cause being shown to the satisfaction of the court (Section 72 of Women’s Charter). The power of the court under Section 72 is not limited to situations where there has been misrepresentation, mistake of fact or a material change of circumstances. The rationale of the provisions is to enforce the parent’s duty towards the child financial needs remains unaffected regardless of the state of the parents’ marriage.

Keen to discuss more? Contact PKWA Law at 6397-6100.

The latest Singapore law on division of matrimonial assets

The latest Singapore law on division of matrimonial assets – Commentary by Lim Chong Boon & Sophie Claire Chew

Division of matrimonial assets – Two recent cases, decided within weeks of each other, have introduced notable developments in the law governing the division of matrimonial assets. In March 2017, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in TNL v TNK and another appeal and another matter [2017] SCGA 15 (“TNL v TNK”), followed shortly after by the release of the written judgment in UBM v UBN [2017] SGHCF 13 (“UBM v UBN”). These cases are significant for, inter alia, their refinement of the application of the “structured approach” to division of assets laid out in ANJ v ANK [2015] SGCA 34 (“ANJ v ANK”).

Since the decision in ANJ v ANK, the “structured approach’’ has prevailed as the favoured methodology guiding the courts in their division of matrimonial assets, albeit to be used complementarily with the overarching “broad-brush” approach and the obligation imposed by Section 112 of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353) to divide the assets in a just and equitable fashion. The three steps of the “structured approach” may be summarised as follows:

Step 1: Determine the parties’ direct financial contributions towards the acquisition or improvement of the matrimonial assets. Each party’s percentage of the direct financial contributions shall then be represented as a ratio.

Step 2: Express the parties’ indirect contributions as a second ratio, having regard to both financial and non-financial contributions; and

Step 3: Average out the two ratios, based on the weightage given to each type of contribution, to arrive at a final ratio. The court may decide on the weightage to be accorded to each type of contribution depending on the circumstances of each case, and may exercise its discretion by adjusting the final ratio to achieve a just and equitable outcome. The Court of Appeal was nonetheless careful to emphasise that these principles were “not necessarily exhaustive”, nor “hard and fast rules that must be immutably applied even in cases of exceptional facts”.


Latest Singapore Law on Division of Matrimonial Assets

In TNL v TNK, the Court of Appeal took the opportunity to revisit the “structured approach” and qualify the circumstances under which it should be applied. It affirmed that while the structured approach would continue to apply to dual-income marriages (being marriages where both spouses are working, and consequently able to make both direct and indirect contributions towards the household), it should not be applied to single-income marriages (where one spouse is the sole income earner and the other plays the role of homemaker). In this case – concerning a single-income marriage with grown children and of 35 years’ duration – the Court of Appeal declined to disturb the lower court’s ruling of equal division.

The Court of Appeal recognised that, in the context of a single-income marriage, the framework of the structured approach unduly favours the working spouse at the expense of the non-working spouse. Under the structured approach, the working spouse would be given credit for their financial contributions at two stages: at Step 1, he or she would be accorded 100%, or nearly all, of the direct financial contributions, and would be guaranteed an additional percentage at Step 2 purely by virtue of his or her indirect financial contributions. The breadwinner could thus always be assured of being accorded a substantial percentage over both Steps 1 and 2 even if his or her indirect non-financial contributions were minimal, leaving the non-working spouse “doubly disadvantaged”.

In this regard, the Court of Appeal held that such an outcome was inconsistent with the court’s philosophy of marriage as being an equal partnership, to which both financial and non-financial contributions are equally crucial. The Court of Appeal further observed that in cases of long single-income marriages, precedent cases showed an inclination towards equality of division (as in TNL v TNK itself). However, while it suggested that different considerations would apply to short single-income marriages, it declined to elaborate on these at the time.

The written judgment of Debbie Ong JC in UBM v UBN, released just weeks after the judgment in TNL v TNK, elaborates on the principles espoused in the latter. It bears noting, however, that UBM v UBN was decided prior to the judgment in TNK v TNL, and thus made use of the structured approach even though the circumstances in that case concerned a long single-income marriage. Debbie Ong JC nonetheless opined that the outcome in that case – a final award of 40% for the homemaker wife, achieved through the use of the “structured approach” with broad-brush adjustments – was consistent with the principles set out in TNK v TNL.

In UBM v UBN, Debbie Ong JC suggested that the definition of a single-income marriage, as posited in TNK v TNL, should not be interpreted in an excessively rigid manner “with a thick black line separating cases where the main homemaker worked intermittently for a few years over the course of a long marriage, from ones where the homemaker did not work at all.” Consequently, rather than a strict focus on exclusive roles in the breadwinning and homemaking spheres, a single-income marriage would also encompass situations where one spouse was “primarily the breadwinner and the other primarily the homemaker”, with the key approach being a qualitative assessment of the roles played by each party. Debbie Ong JC was nonetheless careful to warn parties in marital disputes against drawing out litigation by nit-picking over how the marriage ought to be classified.

Besides reiterating the non-applicability of the “structured approach” to long single-income marriages, Debbie Ong JC also sought to extrapolate trends from past cases as to what constitutes a “just and equitable” division, particularly as concerns the nascent taxonomy of marriages which has emerged post- TNL v TNK.

For instance, in cases of short single-income marriages, without going so far as to set out the applicable considerations, Debbie Ong JC cited Zhou Lijie v Wang Chengxiang [2015] SGHC 316 as a starting point for childless, single-income marriages of moderate length. While the “structured approach” would continue to apply to dual-income marriages going forward, sensible adjustments within the same, taking the factual nuances of each case into consideration, would help achieve a fair result. For instance, a higher weightage might be accorded to direct financial contributions in short dual-income marriages, as in the case of ATE v ATD [2016] SCGA 2, while Debbie Ong JC observed that equality of division might prevail in cases involving long marriages with children, whether they are single- or dual- income. In any regard, the broad-brush approach remains fundamental in guiding the court’s exercise of discretion, and preventing matrimonial disputes from descending into protracted, coldly calculative litigation.

In considering these recent developments, one might recall the rationale for the introduction of the “structured approach” in ANJ v ANK. In replacing the “uplift methodology”, previously used to recognise the indirect contributions of one spouse, the “structured approach” represented a shift towards, firstly, system and consistency, and secondly, the affirmation of the philosophy of marriage as an equal partnership of different, but equally valuable, efforts.


Moving forward – Division of matrimonial assets

TNL v TNK and UBM v UBN thus provide a timely and important qualification as to the application of the structured approach in division of matrimonial assets, ensuring a just and equitable outcome is not sacrificed at the altar of consistency. While certain areas of the law remain to be addressed – most visibly, the applicable considerations in cases of short single-income marriages – neither does the emerging taxonomy of marriages necessarily herald a return to the wilderness of the uplift methodology. The precedent cases cited in UBM v UBN demonstrate how the “structured approach”, when used together with appropriate internal adjustments and the fundamental broad-brush approach, may achieve outcomes which are both equitable and consistent. What is certain, however, is that in re-evaluating the road to a just and equitable outcome, the developments in this area of the law will continue to be watched with interest.



Lim Chong Boon

DID: (65) 6854 5336 / (65) 6397-6100

Fax: (65) 6397-6103


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Topic: Divison of matrimonial assets written for Asian Legal Business

PKWA Law’s Mr Lim Chong Boon and Ms Dorothy Tan ranked again as “Leading Family and Divorce Lawyers’ in Singapore.

Leading Family & Divorce Lawyers – Singapore, 2017


PKWA Law’s Mr Lim Chong Boon and Ms Dorothy Tan are ranked again as recommended “Leading Family and Divorce Lawyers” in Singapore.


The 2017 Doyles listing of “Leading Singapore Family & Divorce Lawyers” details solicitors practising within the areas of family, divorce and matrimonial law matters in the Singapore legal market who have been identified by their peers for their expertise.

This is the second year in a row that both Mr Lim Chong Boon and Ms Dorothy Tan have been selected as leading divorce lawyers in Singapore.

Both Chong Boon and Dorothy are divorce specialists and are involved in high conflict, high asset value divorces.




At PKWA Law, our team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore divorce lawyers by respected independent legal publications such as Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review, Global Law Experts and Doyle’s Guide to Singapore Family Lawyers.

PKWA LAW ranked again as a Top Family and Divorce Law Firm

Doyles Guide

Top Family & Divorce Lawyers – Singapore, 2017

PKWA Law is ranked, once again, as a recommended “Leading Family and Divorce Law Firm” in Singapore.

The 2017 Doyles listing of “Leading Singapore Family & Divorce Law Firms” details law firms practising within the areas of family, divorce and matrimonial law matters in the Singapore legal market who have been identified by their peers for their expertise.

This is the third consecutive year that PKWA LAW has been ranked as a Leading Family and Divorce Law Firm.

The Family Lawyers at PKWA Law are consistently recognised as leading lawyers in Singapore.

The firm is well known as as a top family law firm.   Our team of specialist family lawyers is one of the largest in Singapore and is respected for delivering positive results for clients.

Every family and divorce lawyer in the firm is a pure family law specialist – the family lawyers only do family law.    We are regularly interviewed by the media to provide opinions on family law issues.

The team is headed by Mr Lim Chong Boon and ably assisted by Ms Dorothy Tan and Mr Low Jin Liang.

We keep our fees very affordable. If your divorce is friendly and uncontested, our fees start from only $1,500. Read about our Uncontested Divorce Fee Packages in our Fees page.


PKWA Law is nominated for “Matrimonial and Family Law Firm of the Year’ at SE Asia Law Award

top family law firm .

PKWA Law nominated for Top Family Law Firm Award at SE Asia Law Awards for second consecutive year


April 2017


For a second consecutive year, PKWA Law has been recognised as a Top Family Law Firm by leading independent legal publication Asian Legal Business at the 13th annual ALB SE Asia Law Awards. This is the second consecutive year that PKWA Family Lawyers have been shortlisted for “Matrimonial and Family Firm of the Year“.


PKWA earned a second accolade as Family Law Director Ms Dorothy Tan was also shortlisted for “Young Lawyer of the Year”.


The selection was done by an independent judging panel of approximately 30 senior and expert legal industry leaders on the following factors: professional accomplishments (in terms of the breadth, complexity, innovativeness and impact or significance), firm innovation and development, social contribution and professional or community awards or recognition accorded to them by an organization or publication, other than ALB.


The Asian Legal Business, owned by Thomson Reuters, is a monthly publication covering developments in the legal industry within Asia Pacific. It has more than 11,000 subscribers in the region.


The annual SE Asia Law Awards pay tribute to the outstanding performance of private practitioners and in-house teams that have significantly contributed to the evolving legal landscape of the region. This year, candidates were shortlisted after rigorous assessment by an independent panel of approximately 30 senior and expert legal industry leaders.


PKWA Law is pleased to be recognised by the legal industry as a top family law firm and will continue to strive for excellence in keeping with our motto:  “Legal Excellence.  Affordable Fees. Friendly.”

Dorothy Tan is nominated for South East Asia “Young Lawyer of the Year’ by Asian Legal Business

PKWA Law’s Dorothy Tan is nominated for “Young Lawyer of the Year’ by Asian Legal Business at SE Asia Law Awards 2017


Dorothy Tan, Deputy Head of PKWA Law’s Family Law Department, has added another accolade to her already lengthy list of accomplishments.


Dorothy has been shortlisted by leading and independent legal publication Asian Legal Business for “Young Lawyer of the Year‘. Dorothy was selected by an independent judging panel of at least 30 senior and expert legal industry leaders.


Among her other accomplishments:


1. Dorothy was named as one of Asia’s top young lawyers in Asian Legal Business 2016 listing of “40 under 40 – Asia’s Brightest Young Legal Minds”. The list comprises of lawyers under the age of 40 who have been recognised for doing important deals, working on key disputes and other high quality work, and earning accolades from their colleagues and clients.


2. Dorothy is also ranked by her peers as a Leading Family and Divorce Lawyer in Doyles Guide of Leading Singapore Family and Divorce Lawyers in 2016.


3. Dorothy is also listed by respected magazine Singapore Business Review as one of “Singapore’s Most Influential Lawyers under 40 Years Old” in 2016. She was selected from a list of almost a hundred nominees based on thought leadership, influence, and success.


4. Dorothy is arguably the youngest lawyer to lead a team and to successfully argue at the highest court in Singapore, the Court of Appeal. The case of Twiss, Christopher James Hans v Twiss, Yvonne Prendergast [2015] SGCA 52 has become a landmark case and is often cited in numerous family law cases. The client’s testimonial for Dorothy’s hard work can be found at


5. She is the youngest person ever to be made a Director at PKWA LAW.

Maintenance of spouse and children in Singapore

Maintenance of spouse and children


Under Singapore law, a man can be ordered to pay maintenance to his wife or former wife, either during matrimonial proceedings, or after a divorce, judicial separation, or nullity of marriage has been finalised.

Recent changes to the law have made it possible for a man to claim maintenance from his wife if he is:

  1. Incapacitated by a physical or mental disability, before or during the course of marriage.
  2. Unable to earn a living as a result of the disability.
  3. Unable to support himself.

How Much Maintenance?


After a divorce, there is usually maintenance to be given to a former wife and more recently, to disabled former husbands. It is important to bear in mind that every case is different and there is no hard and fast rule in determining the quantum of maintenance to be given.

Under section 114(1) of the Women’s Charter, the court will take into account all circumstances of the marriage, including the following factors, in assessing the amount of maintenance due:


a. The income and earning capacities of both parties;
b. The financial needs of both parties;
c. The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the divorce;
d. The age of both parties;
e. The duration of the marriage;
f. The existence of any physical or mental disabilities in both parties; and
g. The contributions of each party to the marriage.


There are other factors not specifically mentioned in the Women’s Charter that will be taken into account as well. For example, the likelihood of remarriage of the spouse being maintained and an estimate as to how long both parties can continue working. Furthermore, if the marriage were a short one, the usual period of maintenance (that is until the maintained spouse remarries or either party passes away) may not apply.

After a maintenance order is made, if there are changes in your circumstances that either affect your ability to afford the current level of maintenance or to warrant a higher maintenance, you may apply to Court to vary the maintenance order.

Trusted in Family Law

 Trusted in Family Law – PKWA LAW FAMILY LAWYERS


Established in 1998, PKWA Law Practice LLC is a full-service law firm which has grown in repute since its inception. PKWA Law is a full service Singapore law firm with focus on Real Estate and Property Law, Family Law, Commercial Law and Litigation.

PKWA Law’s Family Law team is a trusted name in family law.  It has won numerous accolades for its work, including – for a second year in a row – a nomination for “Matrimonial and Family Law Firm of the Year” at the Asian Legal Business SE Asia Law Awards 2017. Its other industry recognitions include “Best Family Law Firm – Singapore Recognised Leader in Divorce Law– Singapore” by Acquisition International 2015, and Legal Awards “Family Law Firm of the Year in Singapore 2016” by Corporate International Magazine Global Awards.


The PKWA Family Law Team

PKWA’s Family Law team has been recognized as one of Singapore’s leading family law practices by Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review, Global Law Experts and Doyle’s Guide. The team – one of the largest in Singapore – is led by Mr. Lim Chong Boon, who has more than 25 years of matrimonial experience under his belt, and his Associate Directors, Ms. Dorothy Tan and Mr. Low Jin Liang.

We keep our fees very affordable. If your divorce is friendly and uncontested, our fees start from only $1,500 nett.

Read why our clients highly recommend us here.

Contact us today at tel 6854-5336 for your free 1st consultation.