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When should matrimonial assets be valued?

Commentary by LIM CHONG BOON, Head of Family Law at PKWA LAW

When should matrimonial assets be valued?

Commentary by LIM CHONG BOON, Head of Family Law at PKWA Law.

When parties are going through a divorce, a pertinent question is: When is the operative date to determine the pool of assets and to value the matrimonial assets?

This is an important question for 3 reasons:

First, even before the divorce has commenced, parties may already have separated and no longer may have any intention to jointly accumulate matrimonial assets.

Second, divorce process in Singapore is a 2 step process. Parties must first obtain Interim Judgment to end the marriage, and THEN, the court proceeds to hear and decide on ancillary issues like division of assets.

Third, the divorce process in Singapore generally takes one year to conclude. It is generally concluded when the court conducts the ancillary matter hearing to decide on ancillary issues.

While the separation or divorce process is played out, the value of assets may fluctuate. Indeed, assets may increase or decrease due to bonuses awarded or share options crystallised or the exigencies of stock and property market.

You can see the upper most question that most of our clients have: What then is the cut-off date both for determining the asset pool and for valuing the matrimonial assets?

There are 4 possibilites:

a. At time of separation.

b. At the date they file for divorce.

c. At date of Interim Judgment.

d. At date of the hearing of the ancillary matters.

In the recent Court of Appeal case of TND v TNC [2017] SGCA 34, the Court of Appeal has reiterated that generally, "the ancillary matter hearing date should be used for purposes of valuation of the matrimonial assets.”

This means that unless parties can satisfy the court to use another date, all matrimonial assets will be valued at the end of the divorce process, i.e, at the hearing of the ancillary matters. Family litigants should therefore be aware of this very important decision.

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