20 July 2018
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Damages received count as couple's assets

Straits Times
11 Jul 2018
Selina Lum

Compensation for man's crash injuries can be divided between him and his wife in divorce: Judge

The compensation that a man won in a lawsuit, after suffering serious injuries in a traffic accident, is a matrimonial asset that can be divided between him and his wife in a divorce, a district judge has ruled.

The novel issue arose in a case of a couple with three children who are divorcing after 22 years of marriage. The 52-year-old man is a service technician, while the wife works part-time as a cleaner.

Their dispute over the division of matrimonial assets included a sum of about $434,000 that the husband received after he won a court judgment for damages for injuries suffered in a 2012 accident.

The husband contended that this sum was not a matrimonial asset and thus was not liable for division, but his 43-year-old wife disagreed.

In written grounds issued on Monday, the judge said the compensation sum was a matrimonial asset because it was neither a "gift" nor an "inheritance".

Matrimonial assets, as defined under the Women's Charter, include assets acquired during the marriage but exclude assets "acquired by gift or inheritance".

The wife, represented by Mr Lee Ee Yang of Covenant Chambers, cited a 2002 case in which the High Court included lottery winnings as part of the matrimonial assets.

The wife argued that the compensation money was largely meant to compensate the husband and his dependants for his loss of income and earning capacity.

The husband, represented by Ms Seenivasan Lalita, argued that the compensation was received from a "wholly external source which is akin to a gift or an inheritance".

The husband argued that the compensation was given to him as a result of the injuries suffered personally by him.

District Judge Tan Shin Yi ruled that only about $149,000 - or 34.4 per cent of the husband's compensation award - should be added to the pool of matrimonial assets.

She derived this after calculating that the damages awarded to the husband specifically for pain and suffering, special damages and interest amounted to 34.4 per cent of the total sum awarded.

The judge said while the component of pain and suffering was personal to the man, the wife had taken care of him after he was injured. The components awarded for future medical expenses and future loss of earnings and earning capacity were not added to the pool.

The matrimonial assets, totalling about $1 million, include the matrimonial flat worth $400,000; a parcel of land in the Philippines owned by the wife, valued at $57,000; insurance policies and CPF funds.

Judge Tan ruled for the wife to be awarded 40 per cent of the total assets. Both the husband and wife have filed notices of appeals against the decision.


The husband argued that the compensation was given to him as a result of the injuries suffered personally by him....

The judge said while the component of pain and suffering was personal to the man, the wife had taken care of him after he was injured.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.