Dividing Matrimonial Assets During a Divorce in Singapore

Dividing Matrimonial Assets During a Divorce in Singapore

The division of matrimonial assets in Singapore during a divorce is a complex and sometimes contentious process. Contrary to common misconception, the Court does not by default assume equal contributions from both parties during the marriage; hence, one party may end up with a larger share than the other.

Matrimonial assets can include properties, shares, savings, businesses, jewellery, vehicles, and funds in the couple’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts.

How does the Court divide these assets? Let us break down key aspects you need to know, including what constitutes a matrimonial asset, as well as the factors considered in dividing them.

What Counts as a Matrimonial Asset and What Does Not?

What are Matrimonial Assets?

  • Any assets (of any nature) acquired during the marriage, whether solely or jointly
  • Any assets acquired before the marriage by one or both parties that are ordinarily used by both parties or any children for residing and transportation; or for household, education, recreational, social, or aesthetic purposes
  • Any assets acquired before the marriage by one or both parties that are substantially improved during the marriage by the claiming party or by both parties
  • Gifts or inheritance are matrimonial assets if it is a matrimonial home where the giver intended for the other spouse to have any interests to the shares, and is substantially improved by one or more parties
  • As a general rule, pure inter-spousal gifts which do not originate from a third party or inheritance will also be considered matrimonial assets.
  • A windfall, such as a matrimonial property sold at a price higher than envisaged, is subjected to division
  • A windfall from winning the lottery is also subjected to division, especially where the intention was to benefit the household

What are Not Considered Matrimonial Assets?

  • Gifts or inheritances other than a matrimonial home
  • Inter-spousal 're-gifts', i.e., gifts that are originally a third-party gift or an inheritance, with no effort expended by the donor spouse, are excluded from division
  • Jewellery is not subject to division unless it is of significant value
  • Any asset acquired by one spouse during the marriage where the parties' relationship had already deteriorated, and the other spouse had, in fact, already pulled out of the purchase and made clear that he/she did not want anything to do with it before ancillary orders were made.
  • Any asset where parties have agreed to exclude, but the agreement must be made with legal advice.

Factors to Consider When Dividing Matrimonial Assets

When it comes to the division of matrimonial assets during a divorce, various factors are considered to ensure a fair and equitable distribution that aligns with the unique circumstances of each case. The following factors are considered:

Length of Marriage

The Court will look at whether the marriage is a long or short one.

In cases of long marriages, the division tends to hover at equal division or at a 10% deviation from equality. More weight will be given to one’s indirect contributions, e.g., if you are a homemaker spouse, you may get 35-45%, sometimes even 50%, despite the fact that you as the homemaker spouse have not made any financial contribution.

On the other hand, in short marriages, the division of matrimonial assets will be based mainly on direct financial contributions, particularly when the couple do not have any children.

Needs of Children

The Court strives to ensure that the needs of children and their wellbeing are met. This includes the need for the children to have a proper place to stay, which factors into the determination of property and care and custody.

Total Failure by One Spouse in Carrying His/Her Role

In cases where one spouse has failed to carry out his/her role as a husband/wife or as a parent, the other party gets a bigger share or the majority of matrimonial assets.

Gross Misconduct

One party's gross misconduct can impact the division of matrimonial assets, such as poisoning one’s spouse. Conduct like alcoholism or adultery generally will not reduce the guilty party’s share of the assets.

How the Division of Matrimonial Assets Is Done

In order to come up with a just and equitable division of matrimonial assets, the Court follows a structured manner, which includes the following:

  • First Step: Both parties' direct contributions relative to each other will be expressed as a ratio, having regard to the amount of financial contributions each party made towards the acquisition or improvement of the matrimonial assets.
  • Second Step: Both parties' indirect contributions relative to each other will be expressed as a second ratio, having regard to both financial and non-financial contributions.
  • Third Step: Both parties' overall contributions are finalised by taking an average of the two ratios above. However, depending on the circumstances of each case, the direct and indirect contributions may not be accorded equal weight, and one of the two ratios may be accorded more significance over the other.

In some circumstances, the Court will provide equal emphasis on the financial and non-financial contribution of the parties. Here are some guidelines:

  • Indirect contributions tend to be given more prominent weight in long marriages.
  • Direct contributions would have greater weight where the pool of assets was extraordinarily large and all of the assets were accrued by one party's exceptional efforts.
  • The Court is likely to favour homemakers who have painstakingly raised children to adulthood at the expense of their careers, as opposed to the engagement of a domestic helper who would lessen the responsibilities of home-making.


Are matrimonial assets by default, split equally?

No, the Court will divide your matrimonial assets in a just and equitable manner. Factors such as the length of marriage, needs of children, total failure of one spouse in carrying out his/her role, and gross misconduct, will affect the division of assets.

Can I refuse to have any of the matrimonial assets split?

No, you cannot unless the other party agrees.

What if one of the parties chooses to hide some of the matrimonial assets from having been split?

The Court will penalise that party for not providing a full and frank disclosure of his or her assets.

My marriage is on the rocks. Can I transfer my assets to my mother so that I do not have to divide it with my spouse?

No, if you take steps to dissipate your assets in anticipation of a divorce, the Court can order that the assets be ‘returned’ to the matrimonial pool for division.

Can the parties come to an agreement for each party to retain some of the matrimonial assets?

Yes, if both parties agree.

Where the parties' marriage is short, i.e., less than 5 years, and do not have any children, can the party who contributed more to the matrimonial home get back a bigger share rather than equal division?

Yes, in cases of short marriages with no children, direct contributions will be given more weight in the division of matrimonial assets.

My wife recently inherited a flat from her parents, can I have a share upon divorce?

No, gifts and inheritance are not matrimonial assets to be split.

I bought my wife some bags, jewellery, and watches throughout our marriage, can I request my wife to return them or include them in the matrimonial pool upon divorce?

No, whilst the gifts cannot be returned, they can be included in the matrimonial pool for division.

The husband drives a car but he refuses to fetch his wife to and from work; the wife strikes the lottery and buys a car for herself to provide transport for herself, does the wife need to include her car in the matrimonial pool?

No, because the wife bought the lottery with the hope that she can afford her own car.

Please contact our team of experienced family lawyers in Singapore if you need advice on how to divide your assets in the event of a divorce.

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