Principles on Financial Relief after Foreign Divorce

UFN v UFM [2019] SGCA 54


1. Introduction

Nakoorsha AK of Nakoorsha Law Corporation, and Suang Wijaya and Johannes Hadi of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, act for a divorcee, the Wife, in making an application under Chapter 4A of the Women’s Charter. That application was for permission to commence proceedings in Singapore for division of matrimonial property, consequential upon a divorce obtained in the Indonesia courts.

Suang Wijaya is privileged to have been given the opportunity to orally argue this case, before the Family Division of the High Court, and the Court of Appeal. The procedural history of this case (which remains afoot) is set out below.


2. Background

In 2017, a Judge of the Family Division of the High Court granted our application. Her judgment is reported as UFM v UFN [2017] SGHCF 22.

In 2018, the opposing party, the Husband, was granted permission to appeal the Judge’s judgment to the Court of Appeal. Permission to appeal was given on the basis that the case involved questions of law of public interest relating to the interpretation of Chapter 4A of the Women’s Charter.

On 9 July 2019, the Husband’s appeal came up for hearing before the Court of Appeal. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court agreed with us that the Judge’s decision was correct, and accordingly dismissed the appeal.


3. Grounds of Decision

On 9 October 2019, the Court released its detailed Grounds of Decision. The Court agreed with us on, among other things, the following points of general principle:-

(a) a Chapter 4A applicant does not need to show that Singapore is the more appropriate forum to grant the financial relief sought (as compared to the forum in which the divorce was granted); and

(b) a Chapter 4A applicant does not need to exhaust remedies available in the foreign forum before applying for financial relief in Singapore.

In its Grounds of Decision, the Court recorded the seminal nature of this case, stating that

[t]his appeal is the first case concerning [Chapter 4A] in Part X of the Women’s Charter… to reach this Court.