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Gifts From Soon-to-be Ex-Spouse, What happens?

During the lifetime of any marriage, it is very common for gifts to be given between spouses. However, during a divorce or the onset of a divorce, some typical questions include “will the gifts given by my spouse be subjected to laws on the division of matrimonial assets?”, or “do I get to keep the gifts my spouse gave me during the marriage?”.

Types of Gifts

Firstly, the definition of ‘matrimonial assets’ is set out under Section 112(10) of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) whereby any asset acquired by one party at any time by way of a gift or inheritance and has not been substantially improved during the marriage by one party or both, shall be excluded as being a matrimonial asset.

Common examples of matrimonial assets: the family car, shares, savings, insurance, the cash balance in the couple’s CPF accounts, businesses, and jewellery, matrimonial home, lottery winnings, gifts between spouses (depending on the background behind the giving of the gift)

In general, there are two types of gifts – inter-spousal re-gift; and pure inter-spousal gift.

An inter-spousal re-gift would be that acquired by one spouse (i.e. the donor spouse) by way of inheritance or gift from a third party (i.e. his father), and the gift is then given to his spouse. Take, for example, a house given to a husband from his father by way of inheritance and then is given to his wife.

Whereas a pure inter-spousal gift is that of a property given by the donor spouse to his spouse, that is not acquired by way of gift or inheritance. Take, for example, a house that is given to a wife, which was bought by the husband.

Hence, according to the definition under Section 112(10) of the Women’s Charter, an inter-spousal re-gift that has not been substantially improved during the marriage by either party or both parties to the marriage, are not considered to be a matrimonial asset. So what about gifts or inheritance substantially improved, for example – a matrimonial home that has been significantly improved by both parties or either party? In such circumstances, a gift or inheritance that has been substantially improved by one party or both shall be considered to be a matrimonial asset.

However, Section 112(10) of the Women’s Charter extends to pure inter-spousal gift as the definition covers any asset acquired during the marriage by one party or both parties during the marriage. Using the example from above, a wife who receives a house from her husband as a gift, shall not be allowed to keep the house as it shall be eligible for the division of matrimonial assets should the husband and wife seek a divorce.

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What Is “Substantially Improved”?

There is no clear definition of what efforts are required to “substantially improve” the asset in Singapore family law. However, according to the case-law of family law in Singapore:

Has to be a direct connection between the efforts of other party and the improvement of the asset;

Indirect contributions such as financial contributions to the household are usually too remote, vague, and unable to result in substantial improvement;

An exception to the above in Singapore family law is that if the indirect contributions allowed the other party to fully devote their time and energy to the improvement of the asset.

Further, the effort of substantially improving a matrimonial asset must come from either from the spouse, other than the one who acquired the property or from both spouses. Hence, take, for example, if a husband buys a house and gifts it to his wife, it is irrelevant whether the husband made substantial improvements to the house, as the only relevant consideration regarding whether the property should be a matrimonial asset is whether the wife made significant improvements to the gifted house.

How We Can Help

It should be noted that there are some exceptions, subject to the court’s discretion, to pure inter-spousal gifts whereby they do not fall under the definition of Section 112(10) of the Women’s Charter for ‘matrimonial asset’. To better assess your case and the relevant assets, at Emerald Law, we have lawyers who are experienced in handling divorce-related matters in Singapore. Contact us at +65 6226 0439 or email us at admin@emeraldlaw.com.sg so that we can schedule a free consultation for you to advise you on your matter.

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Our specialised lawyers and their team are standing by to assist you. Our first consultation is free.

The information contained within this website contains general information about our lawyers, Law Firm and procedures and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
Any person viewing or receiving information from this Website should not act or refrain from acting, on the basis of any such information without first seeking appropriate legal advice.
Please consult a lawyer for specific review of your case and advise. 

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