A house husband in Singapore

SOURCE: The New Paper

He gets custody of children, maintenance from ex-wife in unusual divorce

THEIR roles were reversed.

The well-qualified man stayed at home caring for the kids while his wife worked as an IT manager, earning $12,000 a month.

When they got divorced, the court made the woman support her ex-husband and kids.

The ex-husband, was also given 40 per cent of the matrimonial assets (valued at about $700,000) as recognition for his sacrifices, though he had contributed only about 20 per cent.

The court also granted the husband’s application to be entitled to 50 per cent of the value of the wife’s unit trusts, valued at $115,000.

His sacrifice was in giving up his $3,000-a-month job as a manager to look after their three sons and handle the household chores since 1991.

He holds a master’s degree in business administration.

The Singaporean couple decided early on that the man, now 52, should be a house husband.

They were married in 1987 and their eldest boy, 17, is followed by twins, 11.

The wife filed for divorce in 2006.

Last month, District Judge Sowaran Singh at the Family Court ordered the wife to pay the man $1,750 a month as he would be caring for their children.

The amount is to be halved after six months as the judge asked the husband to look for a job.

Unusual arrangementThe wife, now 45, was earning four times as much as the husband when the couple worked out their family roles.

She did not want to stay at home to be a housewife. Hiring maids was not feasible as she did not get along with them.

So he became the homemaker, and for 15 years, she was fine with the arrangement.

But marital bliss did not last.

The wife filed for divorce, citing the husband’s unreasonable behaviour.

She also stopped maintaining the family.

The husband cross-petitioned for divorce citing her unreasonable behaviour.

Details of the spouses’ claims of unreasonable behaviour were not mentioned in court papers.

Their divorce was finalised in January this year, with the husband having care and control of the children.

After interviewing the children, the court decided it would be in the boys’ best interest to stay with their dad.

The wife quit her job as an IT manager in the same month she filed for divorce.

In November 2007, the Family Court issued an interim order for the wife to pay $1,750 a month as maintenance for the husband and their children.

The wife, who had been paying the monthly mortgage payments for the couple’s jointly-owned condominium unit, stopped doing so after the marriage floundered.

On 16 Jan this year, the bank foreclosed the apartment, which was the family’s home, and divided the proceeds between the couple after the sale.

By then, the wife had moved out and the husband had to stay elsewhere with the children.

Despite the interim maintenance order and having more than $210,000 from selling another apartment in the same condominium, the wife refused to support the family financially.

Desperate, the husband resorted to borrowing money from friends and relatives to keep the family going.

By August 2008, he had borrowed about $33,000 from his family, but details of how the money was used were not in court papers.

The husband said he had monthly expenses of $1,056. He spent $493 for the eldest boy and $400 for the twins.

He said he had trimmed these expenses as much as he could because he was living on “monies borrowed from his family”.

Because of his situation, the husband asked the court to increase the monthly maintenance to $3,000.

The wife countered, saying she had no income after quitting her job.

The husband disputed this, saying the wife had moved to Florida in the US, and was working as a realtor there.

She also planned to remarry there, he claimed.

The wife claimed it was the husband who had preferred to be a stay-at-home dad instead of seeking employment.

Judge Singh said that since both parties claimed to be unemployed, they should look for jobs.

He ordered the wife to continue with the monthly maintenance of $1,750 for six months, to give the husband time to return to work.

After that, the maintenance would be halved.

Citing the husband’s non-monetary contributions to the family, Judge Singh wrote: “He didn’t work for many years and instead stayed at home quite obviously to take care of the three children for a period of over 15 years.”Judge Singh said he was satisfied that the husband had been the main caregiver.

He wrote: “As he (the husband) termed it, he was the veritable “˜house husband’.”The fact that the three children in their interviews chose to continue staying with him, spoke volumes for his singular efforts.”Makes sense for wife to payLawyers who have handled divorces told The New Paper on Sunday that while it was rare for a wife to maintain her husband, it depended on the circumstances.

Mr Michael Low of Crossbows LLP said: “In this case, it makes sense for the woman to pay the ex-husband, since their children are with him, especially when the wife has a higher earning capacity.”Asked for her comment, Ms Lelia Loges, chairman of the work-life balance sub-committee at women’s group Aware, said: “I don’t see why she shouldn’t pay…”He had to sacrifice his job for her to succeed, and lost 18 years of a chance at a career and seniority in the work place. It will be hard to find employment now since he is past 50.”She is successful because he stayed home and took care of the children, and he should be recognised for that support.””The fact that the three children in their interviews chose to continue staying with him, spoke volumes for his singular efforts.”- Judge Singh, who said in his written judgement that he was satisfied thatthe husband had been the main caregiver.

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