Wife not automatically entitled to half of HDB flat

Wife not automatically entitled to half of HDB flat


Q I am filing for divorce. My wife and I have an HDB flat with a joint-name tenancy status of equal share. Both of us are working, and we are childless.

My wife, however, did not contribute anything to the payment for the flat, as well as to the monthly loan instalments. We agreed to get divorced, and that I would pay her a lump sum that she had agreed to.


Is my wife still entitled to claim 50 per cent from the sale of the flat when our divorce case is finalised? Can I retain the flat while my divorce is being finalised?


A You did not indicate when you were married. There are statutory restrictions on a couple filing for divorce within the first three years of their marriage. You can only commence divorce proceedings within the first three years of your marriage if the court gives you permission to do so.


You must prove to the court that your case is one of exceptional hardship or there is exceptional depravity on the part of your spouse. If you are unable to do so, you will only be able to commence divorce proceedings after three years from the date of your marriage.


Your Housing Board flat is a matrimonial asset subject to division when the court deals with the divorce. You did not state whether you purchased your flat directly from the HDB or the open market. You also did not mention the type of HDB flat that you purchased.


These are important as there are restrictions imposed by the HDB on whether parties are eligible to sell their flat on the open market. This depends on whether they have fulfilled the requisite minimum occupation period, the type of flat they purchased, whether they have obtained a Central Provident Fund Housing Grant and whether they have taken a loan from the HDB.


You should verify with the HDB as to your eligibility to sell the flat. If parties are unable to sell the flat on the open market, then it has to be surrendered to the HDB upon the finalisation of the divorce proceedings.


You have indicated that you wish to retain the flat. This can be an alternative to surrendering it to the HDB. However, in order for you to retain it, you must satisfy one of the eligibility schemes as prescribed by the HDB.


You may wish to consult the HDB’s officers as to the various eligibility schemes they offer. Assuming you are eligible to retain your HDB flat, the court can make an order allowing you to retain it. This, however, means that you will have to pay your spouse her rightful entitlement to her share of the flat.


As to your query about your wife claiming 50 per cent of the proceeds arising from the sale, this is on the assumption that you are eligible to sell the flat on the open market in the first place.


Your wife may also decide to claim half of the flat’s value in the event you decide to retain the flat. Your wife is not automatically entitled to 50 per cent of it. The court takes into account many factors when deciding how much each party will be entitled to. This will depend on the financial contribution each party makes to the acquisition of the flat.


You mentioned that your wife did not contribute any payment for the purchase of the flat or towards the monthly instalments.


She will still be able to establish her claim to the flat by relying on her indirect contributions, such as looking after the home or caring for the family or any form of assistance rendered to you in the carrying on of your business.


The extent of her indirect contributions will invariably depend on the length of your marriage. If your marriage is of a short duration and you do not have any children, your wife’s indirect contributions may not be as substantial as compared to a case involving a lengthy marriage where parties have children.


Raymond Yeo


Harry Elias Partnership


Source: Straits Times


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