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Wife who poisoned husband gets 9% of maintenance sought

Woman awarded 42 per cent of matrimonial assets, but court says it is ‘unable to turn a blind eye’ to her malicious act.

SINGAPORE: An elderly woman jailed three years ago for poisoning her husband has been awarded 42 per cent of their matrimonial assets, but a much lower sum of maintenance than she had sought as the High Court ruled that it was “unable to turn a blind eye” to her malicious act.

In awarding Madam Fong Quay Sim, 72, S$18,000 (S$500 a month for three years) instead of S$200,000 in maintenance, Judicial Commissioner Tan Siong Thye also noted that her ex-husband will continue to incur medical expenses for conditions related to arsenic poisoning. Mr Chan Tin Sun, 74, also needs a full-time caregiver.

Although Mr Chan should bear some blame for the breakdown of their marriage, the poisoning could be said to have substantially caused the breakdown, JC Tan wrote in his judgment released on Thursday (May 22). “Her conduct must result in a lower sum of maintenance being ordered. She should have divorced the husband earlier on instead of resorting to poisoning him.”

The couple were married for 34 years until 2011 and have a 36-year-old son working as a vet in Hong Kong.

Mr Chan, a retired contractor, had not wanted to pay Mdm Fong maintenance or give her a share of matrimonial assets, on the basis that she had tried to kill him. But JC Tan noted that Mdm Fong had been charged with causing hurt using poison, not attempted murder.

On the division of matrimonial assets, the judge said it is “not the case that any act of misconduct of either spouse would give rise to a reduction in his or her share”. The misconduct must be connected to the contributions of either spouse – and from 2004 when Mdm Fong began poisoning Mr Chan’s tea and food, “her indirect contributions towards her husband declined significantly”.

Prior to that, the full-time housewife had helped Mr Chan in his business, including times when he needed financial aid, but was emotionally abused.

In awarding her 42 per cent of assets worth over S$2 million – proceeds from the sale of their Siglap house and funds in Mr Chan’s bank account – the judge cited a review of previous court cases, where homemaker wives with modest financial contributions for marriages lasting 17 to 35 years, with children, were awarded 35 to 50 per cent of total matrimonial assets.

Mr Chan had also failed to fully disclose his assets, inadequately accounting for hundreds of thousands of dollars withdrawn from his bank account, the judge added.

JC Tan rejected Mr Chan’s argument that Mdm Fong’s share of the matrimonial assets should be reduced to reflect disapproval of her act of poisoning him.

“This detracts from the objective of this court to reach a just and equitable distribution of the matrimonial assets. The court’s power to divide the matrimonial assets between former spouses was never intended to serve a punitive function,” he wrote. “Furthermore, as pointed out by the wife, she has already received her just desserts by serving one year’s imprisonment for her act of poisoning him.”

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