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Woman who poisoned ex-husband gets S$113,000 less in matrimonial assets

SINGAPORE — The highest court of the land has ruled that a 72-year-old divorcee who had spent a year in jail for poisoning her ex-husband with arsenic will get S$113,000 less in matrimonial assets initially awarded to her.

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SINGAPORE — The highest court of the land has ruled that a 72-year-old divorcee who had spent a year in jail for poisoning her ex-husband with arsenic will get S$113,000 less in matrimonial assets initially awarded to her.

In its written judgment released yesterday, the Court of Appeal explained its decision to allow 74-year-old Chan Tin Sun’s appeal last November. It determined that Madam Fong Quay Sim’s “extreme and undisputed” misconduct had undermined the marriage and reduced her share of assets to S$769,000, less than the almost S$882,000 she had originally been awarded.

While it does not typically interfere in division orders made by judges below, the appeal court in this case — comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang and Justice Judith Prakash — saw fit to do so as it found that the High Court had failed to adequately consider Mdm Fong’s misconduct when it divided the assets.

Noting that Mdm Fong had already served a jail term for her wrongdoing, the court reiterated that its ruling was not meant to “punish (her) twice over”, but said a spouse’s conduct was a factor to be considered in determining a just and equitable division of the matrimonial assets.

Mr Chan, a retired contractor, was in 2006 diagnosed with chronic arsenic poisoning. Investigations later found that between 2004 and 2005, Mdm Fong had tried to kill him by lacing his food with the chemical. Mr Chan sued for divorce in 2011 and Mdm Fong counterclaimed for his unreasonable behaviour, alleging that her husband had neglected and verbally abused her throughout their marriage. The Family Court granted an interim divorce on Dec 15, 2011.

In May last year, the High Court dismissed Mr Chan’s objection to Mdm Fong receiving any maintenance or a share of the matrimonial assets because she had tried to poison him. The High Court did not take into consideration when dividing the matrimonial assets that Mdm Fong was poisoning her husband and ruled that she could get 42 per cent of assets worth S$2.1 million. However, then Judicial Commissioner Tan Siong Thye factored in her misconduct in awarding her a lower maintenance lump sum of S$18,000, rather than the S$200,000 she had sought.

Citing examples from the English court, where spouses’ portions of assets were similarly reduced — such as a wife who had assisted her depressive husband in committing suicide and a husband who had repeatedly stabbed his wife in front of their children — the Court of Appeal found that Mdm Fong’s misconduct “fundamentally undermined the cooperative partnership and harmed (Mr Chan’s) welfare”.

The appeal court also found that Mdm Fong’s medical needs, while also a factor it considered, were subordinate to Mr Chan’s, especially since his needs were a direct result of her misconduct.

However, the court also found that Mdm Fong should still be awarded a share of the assets, as due credit should be given for her contributions to the family, such as financing her son’s tertiary education.

The court also ordered that a sum of S$645,960, which Mr Chan had failed to disclose during the divorce proceedings, be added into the matrimonial pool, topping it up to S$2.7 million.

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