Effect of a Foreign Polygamous Marriage

recognition-of-foreign-divorceIt may seem that s 112(2) of the Women’s Charter only contemplates the division of matrimonial assets between a husband and a wife in a monogamous marriage. Your question may then be how the assets will be divided in an Expat divorce where a husband and wife where one party has another marriage overseas.

This was the case in TIG v TIH [2016] 1 SLR 1218, where the husband, who used to be Malaysian, had two marriages in Malaysia, where polygamy used to be legal. One of the issues in the case was whether his subsisting marriage to his first wife should be taken into account in dividing the matrimonial assets between him and his second wife. The husband argued that it should be, as the first wife had indirectly contributed to the acquisition of the matrimonial assets by taking care of the household, and that she had also contributed to financing his business.

The court held that the first wife did indeed make indirect contributions to the husband’s businesses. Moreover, even though the court had no power to award a non-party a share of the matrimonial assets, the court could take into account the first wife’s contributions as part of the husband’s share of assets.

Therefore, in such cases, the issue to be resolved is how to quantify the non-party’s contributions to the matrimonial assets, relative to the contributions of the parties undergoing a divorce. The court would first start with ascertaining the pool of matrimonial assets. It would then determine broadly how each party, including the non-party, contributed to this pool both directly and indirectly, accounting for the different circumstances in each household. Thereafter, further adjustments may still be made.

Although this case sheds some light on the court’s approach to dividing matrimonial assets between two parties, one of which has another marriage overseas, there has yet to be a case where there are multiple divorces with different parties to the polygamous marriage.


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