In a recent divorce case from Singapore, a man divorcing his wife, claimed that a condo unit that he purchased with his mother 7 years prior to marriage was his separate property, and not marital property. In addition, the divorcing husband and wife has a prior agreement that the condo unit would be split, in the event of a divorce, 50-50.

The man and his mother bought the flat seven years before his marriage in 1989, and he became its sole owner after she died in 2022.  The divorcing couple had agreed that the husband and his mother each owned 50 per cent of the flat, without any apportionment for the wife’s share.  The flat was debt free and valued at $305,000

In a controversial decision, the High Court ruled that 100 per cent of the flat’s value should be counted in the pool of marital assets to be divided.   In a judgment on his appeal which was released on Dec 27, 2023, High Court Senior Judge Andrew Ang ruled that the flat was the couple’s matrimonial home.

Although Singapore law has specific provisions of law that classify assets acquired prior to marriage, and assets inherited by only one party, as that party’s separate property, the Singapore ruled against the divorcing husband, and ruled that the intention of the parties was the controlling factor in determining whether the condo unit was separate or marital property. In this case, the Singapore court ruled that the parties intended to use the condo as their marital home, and therefore, the fact that it the condo was acquired prior to marriage, was partially acquired by inheritance, and that there was an agreement by the spouses that the condo would not be treated as marital property, were not determining factors. not the determining factors. 

Thailand law is similar to Singapore law, in that assets acquired prior to marriage, and inheritances, are the separate propriety of that spouse. However, in Thailand divorces. the courts will normally strictly follow the Thailand Family Law Code , and treat assets acquired prior to marriage, and assets acquired by inheritance as operating property of that spouse.  The Singapore Court system is based on common law,  as a result of its history being intertwined with British common law. Common law jurisdictions allow the judge’s more free reign to deviate from the strict legal text.  Thailand courts, on the other hand, follow a hybrid Civil law/Common law approach, wherein judges are more conservative and reluctant to stray form the express language of legal statutes.   of the statutes.

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Same-sex couples often face legal challenges when their relationships, established in one country, encounter different recognition levels in another. Seeking acknowledgment of their legal status, individuals turn to the application of foreign laws under conflict of laws rules. Notably, the Thai Court has grappled with such cases, exemplified by Appeal Court Judgment No. 18776/2018 and Supreme Court Judgment No. 2887/2020.

In the former case, the petitioner sought the Thai court’s decision on estate management after registering a life partnership with a deceased British national in Vietnam. Despite the deceased’s domicile in England and death in Mexico, the Court of Appeal recognized the petitioner’s entitlement to the inheritance, citing the Conflict of Laws Act and English law.

Conversely, Supreme Court Judgment No. 2887/2020 involved a theft case between two Thai women, legally married in England. The Supreme Court, however, denied the status of marriage under Thai law, emphasizing the requirement for a man and a woman for a valid marriage.

These cases highlight the complexity of conflicting laws. It is very important to consult a Thailand international Probate lawyer who is an expert in international inheritance management cases. By the Appeals Court upholding the recognition of same-sex partnerships. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court denied spousal status. The contrasting results reflect a complex legal landscape based on factual and legal issues that vary from case to case.

Photo credit: Annamaria Vidović

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