Will the Grounds of Divorce affect Division of Matrimonial Assets?
During the dissolution of a marriage, accusations are oftentimes levelled at either party. The parties then prove that there the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of five reasons, most commonly among them are adultery and unreasonable behaviour.
However, despite the allegations of fault or wrongdoings of either party, the reason relied upon to prove that the marriage has broken down will often do not affect the division of matrimonial assets.
Depending on the facts of the situation, the Court will likely adopt a broad-brush approach or a structured approach when looking at the financial and non-financial contributions of each party before coming to an eventual ratio which will be applied to the pool of matrimonial assets.
This approach was echoed in the case of AQS v AQR  SGCA 3 where the Court noted that divorce is no longer based on fault and that “the court should not too readily sift through the facts and evidence in order to assign blame for the purposes of dividing matrimonial assets.”
This is not to say that the court will never take into account the wrongdoing of a party in ascertaining how the matrimonial assets should be split.
There must be a connection shown between the misconduct and the contributions of either spouse for the misconduct to be considered with regards to the division of matrimonial assets (i.e, the depletion of matrimonial assets must be tied to the wrongdoing of the spouse being alleged of misconduct).
Case where the Court took wrongdoings of a spouse into consideration when dividing matrimonial assets?
It is only in extremely rare cases that the Court is minded to take into account the wrongdoings of a spouse. In the case of Chan Tin Sun v Fong Quay Sim  SGCA 2, the Court was of the view that extreme spousal misconduct can and should lead to a reduction of that spouse’s share of matrimonial assets.
The wife had been poisoning the husband with arsenic over the course of a year and was found guilty of doing so. The misconduct of the wife was so extreme in nature that it undermined the partnership found at the core of marriage and harmed the welfare of her husband which warranted for negative value to be ascribed to her share of matrimonial assets.
In applying the negative value ascribed to the wife’s conduct, there was a 7% reduction applied to her share of matrimonial assets. The Court took the position that while Courts were not prevented from considering the conduct of parties when determining the division of matrimonial assets, the conduct of the wrongdoer must have been both “extreme and undisputed”.
When laying out the grounds of their decision, the Court was also mindful that this approach was not to punish the wife but concluded that “the wife’s conduct undermined the co-operative partnership that is inherent in any marriage.”
Thus, mere allegations of unreasonable behaviour or adultery will unlikely affect the Court’s decision during the division of matrimonial assets. It is only in exceptional circumstances that the conduct of parties will come into consideration when assets are split.