Judge rebuffs man's bid to get out of 35-year marriage fast after getting mistress pregnant

SINGAPORE - A financial director's attempt at a quick divorce, claiming that his wife of more than three decades had behaved unreasonably, was rebuffed in court.

The high-income, 59-year-old had blamed his wife for the breakdown in their marriage, claiming that she, a devout Buddhist and a strict vegetarian, had less time for him.

Among other things, he said that after entrusting her income to him for 30 years, she opted to manage her own income and contribute to family expenses separately.

But in judgment grounds earlier this month explaining her decision last year, District Judge Cheryl Koh told him he has to wait out the mandatory separation period to obtain the formal split.

She said at issue was whether the wife's conduct "should be construed as unreasonable, when it is the husband who has impregnated a younger woman and wished to extricate himself out of the marriage immediately".

The man did not deny the affair with a woman from Shanghai, in her 30s, but said the relationship started in 2010, after the marriage with his 57-year-old financial controller wife deteriorated.

Judge Koh ruled there was to be no quick divorce.

"The husband ultimately owed it to his wife of 35 years and mother of his three adult children to wait out the three or four years' separation required by law for a divorce on a no-fault basis, instead of blaming her for the breakdown of the marriage," she said.

The man filed for divorce in December 2016 on grounds that his wife had become overly engrossed with practising her Buddhist religion to the extent that she had neglected the husband's feelings and needs, among other things.

The wife, defended by lawyer Narayanan Vijya Kumar, countered that she and her husband were both Buddhists, and the religious sessions for her and her children were beneficial and positive.

The wife added that he was hardly at home and returned home late most of the time, especially after 2014, when she said he became involved with the woman from Shanghai.

The couple have known each other since childhood and pursued their university education in New Zealand. They were married there in May 1982.

Judge Koh was not convinced by the husband's claims, ruling it was not unreasonable for a spouse to continue to practise religious beliefs just because "the other spouse did not believe or practise to the same extent".

The husband had been taking part in the activities at a religious centre with the family since 2006, but stopped in 2010.

Judge Koh noted the woman from Shanghai had come to Singapore with her spouse and child. When she became pregnant around 2016 with the plaintiff's child, the hospital called the woman's husband by mistake.

The judge, in underscoring the "husband's predicament", said it must be "extremely trying" for the husband to start a new family again with his expectant girlfriend and was "yet unable to extricate himself from the perceived shackles of his unwanted marriage".

But she stressed divorce laws are meant to safeguard the sanctity of the institution of marriage as a cornerstone of Singapore society.

"If a spouse decided one day that he wished to move on with a third party, it did not mean that the spouse could abuse the court system by suddenly recalling all the alleged past instances of unreasonable behaviour by the other spouse for the past ten years or so, which he had apparently tolerated and lived with for the entire period, just so that he could immediately extricate himself out of his marriage."

"The wife believed that the Shanghai lady was only after the husband's money, and the husband would eventually realise the folly of his ways and return home after the divorce is dismissed. Only time will tell if the wife is correct," wrote Judge Koh.

The husband, represented by lawyer Low Jin Liang, is appealing.

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