Wife in break-up must honour mediation deal

When a couple splits up, husband and wife are the best people to decide who gets what, not a judge, says Singapore's apex court.

In a nod to using mediation to settle divorce cases, it has made it clear that agreements made during mediation cannot be thrown out without good reason.

Last month, the Court of Appeal overruled a wife's bid to set aside such an agreement, a decision in line with moves to do away with costly and lengthy court showdowns.

In this case, a couple in their late 60s decided to divorce after 35 years of marriage.

Following a day-long mediation session in 2011, senior lawyer Amolat Singh, who was the mediator, crafted the deal which the couple signed in front of their lawyers.

Wife Sita Kaur was to keep their $2.5 million apartment at City Towers in Bukit Timah and her jewellery, while husband Surindar Singh was to keep their unit in Pasir Panjang's Jalan Mat Jambol worth $3.5 million and other assets.

But Madam Kaur later changed her mind and took the case to the High Court last year, where the judge decided instead to evenly split the couple's assets worth $7.4 million.

Although the judge rejected Madam Kaur's claim that she was not bound by the mediation deal, he considered other factors in making his decision, including the long marriage and her significant contributions towards buying the properties.

But this judgment was overturned by the Court of Appeal. It ruled that the deal made during mediation should have been given "significant, if not conclusive" weight, saying it was arrived at "properly and fairly" with the benefit of legal advice.

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