August 24, 2017

Family & Matrimonial Partner Michelle Woodworth interviewed on Mediacorp Radio 938Live on the topic of spousal and child maintenance

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Family & Matrimonial Partner Michelle Woodworth was interviewed by Mediacorp Radio 938Live on the topic of spousal and child maintenance. The interview was featured on 938Live’s Women of Worth segment on 19 August 2017 and the encore was repeated the next day on 20 August 2017. The interview describes the avenues women can turn to with regards to claiming maintenance and enforcing arrears of maintenance.  Michelle, a certified IMI Mediator and Collaborative Family Practitioner, highlighted that “it would be wise for everybody involved in the dissolution of the marriage to really look at how best they can restructure their family moving forward.” She offered legal perspectives on what women can do when ex-spouses attempt to reduce maintenance payment for children and when there is a need for additional financial support. Michelle also elaborated that “the reason behind the reduction would need to be examined” as there could be a change in circumstances where “one of the parents has lost a job, for example, and some changes need to be made in that respect”. Please listen to the podcast for the full interview.
August 23, 2017

Head of Regulatory Practice Nizam Ismail comments that there would be legal challenges for Bank Negara to assert any enforcement action against entities outside of Malaysia in a Channel NewsAsia article

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Head of Regulatory Practice Nizam Ismail was quoted in a Channel NewsAsia article titled "Bank Negara says statement on SGX's ringgit futures trading was meant for Malaysians". The article was first published on Channel NewsAsia on 18 August 2017. Bank Negara says statement on SGX's ringgit futures trading was meant for Malaysians Source: Copyright © Channel NewsAsia Date: 18 August 2017 Author: Brandon Tanoto SINGAPORE: Bank Negara Malaysia on Friday (Aug 18) said that its recent statement which criticised the Singapore Exchange’s (SGX) trading of ringgit futures was meant for Malaysians. In a news conference, Malaysian central bank governor Muhammad Ibrahim said: “Our statement is actually for those market players in Malaysia. We want to remind them that any trading of dollar ringgit outside Malaysia ... is illegal, it’s not allowed for Malaysian players. “That statement is not meant for anybody outside Malaysia because we don’t have any jurisdiction over those engaged in illegal activities outside Malaysia. But for those that engage in that transaction within Malaysia, that will be against the rule, the prevailing rule, and if they are found to be engaging in those illegal activities, we will certainly take action, it is adequately provided under the law.” He added: “It’s also important to note that these are not new policies, not new regulations or new rules. The rules have always been there, we are just highlighting that the ringgit is a non-internationalised currency and it should not be traded outside.” Mr Ibrahim said any international bank that has an operating licence in Malaysia could face legal action if it facilitates ringgit futures trading on the Singapore Stock Exchange and the Intercontinental Exchange. He added that any ringgit transaction in Singapore involving a Malaysian client and a bank licensed in Malaysia will be subject to Malaysian law. Mr Jimmy Zhu, chief strategist at Fullerton Markets, said it is not surprising that Bank Negara Malaysia has focused its enforcement action on international banks which are licensed in Malaysia. “Such moves are set to drive the volatility of emerging market currencies higher. Some regulators could find it necessary to curb excessive speculative positions in the market,” he said. Mr Nizam Ismail, a RHTLaw Taylor Wessing partner, agrees with Mr Zhu. “As Bank Negara has supervisory oversight over these banks, it would be administratively easier for the central bank to apply pressure. There would be legal challenges for Bank Negara to assert any enforcement action against entities outside of Malaysia, especially if it is unclear whether Malaysian domestic laws have any application to ringgit futures contracts created outside of Malaysia, to begin with.” Bank Negara has previously taken measures to restrict the trading of the ringgit offshore. In November last year, it forced currency traders overseas to stop driving the ringgit lower. It also demanded that banks operating in Malaysia sign a commitment to cease trading of the currency on the offshore non-deliverable forward market. The move came after it saw how onshore rates were taking cues from abroad, as well as the fact that much of the trading offshore was speculative and had a huge influence on the ringgit's value against the US dollar. Bank Negara recently said that the supply of and demand for foreign currencies became more balanced after the implementation of its measures. Mr Stephen Innes, the head of trading (Asia Pacific) at OANDA, noted that the measures Bank Negara took benefitted Malaysia because it stopped “all the waves of currency speculation”. “Clearly the Malaysian central bank remains vigilant and on guard for any unwanted speculation on the ringgit. But certainly investors would have expected that Bank Negara Malaysia would have been more receptive to reintroducing the Malaysian ringgit to global markets via a highly regulated exchange." He also noted that allowing international investors access to more freely tradable and open markets would have been great for the Malaysian capital market, citing that international investors can easily hedge their ringgit exposures. The SGX rolled out the trading of ringgit futures on its exchange last month. According to SGX’s Market Statistics Report for the month of July, trading volume of the ringgit derivative contract on the Singapore market came in at only 172 trades - compared to 2,202 for the Japanese yen and 4,536 for the Korean won. The bourse’s website also states that its forex products are tools to limit the impact of forex volatility and manage risk. It likewise said that SGX is not authorised to list the trading of any contract without the prior approval of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
August 21, 2017

“HDB flat buyers – owners or lessees?” Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han shares her views on The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han shares her views in The Straits Times on the differences between the terms lessee, tenant, and owner and how it applies to HDB flat owners. The article was first published in The Straits Times on 21 August 2017. HDB flat buyers - owners or lessees? Debate goes beyond semantics Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 21 August 2017 Author: Ng Jun Sen Lessee. Tenant. Owner. When it comes to Housing Board flats, these plain terms seem to befuddle many. What exactly should an HDB flat buyer be known as? Over the past two months, this discussion has been playing out in The Straits Times' Forum pages and online. Clearly, flat buyers are flat owners, with the right to sell, rent and renovate, within guidelines and for the tenure of their lease, said the HDB. But some people seized on the qualifiers - for the length of the lease. Does that not mean that a more accurate term for HDB flat owners is "lessees", they wonder. It also did not help that some HDB webpages and documents refer to flat buyers as "lessees" and the HDB as "lessor". This is not just a tussle over semantics. It goes to the heart of a longstanding debate over whether HDB flat owners can be called that when they have to return their homes to the state when their leases expire, and when rules over what they can or cannot do with their homes are generally more circumscribed than those for owners of private leasehold property. The question first arose on June 24 when a reader, Mr Larry Leong, wrote in to query the HDB on the terms it apparently used to refer to him. "While applying to rent out my HDB flat, I noticed that the Housing Board referred to me as a 'tenant', and my potential tenant as a 'sub-tenant'," said Mr Leong, adding that he had paid for his flat fully. "Can we have some clarity on whether HDB dwellers are tenants or real home owners for 99 years?" In its reply three weeks later, the HDB clarified that the term "tenants" refers only to those who rent public rental flats from it. Purchasers of HDB flats are owners of their property, its director of branch operations Lim Lea Lea stated categorically. She said: "Flat owners enjoy rights to exclusive possession of the flat during the tenure of the flat lease. They can sell, let out and renovate their flats, within the guidelines specified in the lease and Housing and Development Act." The board also said "the name of each HDB flat owner is reflected in the title deed, the original of which is kept with the Singapore Land Authority, as part of the central and comprehensive record for all properties in Singapore. This confirms his or her ownership of the property." But others remained unsure. Mr Andrew Seow Chwee Guan wrote in a letter dated July 20 that a duplicate lease of an HDB flat he holds "was executed by me and my spouse many years ago as a lessee in the presence of a lessor - an HDB representative". He added: "My understanding is that HDB purchasers are lessees and the HDB is the lessor. "There is a distinct difference between owners and lessees." In its latest reply published on Aug 14, the HDB said the leasehold system allows the land to be recycled and redeveloped, and is common around the world. It reiterated that leasehold property buyers are owners too, albeit for the length of the lease they hold. "During this period of ownership, they can decide to live in the flat, renovate it, rent it out or even sell it once they meet the eligibility conditions. They can decide on the selling price or rental rate of the flat, and they get to keep the proceeds from these transactions. "These are rights and benefits that only a flat owner can enjoy." However, experts have also pointed out that, unlike private property owners, HDB flat buyers cannot initiate collective sales of their homes, unless picked under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme. On the flip side, HDB flat buyers are entitled to more benefits, including subsidised prices. Given the way the terms owner and lessee seem to be used interchangeably at times, should HDB then change its nomenclature for a buyer to "lessee" to avoid misunderstandings? Some argue that the term "owner" implies a person has possession of the property in perpetuity. They are in favour of the term "lessee", which they say states clearly that there is a lifespan to the possession of the property. "Lessee" is a more precise term, say property lawyers such as Ms Sandra Han of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, though the word "owner" is still accurate. Acknowledging that the topic is "quite tricky", she added: "The term 'owner' is quite nebulous and is used very generally." Ms Tay Huey Ying, head of research and consultancy at property consultancy JLL Singapore, said ownership is typically implied for long-term leases of, say, more than 60 years. At any rate, the Government will likely not be keen to give up the use of the term, say real estate watchers like Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at ZACD Group. The word "owner" connotes rootedness and identity, unlike "lessee", and this is why the authorities would prefer to stick to the earlier term, he said. "In referring to buyers as owners, it is a case of HDB trying to have its cake and eat it too," he said. Ms Tay said it is more fruitful for the debate to focus on raising awareness of lease expiry. In fact, she said "ownership" has the advantage of allowing residents to feel that they have a stake in society and want to contribute actively to the country. "With some leases running down, what is more important is to educate purchasers on what leasehold means," she said.
August 17, 2017

“Co-parenting is possible; armed with respect, understanding and forgiveness,” shares Family and Matrimonial Partner Michelle Woodworth in her article written for The New Age Parents

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Family & Matrimonial Partner Michelle Woodworth contributed an article published in The New Age Parents titled “Is Co-Parenting Possible After Divorce”. The article was first published on The New Age Parents on 17 August 2017. Is Co-Parenting Possible After Divorce Source: Copyright © The New Age Parents 2017 Date: 17 August 2017 Ending a marriage is often difficult. In my role as a family lawyer and mediator, I have witnessed a fair share of bitter battles. When children are involved, post-divorce child custody and parenting arrangements layer a level of further stress to parties. How does one help? It is easier said than done to ask that parties rise above their hurt and disappointment. But the need to restructure families to evolve into a new equilibrium is something I support, with the ultimate goal of parents securing a healthy, balanced environment for their children. Co-parenting is possible; armed with respect, understanding and forgiveness. What exactly is co-parenting? Co-parenting is a state in which decoupled parents continue to have joint responsibility in raising their children. A child’s best interest is at the heart of co-parenting where both parents consciously and intentionally put aside personal differences to prioritise their child’s well-being and development. A 2008 study by Ohio State University found that children who lived in unstable family environments after their parents’ divorce fared much worse as adults on a variety of levels compared to children who had stable post-divorce family situations. Co-parenting, if well-executed, helps mend and solidify relationships. It not only benefits children but also helps separated parents regain an amicable relationship as they work together to parent their children. It is an express demonstration to children that their welfare comes first. One of the common refrains I hear from divorcing parents is that co-parenting is “not workable”. It is never smooth sailing to communicate effectively after a relationship has broken down. Hurt, resentment and grief over the loss of the partnership are issues which need to be addressed so that healing can begin. There is no magical way to make co-parenting work and the issues that plagued the marriage do not disappear overnight post-divorce. What can ease the process is a mutual understanding that children deserve to have both parents in their lives. Parties are encouraged to keep communication channels open and forgive past hurts. Consciously seek to get better; not bitter. Be honest and find various ways to communicate your concerns, no matter how trivial One tip is to view your relationship with your ex-spouse as a partnership that puts the needs of your children first. Be it discussions on school work, child expenses or schedules; start by communicating objectively. If face-to-face discussions cause tensions to escalate, try communicating over email or text messages. Be flexible about co-parenting arrangements Co-parenting does not mean the time you and your ex-spouse spend with your children is to be divided equally. A fair arrangement puts your children’s interests first and accommodates both parents’ time and schedules. If this means letting your child go to football practice with your ex-spouse, as they had done in the past, try to maintain the routine even if it may mean it cuts into your time. Do consider the impact of the schedule on your children and your children’s wishes before making a decision. Remain flexible in adjusting the co-parenting schedule as the need arises. Take into account that life is not static. After divorce, stable families help minimise long-term harm to children. Putting differences aside and teaming up for your children is attainable. The end of a marriage does not have to signal the demise of a family. Successful co-parenting demonstrates a unified front to all children that they are loved and cherished. This article is contributed by Michelle Woodworth,a Partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP, Court-appointed Child Representative, Senior Mediator under the Law Society Mediation Scheme, and an IMI and SIMI certified Mediator.