Claiming Maintenance May Not Be As Straightforward As You Think
In Singapore, if you are a parent of a child under the age of 21 years old, you are required to provide him or her child maintenance. This maintenance can also be called child support for their sustenance and livelihood.
Custodial parents are often the first to need information about child support. Normally, child maintenance comes in the form of monthly allowance. As the main caregiver, you can still apply for child maintenance even if you are not separated from your spouse.
The duty of parents to maintain or provide for their child is covered under Section 68 of the Women’s Charter –
“Except where an agreement or order of court otherwise provides, it shall be the duty of a parent to maintain or contribute to the maintenance of his or her children, whether they are in his or her custody or the custody of any other person, and whether they are legitimate or illegitimate, either by providing them with such accommodation, clothing, food and education as may be reasonable having regard to his or her means and station in life or by paying the cost thereof”.
Brief Overview of Section 69 Of The Women’s Charter
This article provides a brief overview of applications under section 69 of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353). It is important to note that interim maintenance orders made under Section 69 of the Women’s Charter are exclusive from the Court’s powers to make interim maintenance orders during the course of matrimonial proceedings and/or final maintenance orders after an interim judgment for divorce that terminates a marriage.
Note: The rules of interim maintenance may apply differently for spouses and/or children under Syariah Law. Applications for maintenance of a Muslim wife and children continues to be heard in the civil courts before, during or after a divorce.
Are Muslim Women Not Entitled To Claim Maintenance?
It must be pointed out that a divorced Muslim woman is not entitled to claim maintenance for herself against her former husband (after the divorce has been registered NOT when talak is pronounced).
This is the main difference between issues relating to maintenance between Muslim divorces and “Non-Muslim” divorces.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Civil Courts may still make an order for a husband, in “Non-Muslim” divorces, to maintain his former-spouse when the Certificate of Final Judgment is granted.
Nevertheless, the law is silent on whether a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to claim for maintenance for children after the divorce.
Arguably, the law suggests that the answer to the question of maintenance of Muslim children is – Yes, as maintenance of children continues to be heard in the civil courts before, during or after a divorce.
You May Apply For Interim Maintenance From Family Court
Thus, under Section 69 of the Women’s Charter, an individual may apply for interim maintenance for:
- For your child against the other parent, if he or she neglects and/or refuses to provide the child with reasonable maintenance;
- For yourself against your husband, if you are a married woman whose husband neglects and/or refuses to provide you with reasonable maintenance;
- For yourself against your wife, if you are an incapacitated husband whose wife has neglected and/or refused to provide you with reasonable maintenance; or
- For yourself against your parent(s), if you are over 21 and you are still a full-time NSman or student.
Factors Involving Reasonable Maintenance
“Reasonable” maintenance suggests that the Court will go into an objective assessment of all the circumstances of the case. Further, as any matrimonial proceeding is a sensitive affair, no two (2) cases are ever the same on its facts and/or circumstance.
Generally, in law, an objective assessment would mean that the Court will assess the facts from a neutral and/or third-party point of view.
The Courts has held that these “circumstances” include, among other factors, the parties’ income and assets, present and anticipated financial position, standard of living during the marriage (if relevant), age, contributions to the marriage, any potential losses suffered by the parties as a result of the marriage. However, this list is not exhaustive.
If the husband is ordered to pay maintenance for his child, the duty continues even when he enters into a new marriage and has children from the new marriage.
He can then apply to the Court to vary the maintenance payable to the ex-wife and children on the basis that there is a change in his personal circumstances.
A common misconception is that maintenance applications are simple and whereby individuals assume that the husband always pays maintenance for the wife and/or children.
However, as this article suggests woman may be order to pay maintenance to the husband if the husband is incapacitated.
Further complexity is added when it comes to when and who interim maintenance orders apply to – such as maintenance orders before, during or after the marriage is terminated or when parties are married with children under Syariah Law.
Individuals should always consult Family Law practitioners on how and when maintenance should be claimed and note that issues relating to maintenance is not always as straightforward as it may seem.
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