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Seeking Maintenance in Civil Divorces in Singapore

What is maintenance?
Under the Women’s Charter, the act provides that a husband is obligated to maintain his wife during the course of the marriage and/or after divorce to ensure the financial preservation of the former wife. The current law has also expanded to allow for an incapacitated or disabled husband to claim for maintenance from a wife, among other special circumstances. Further, Section 68 Women’s Charter imposes a duty to provide reasonable maintenance for a dependent child, whereby a child is under the age of 21 years old. This duty exists regardless of whether the parents are married to each other, remarried or whether the child is illegitimate.
Who can claim for maintenance?

Under Section 69 of the Women’s Charter, an application for maintenance may be made during the marriage by:

  • a wife if her husband neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for her;
  • an incapacitated husband if the wife has neglected or refused to provide maintenance;
  • one parent if the other parent has neglected or refused to provide maintenance for their child;
  • if one is 21 years old and is a student or full-time NS man, subject to certain conditions.

Whereas under Section 113 WC, an application for maintenance may only be made by a wife or former wife.

When can I claim for maintenance?

Hence, according to the Women’s Charter, one can apply for maintenance either anytime during the marriage under Section 69 WC, or upon the application of a divorce proceeding under Section 113 WC.

 

Further, if one has an existing maintenance order under Section 69 WC during the marriage, and an application for maintenance under Section 113 WC has been filed upon divorce, an order for the maintenance under Section 113 WC, if granted by the court, shall supercede the previous order made under Section 69 WC.

How to determine amount of maintenance I can get?

The amount of maintenance that is granted by the court is not an arbitrary amount. In terms of calculation, there is also no fixed rate or formula for the court to determine the amount of maintenance to grant. The court will make the determination in respect of maintenance by looking at evidence provided by parties. This amount of maintenance can either be paid in the form of lump sum or monthly payments.

 

Some factors the court will look at are:

  • The age of the party seeking maintenance;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • A wife’s earning capacity if a wife is working;
  • A wife’s non-financial or indirect contributions to the family, if she is a housewife;
  • The finances and/or the earning ability of the other spouse;
  • Any financial responsibilities or needs of the spouses, be it current or future, i.e. a husband who has since re-married and has a family to support;
  • The standard of living that was enjoyed by the wife and child during the marriage; and
  • Any other contributions made to the family.

 

Hence, it is important for the party seeking maintenance from the other spouse to be able to show evidence of expenses for the family, and any financial contributions made to the family, i.e. receipts for groceries, or expenses.

 

In the event that one spouse or ex-spouse has refused or neglected to pay maintenance, and the remaining spouse or ex-spouse is making an application to court for maintenance, it is worth highlighting that maintenance sought for ought to be reasonable, as the court will not make orders that are discriminatory or highly favours one person over the other. As a guiding principle, the Court will take into account the standard lifestyle that the wife and children have been used to. However, maintenance for an ex-wife is not meant to be a life-long dependency on the former husband. This intention is evinced in the principle that an ex-husband is only obligated to maintain a former wife until she re-marries, upon her passing or his passing. At the same time, an ex-wife who has been enjoying a certain lifestyle during the marriage should not expect the same to continue after the divorce. The key is that maintenance granted is meant to be reasonable and practicable.

 

Hence, if you intend to seek maintenance from a current or former spouse for yourself or child, it is advisable to seek the advice of a lawyer who is able to assess all the relevant facts. Should you have any enquiries, do feel free to approach our lawyers at Emerald Law who would be happy to help you. They can be contacted at +65 622 0439 or you may choose to email us at hello@emeraldlaw.com.sg.