During the course of a marriage (inclusive of interim maintenance applications) to after it’s breakdown, the spouses of the marriage (i.e., the parents) have a duty to care for their child. Where proven to have not provided for their child, the Court may order parents to pay maintenance.
This duty is clearly reflected in Singapore’s laws, as provided in section 68 of the Women’s Charter 1961 and section 3 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1985.
In accordance to section 68 of the Women’s Charter, it is the duty of a parent to maintain or contribute to the maintenance of his/her children. Regardless of whether the child is in his/her custody or of any other person, and whether they are legitimate or illegitimate.
Section 3 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1985 mirror such sentiments, as it emphasises that the Court shall regard the welfare of the infant as the first and paramount consideration.
Definition of a ‘Child’
Section 122 of the Women’s Charter describes a “child” as the following: –
- (s 92) Any child of the husband and wife, and any other child (regardless of whether is a child of the husband or the wife), who was a member of the family of the husband and wife at the time when they ceased living together, or at the time immediately preceding the institution of the proceedings (whichever first occurs); and
- Below 21 years of age.
Section 70 of the Women’s Charter includes a duty to maintain any child that had been accepted as a child (i.e., treated as a member of the family of the husband and/or wife).
Section 111 of the Women’s Charter further adds that a child from a void marriage is deemed as a legitimate child of the parties.
What does maintenance look like?
Parents have a duty to provide the following until the child turns 21 years old: –
- Education; and
- Any other reasonable and necessary items/objects within their means and station in life.
Ordering maintenance of Child (During Marriage)
The Court retains a power to order the maintenance of a child during a pending matrimonial proceeding or when granting, or at any time subsequent to the grant of a judgement of a divorce, judicial separation, or nullity of marriage. The Court can still order a parent to pay maintenance of the child, as they see fit.
When ordering for child maintenance during the course of a marriage, the Court has regards to certain factors set out in s 69(4) of the Women’s Charter.
According to s 69(3) of the Women’s Charter, an application for the maintenance of a child may be made by: –
- Any person who is a guardian or has the actual custody of the child;
- Where the child has attained 21 years of age, by the child himself/herself;
- Where the child is below 21 years of age, any of his/her siblings who has attained 21 years of age; or
- Any person appointed by the Minister.
Assessment of Maintenance (Ancillary)
The main objective of the court when granting maintenance is to place the child as far as possible in the same financial position as they would be, if the marriage had not broken down.
Generally, the Court considers the circumstances of the matter and some factors when assessing the amount of child maintenance.
The factors set out in s 11(4) of the Women’s Charter for consideration are as follows: –
- The income, property, other financial resources, and earning capacity which each party of the marriage has/is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- Financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities of each party to the marriage and what they are likely to be responsible for in the foreseeable future;
- Standard of living enjoyed by the family prior to the breakdown of the marriage;
- Age of each party, and duration of the marriage;
- Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties;
- Contributions made by each of the parties to the welfare of the family (both financial and non-financial); and
- Value to either party of any benefit (e.g., a pension, CPF) which would be lost due to the divorce.
The Court practices the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” where both parents are equally responsible for providing for the children, but precise obligations may differ depending on their means and capabilities (TIT v TIU  SGHCF 8). This is due to the accompanying legal principle dictating that the maintenance of the child should be apportioned in accordance with the financial capabilities of the parents.
Guarantee of Welfare of Child
The Court must be satisfied that the welfare of the child is arranged prior to a finalised divorce/decree (s 123 of Women’s Charter). This includes the custody, education, and financial provision of the child. Where you might require more advice and consultancy about your case and the legal procedures, it is ideal to consult a lawyer for guidance and representation. Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from traffic offences, family disputes to high-profile criminal cases. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.