In a previous article, we explained what a maintenance order is and how you can get one. If you already have a maintenance order, and are currently in a situation where your ex-spouse has defaulted on these payments, what can you do?
Apply to Enforce the Maintenance Order
Although not compulsory, we advise you to first submit a draft application online via iFAMS, on Singapore’s Family Justice Court’s website to get started. You will need to login using your SingPass ID and have the following documents ready:
- NRIC or Passport;
- Order of Court for the maintenance order you wish to enforce
You can find a step-by-step guide to filing this application here.
If you are unable to go online, then you can verify your documents and submit your maintenance application at one of these organisations but the process may take longer:
If you are applying for a maintenance order from a divorce proceeding, you may visit these organisations:
Once you have submitted your application, you will then be asked to appear before a judge. If you have applied at the Family Justice Court, you will appear before the judge in-person. However, if you have applied elsewhere, you may appear before the judge via video conference. You will also be required to affirm that the contents in your application and your answers to the judge are all true.
What Happens Next?
Assuming that your application to enforce the Maintenance Order has been accepted, the judge will issue a summons to your ex-spouse with a specified date for a first court hearing of the case. Both you and your ex-spouse are required to attend the hearing and you will have to pay a nominal fee of S$1 for the summons to be issued to your ex-spouse.
If your ex-spouse shows up in court, a court officer will read your application to your ex-spouse who will then have a choice to agree, or disagree with your application.
- If agreed, the court will record a consent order, confirming the agreement;
- If your ex-spouse disagrees with your application, then the court may send the matter for mediation. If both of you manage to settle the matter, the court will record the consent order.
If mediation fails, the final decision will fall on the court on both parties’ behalf, and both of you will be given a court date to start the process.
If your ex-spouse fails to show up, a warrant of arrest will be issued against the person and if you fail to show up, your application will be struck out.
You are also advised to prepare a calculation of the maintenance you are currently owed. This can be laid out on a table showing the months and amounts owed, including bank statements and documentary evidence of all the expenses you are allowed to claim maintenance for. You should collect and keep your invoices and receipts so that it will be easier for you to keep track of this information.
What Will Happen to Your Defaulting Ex-Spouse?
Court Order: after the court has made the final decision about your maintenance, a court order will be sent to your ex-spouse to pay the outstanding amount of maintenance. This court order will state the amount, also whether it should be paid in a single payment or in monthly instalments.
Fine/Jail Term: under Section 71 of the Women’s Charter, the defaulting ex-spouse may be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 1 month, for each month of maintenance owed. Even with a prison sentence, the outstanding maintenance amount will still have to be paid upon release.
Financial Counselling: in cases where the defaulter is in a precarious financial situation, the court may instead, order the defaulting ex-spouse to attend financial counselling.
Others: there have also been cases where the defaulting ex-spouse was made to perform unpaid community service for a certain number of hours, or even subjected to an attachment of earnings order, where the defaulter’s employer will deduct the maintenance money from the defaulter’s salary to pay it to the court.
This can also be listed as a debt in the defaulting ex-spouse’s credit report which can be accessed by financial institutions including banks. This will make it very difficult for the defaulting ex-spouse to apply for loans or sign up for hire-purchase schemes in the future.
For more information on dealing with a defaulting ex-spouse, it’s best to consult a specialist family or divorce lawyer who can guide you on your next steps based on your situation.
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.