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Specialist Divorce & Family Lawyer

Child Maintenance

CHILD MAINTENANCE

In Singapore, section 68 of the Women’s Charter provides that it is the duty of a parent to maintain (pay money), or at least contribute towards the reasonable financial support of their legitimate or illegitimate child(ren) within his/her means. The obligation continues regardless of whether the child is in their custody, or in the custody of the other spouse, or a third party.

Parents have a duty to provide them with reasonable amount of monies for the items until the child turns 21 years old: –

  1. accommodation
  2. Clothing
  3. food
  4. education

Children over 21 years old may apply to maintenance court to seek for maintenance if the child:

  • Has a physical or mental disability;
  • Is or will be serving full-time national service;
  • Is still schooling or undergoing training for a trade, profession or vocation; or
  • There are special circumstances such that the court is satisfied that the provision of maintenance is necessary.

Why Apply for Child Maintenance?

If you think that the other parent neglects or refuses to provide the child with reasonable financial support, you may make an application with the Maintenance Court at the Family Justice Court.

Payment Methods

The Maintenance Order is ordered to be paid on: –

  1. a monthly basis
  2. yearly basis for some types of expenses
  3. Ad hoc or one-off expenses like piano
  4. A lump sum
  5. The Court has power to order that the maintenance amount be paid directly to third party service providers
  6. Payment from income from an asset e.g. rental proceeds to be paid directly into the bank account of the receiving parent.

Who Can Apply for Child Maintenance?

  1. The parent
  2. Adult siblings
  3. Guardian of a child
  4. an adult child by himself may apply for Maintenance Order.

Which are the factors that Maintenance Court takes into Account when Ordering Maintenance?

The Court shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including but not limited to: –

  1. the financial needs of the child
  2. the income and earning capacity of the parents
  3. the age of the parents which could affect their income and earning capacity
  4. the property and financial resources the parents have
  5. physical or mental disability of the child and the child
  6. the contribution the parents made towards caring for the home and the child
  7. the standard of living enjoyed by the child before the parent neglected or refused to provide reasonable financial support
  8. the manner in which the parents expected the child to be educated or trained
  9. conduct of the parents

Maintenance Application Process at the Family Justice Courts

Before a divorce proceeding commences: –

You do not wish to divorce your spouse yet or contemplating doing so. But you wish to have a Maintenance Order (MSS Order) against your spouse to compel him/her to pay for the child(ren) regularly as he/she has neglected or refused to pay reasonable financial support to the child(ren).

Step 1– You may submit a draft application online with your SingPass via iFAMS (Integrated Family Application Management Systems) or personally attend at the Family Justice Court’s Maintenance Registry at level one (1), if you wish to handle the matter on your own without legal advice. The officers and court staff are not able to provide any forms of legal advice for you. Many applicants utilized iFAMS to generate the application forms and prepare the requisite documents before they head down to MSS Court.

Step 2– you are to personally appear in MSS Court for to affirm or swear that you are truthful in your application in the presence of a judge. If you wish to attend by video conferencing, special arrangement has to be made. The judge will fix a date for first court mention for you and your spouse to attend.

Step 3- On the day of the court mention, the court officer will read the application to your spouse where he is to reply whether he agrees to your application or not.  If your spouse fails to turn up on the day, the court will issue a  warrant of arrest. if you fail to turn up on the day, the court will dismiss your application on the spot.

Step 4(a)- If your spouse agrees to your application, the court will record a consent order immediately.

Step 4(b)- If your spouse does not agree to your application, the judge may send parties to attend a mediation with a court officer. The mediation may be on the same day or fixed for some other days. The length of the mediation depends on the progress of the parties’ discussion. You may choose to mediate with your spouse and accept whatever amount he/she is willing to provide for quick closure of the matter. If the mediation works, the judge will record a consent order.

Step 5– If parties cannot reach a settlement, the judge will direct the matter to be sent for trial for the judge to determine the exact amount to award.

Family lawyers are usually engaged when the applicants encountered difficulty in the process or when the other spouse engage a lawyer to fight.

At Yeolaw, our Family Lawyers will do the following: –

  1. Assess the case for client on all the circumstances surrounding the application
  2. Dispense legal advice on what to prepare
  3. Draft the full set of documents professionally, which may include reply affidavit
  4. Attend court with and on behalf of client
  5. if the Respondent spouse object to payment or the quantum of maintenance, prepare all trial papers and attend court trial including argument and cross-examination of your spouse in open court (in camera).

During a divorce proceeding: –

You are currently processing your divorce application against your spouse and parties have disputes to some or all of the divorce and ancillary issues. Months have gone by waiting and processing for mediation or trial. Meantime, your spouse intentionally ceased or reduced the amount of monies that he/she pays towards the child(ren). You may take up an Interim MSS Order against your spouse to compel him/her to pay for the child(ren) regularly as he/she has neglected or refused to pay reasonable financial support to the child(ren) until you obtain a final order from the divorce court on your divorce and ancillary matters.

When a divorce proceeding has commenced, the issues of child maintenance, along with other ancillary matters like custody of child, division of assets and flat etc will be determined at the divorce court, which would be recorded in the Interim Judgment Court Order and Final Judgment for Divorce.

After parties have obtained a divorce order– you may to apply to vary the original court order if you wish to obtain more financial support for your child(ren). Although the principles of the preserving the welfare and seeing to the needs of the child are similarly considered like in section 69 and 114 of the Women’s Charter, you need to prove vitiating factors in the court like Material Changes of Circumstances to convince the judge to increase or decrease the maintenance amount already ordered. It is not sufficient to simply submit that your child(ren) requires more money or they eat more.

Filing for maintenance may not be difficult process. But to get the best outcome may be complex for many. You may approach Yeo & Associates LLC Family and Divorce lawyers who are experts in advising clients on the application process and make the assessment for you on the likely amount that the court may award you for child maintenance.

Consequences on Non-Payment of Maintenance

The parent ordered to pay child support (Paying Parent) cannot simply claim that he is no money; lost his job to avoid his obligation under the MSS Order to pay. If the receiving parent (Receiving Parent) makes a complaint to the MSS court of the non-payment, unless the Paying Parent can “show cause” why he fails to pay maintenance, the Receiving Parent may enforce the order against the non-paying parent.

Section 71 of the Women’s Charter provides that non-payment of maintenance according to MSS Order attracts the following consequences: –

  • Fine
  • Imprisonment terms not exceeding one month for each month’s unpaid
  • Garnishing of bank account(s)
  • Furnishing banker’s guarantee
  • Financial counselling
  • Community service for up to 40 hours
  • report to a designated credit bureau for bad credit rating record

The effect of the above is that of punishment nature unless the arrears or monies owing have been paid. It means that after payment of fine of serving the term in jail, the owed amount remains payable.

If the Paying Parent wishes to pay the arrears but is unable to pay off one lump sum (usually due to having been in arrears for many months or even years), the Court may order that the repayment of arrears to be paid to the Receiving Parent monthly instalment. Currently, the MSS Court tends to order small amount of monthly repayment for a relatively large amount arrears.

Is there a cut off date to pay maintenance?

Section 72 of the Women’s Charter provides for a rescission or cancellation of the MSS Order on proof of a change in the circumstances or changes in the parties or child. One possible reason is that the Child may earn his own income and financial dependent even before he/she reaches 21 years old.

Once the child turns 21 years old, unless there are special circumstances requiring continuous financial support of an adult child, the MSS Order would usually be ignored. However, it is prudent to apply to the court to rescind the MSS Order to prevent any possible issues in the future.

Visitation and Maintenance

If you have been denied access by your spouse to see the children, your obligation to maintain the children continues. You are not able to rely on this reason to stop paying maintenance. If you are faced with this situation, you may have to apply for Summons for Interim Custody Care and Control to compel your spouse to let you see your children.

 

Bankruptcy and Maintenance

It is a myth that a bankrupted parent need not pay maintenance to his/her own children. While many would threaten their spouse that they will “declare bankrupt” just so to avoid his/her obligation to pay maintenance to children, the MSS Court, although takes the bankruptcy as one factor to determine the amount of maintenance payable, the liability to pay maintenance will subsist even if one is bankrupt. Moreover, to self-petition for bankruptcy order costs between S$3500 to $8500.

For more information, contact Yeolaw at 62203400 or fill in the Advice Request Form.

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