Specialist Divorce & Family Lawyer

Spousal Maintenance


In Singapore, section 69 of the Women’s Charter provides the payment of maintenance to a wife or a former wife or incapacitated husband during matrimonial proceedings or after a divorce, upon proving that the spouse has neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for him/her. It is not automatically that a wife is entitled to wife’s maintenance.

Definition of Incapacitated Husbands-

  • Incapacitated by a physical or mental disability, before or during the course of marriage;
  • Unable to earn a living as a result of the disability; and
  • Unable to support themselves

Payment Methods

The Maintenance Order is ordered to be paid on: –

  1. a monthly basis
  2. lump sum

Quantum of Maintenance

It is a myth that all women can get some forms of financial support from her husband; or that Women’s Charter protects women only.

If a wife can earn her own income or sometimes even more than her spouse, the court would be hesitant to award any maintenance to her, unless special circumstances can be proven. For example, a successful career mother has a special needs child requiring her care. She may be able to be awarded the nominal maintenance of S$1 to preserve her rights to claim for maintenance in the further should she be required to resign from her job to care for the child.

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

  1. the financial needs of the wife or incapacitated husband
  2. the income and earning capacity of the parties
  3. the age of the parties
  4. the property and financial resources the of the parties
  5. The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of both parties in the future
  6. The standard of living enjoyed by the family
  7. The age of the parties and the duration of the marriage
  8. The contributions made by each party to the family and care of the child(ren)
  9. physical or mental disability of the wife or incapacitated husband.

Nominal S$1 Maintenance

To be given at least S$1 maintenance is a misconception. The Court has clarified that an ex-wife shall not be awarded any maintenance, not even S$1 if she has her own capacity to support herself. The ex-husband cannot be seen as an insurance for her future and a clean-break to their relationship is preferred.

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 your maintenance as he/she has neglected or refused to pay reasonable financial support to you.

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/she is to reply whether he/she 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 you and the household. You may take up an Interim MSS Order against your spouse to compel him/her to pay regularly as he/she has neglected or refused to pay reasonable financial support to the family 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 spousal 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 yourself. Although the principles of the awarding financial support for spouses 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 expenses have increased.

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 Paying Party ordered to pay spousal support cannot simply claim that he/she has no money; lost his/her job to avoid his/her obligation under the MSS Order to pay. If the Receiving Party makes a complaint to the MSS court of the non-payment, unless the Paying Party can “show cause” on why he/she fails to pay maintenance, the Receiving Party may enforce the order against the non-paying party.

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

  1. Fine
  2. Imprisonment terms not exceeding one month for each month’s unpaid
  3. Garnishing of bank account(s)
  4. Furnishing banker’s guarantee
  5. Financial counselling
  6. Community service for up to 40 hours
  7. 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 Party 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 Party 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. One possible reason is that the Paying Party has been retrenched from work and he has not since been able to obtain employment due to ill health.

Once the spouse remarries, the MSS Order would lapse.


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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