Know your rights: FAQ on wife, child and husband maintenance in Singapore

You’ve given up a lot for the family. 

And now that you’re getting a divorce, finances are an issue and you need a little help getting back on your feet.

Or maybe you’ve become accustomed to a certain lifestyle and it might be tough to sustain it now. 

Unsure about your entitlement to maintenance and obligation to pay child maintenance after a divorce? Read more below  to find out.  

Child Maintenance

Who is obliged to pay child maintenance?

In Singapore, as long as you are a parent of a child under the age of 21, it is your legal duty to support your child in the form of child maintenance.

The duty remains whether you and your spouse are married, divorced or have remarried. 

What does the Singapore Court consider when deciding how much child maintenance to grant?

The Court will consider these factors according to section 69(4) of the Women’s Charter:

  • Your child’s financial needs;
  • The income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of yourself, your spouse and your child;
  • Your child’s physical or mental disability (if any);
  • Both your and your spouse’s ages and the duration of the marriage;
  • The contributions made by you and your spouse towards the family’s welfare;
  • The standard of living enjoyed by your child before your spouse neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for him or her;
  • The manner in which your child was being educated or trained, and which both you and your spouse expect your child to be educated or trained; and
  • Any conduct of yourself and your spouse that would be inequitable for the Court to disregard.

The Court will also look at the list of expenses of the child provided by both parents to determine the reasonable amount that the child requires monthly. If receipts have been kept as proof of the child’s expenses, the Court is more likely to adopt the amount provided as a true figure.

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Can the amount of child maintenance be changed?

The Court may order maintenance in the form of monthly payments, for one parent to solely maintain the child and/or lump sum payment in some cases.

If there has been a change in circumstances of the child according to the criteria mentioned above (for instance, the child has been enrolled for new enrichment classes), the Court can hear an application to vary the amount of maintenance.

What does child maintenance pay for?

Child maintenance involves all expenses for the child such as insurance, groceries, utilities, rental, telephone bills, medical, dental, school fees, tuition and enrichment classes etc.

Maintenance typically extends until the child turns 21 years old, but there are a few exceptions where it may extend beyond 21 years old. For example:

  • If the child is suffering from a physical or mental disability
  • If the child is serving full-time National Service (NS)
  • If the child is still schooling and/or undergoing training for a profession or trade

How do you apply for child maintenance?

Child maintenance is usually dealt with as part of the divorce proceedings. Your application will be heard during the ancillary matters hearing, together with the issues of division of matrimonial home/assets, child’s custody, care and control, and access.

If you are intending to apply for child maintenance while remaining married, you can do that too. Just speak to our legal specialists to find out how.

Wife Maintenance

What does the Court consider when deciding whether to grant wife maintenance?

  • The earning power of you and your spouse, previously, currently and in the future;
  • Total assets owned by both of you;
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the marriage broke down;
  • Your age and that of your husband, and the duration of the marriage;
  • The contributions made by both of you to the family;
  • Any potential losses suffered by the parties as a result of the marriage; and
  • Your financial needs, obligations and responsibilities in the future. 

In many cases, women choose to stop work to look after the children after they are married and they have not been in the workforce for many years. But many of these women hold degrees and diplomas.

The Court sees these women as still employable hence they may have a lower chance of receiving the same amount of maintenance which their spouses have provided them with during the marriage.

But does that mean they do not get maintenance?

Should I go for a clean break or ask for monthly maintenance after divorce?

A clean break means ending the financial ties between you and your spouse as soon as reasonably possible after your divorce.

To achieve a clean break, you and your spouse can choose not to go for nominal or monthly maintenance. Instead, you may wish to consider seeking a lump sum maintenance and/or higher division of matrimonial assets.

Importantly, the only way you can guarantee that your ex does not try to make financial claims against you in the future is to get a court order.

What if my ex-spouse does not follow the Court Order and maintenance is not paid?

As much as it is a legal obligation to pay maintenance if so ordered, there are still many instances where ex-husbands refuse, fail, and neglect to pay due to their financial circumstances. What can you do to prevent this? Speak to our legal team to find out.

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What are the ways a spouse can get maintenance?

  1. Nominal maintenance –  As a preservation of rights. It can be as little as S$1 a month, just to ensure that in the event you are sick or retrenched, you can still apply to vary the maintenance amount in Court.
  2. Monthly maintenance – Your ex-husband continues to pay a fixed monthly sum (until it’s varied) to you until you remarry or pass on. 
  3. Lump-sum maintenance – If you think your ex-husband might not comply with the monthly maintenance order diligently and you don’t want to be stuck trying to pay for everything on your own, going for lump-sum maintenance is the best way to prevent that – a clean break and call it quits.
  4. No maintenance – Usually the case for short marriages and/or if you have the financial capability to sustain your own expenses (e.g. you are drawing a salary way higher than your ex-husband) 

What does wife maintenance pay for?

The law states that maintenance covers “reasonable expenses”. This grey area has caused major disputes among couples. 

But generally, it covers daily necessities like insurance, groceries, utilities, rental, telephone bills, medical, dental etc. 

If you require more expenses such as travel and/or entertainment, you might need to justify the reason why. All expenses should also be substantiated with receipts. 

What happens if a spouse/ex-spouse refuses to pay?

Have you reminded him about it? If you tried and nothing was done, you can go to the Family Justice Courts and lodge a claim for enforcement of maintenance. 

A divorce order usually states what date, how much, and into which account monthly maintenance should be paid. 

You should bring along your NRIC, divorce orders (e.g. Interim Judgment, Order of Court, Final Judgment), bank statements as well as text messages when you head to the Family Justice Courts and/or to see your lawyer. The claim can be lodged by you or your lawyer. 

When does spouse maintenance end?

  • You are now earning an income that’s sufficient to sustain your daily living
  • There’s been an adverse deterioration in your ex-husband’s financial situation
  • Your ex-husband applies for it to end (and the Court decides the maintenance is unnecessary) 
  • You remarry or pass away

The legal test is whether the receiving party can adjust without undue hardship. 

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What happens if the recipient of maintenance is now living with a new partner?

Spousal maintenance does not automatically end on cohabitation. Cohabitation is much more uncertain than marriage and cohabitants do not have the same financial claims against one another in the event of relationship breakdown. 

The court might order a reduction in maintenance. This might be a more complex issue, so speak a specialist if you’re in such a situation.

Do I have to pay tax on the maintenance I receive?

No, maintenance is not taxable.

Maintenance For Husbands

Can men request for maintenance?

Many men feel that Singapore divorce law favours women.

However, since the revision of Section 113 of the Women’s Charter, ill or incapacitated husbands are eligible if they are:

  • 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

Do note that men who are unemployed or house husbands cannot claim maintenance from their working wives.

For more information on divorce proceedings, spouse or child maintenance in Singapore, approach one of our trusted divorce lawyers

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