In Singapore, the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) provides for the husband to pay maintenance to his wife or former wife but not vice versa. A wife is entitled under the laws to be maintained by the husband during the marriage, during the course of any matrimonial proceedings or subsequent to the grant of an interim judgment of divorce or even nullity of marriage.
Therefore, any married woman whose husband neglects or refuses to provide her reasonable maintenance may apply to the Court which may on due proof, order the husband to pay a monthly allowance or a lump sum for her maintenance.
- The Court when ordering maintenance for a wife shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the following matters :
- The financial needs of the wife;
- The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the wife;
- Any physical or mental disability of the wife;
- The age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;
- The contribution made by each of the parties to the marriage, to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;
- The standard of living enjoyed by the wife before the husband neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the wife;
- The conduct of each of the parties to the marriage.
Such a Maintenance Order if granted will only expire on the death of the wife or the husband or upon the remarriage of the wife, as the case may be.
MAINTENANCE OF THE CHILDREN
It is the duty of a parent to maintain or contribute to the maintenance of his or her children, whether they are in his or her custody or the custody of any other person. Even if the children are illegitimate, the children must be provided with such accommodation, clothing, food and education as may be reasonable.
The Judge’s decision on how much maintenance to give to the children depends on the above mentioned factors as well as the parents’ means and station in life. The Court will also consider the manner in which the child was being and in which the parties to the marriage expected him/her to be, educated or trained when determining the amount of maintenance.
Under the law, a child must be maintained until he or she reaches the age of twenty-one (21). However, the Court may make an Order for the benefit of the child who has attained the age of 21 years or for a period that extends beyond the day on which the child attains that age because :-
- Of a mental or physical disability of the child;
- The child is or will be serving full-time national service;
- The child is or will be or would be receiving instruction at an educational establishment or undergoing training for a trade, profession or vocation, whether or not while in gainful employment.
AREAS OF MAINTENANCE
If the husband/ex-husband has refused or neglected to pay the wife maintenance under a Maintenance Order, the wife can lodge a complaint (through her divorce lawyer or otherwise) pertaining to the same at the Family Court at Paterson Road.
In such circumstances, the wife can proceed to recover the arrears of the outstanding monthly maintenance by way of an attachment of earnings order. An attachment of earnings order is essentially an order requiring the employer of the husband to pay maintenance to the wife out of the husband’s salary, if he holds a steady job.
The Court can impose a fine or throw the husband behind bars if the husband is persistently in arrears of maintenance
This is the third part of a four-parts series on divorce matters and proceedings in Singapore.