Divorce Maintenance in Singapore… How Maintenance (i.e. Alimony) for the Wife and Children (and now even the Husband) is determined by the Family Courts in Singapore
1. Overview



Maintenance is a form of financial assistance. Once divorce procedures have commenced, an application for maintenance (or alimony) can be filed by the ex-wife under Section 113 of the Women’s Charter. The court may order a man to pay maintenance to his wife or ex-wife
(a) During the course of divorce proceedings (i.e. Interim maintenance); or

(b) After a grant of a judgement of divorce, judicial separation or nullity of marriage.

The basis of a maintenance order sought by the former wife is financial preservation; ex-husband must provide her the support to transit into financial independence after divorce.

2. Eligibility



2.1 IF YOU ARE THE WIFE

As provided for under Section 69 of the Women’s Charter, you can apply for maintenance:

1) For yourself from your husband, if you are a married woman whose husband neglects or refuses to provide you with reasonable maintenance.

2) For your child from your husband, if he or she neglects or refuses to provide your child with maintenance.

2.2 IF YOU ARE THE HUSBAND
It used to be the position that a husbands a not allowed to apply for maintenance from his wife. However, following amendments to the Women’s Charter, you can now apply for maintenance if you are ill or incapacitated.

The requirements to be satisfied are:

(a) Incapacity by a physical or mental disability, before or during the course of marriage

(b) Inability to earn a living as a result of the disability

(c) Inability to support himself

 

3. Application Process

To apply for maintenance, you must personally go down to the Family Registry at Level 1 of the Family Justice Courts Building.

divorce lawyer is not required in the application for divorce maintenance. However, do note that in maintaining impartiality, Court Staff at the Family Registry are unable to provide you with any legal advice or recommendations of lawyers. If you prefer to be legally represented at the Court hearing, you will need to engage a lawyer yourself. You may refer to the listing of family lawyers and family law firms found on the Huffe portal to help you find a good divorce lawyer which best suits your needs.
Under Singapore law, an Uncontested Divorce can be resolved efficiently at a low and affordable cost, because only a single lawyer is required to draft the necessary documents and submit them to the courts. Accordingly, there will be a fixed fee with no hidden charges.
Since cost is your primary concern, you should try as much as possible to ask for an uncontested divorce. This can be done by, firstly, agreeing with your spouse that both of you want a divorce and secondly, coming to an agreement as to how matrimonial assets and child custody should be divided as between you and your spouse.

Specifically, there are a few matters that must be agreed upon between you and your spouse:

1. Grounds for Divorce: In Singapore, there are only 5 Grounds for a Divorce. Do discuss with your spouse as to which ground you want to proceed your divorce upon.

2. Allocation of Plaintiff and Defendant: In every trial, there will be a plaintiff (the one who brings a legal action) and a defendant (the one who is defending against a suit). Do come to an agreement with your spouse as to the assumption of these roles.

3. Division of Matrimonial Assets: Do decide on how property (eg. HDB flat) and other assets owned by you and your spouse should be spilt.

4. Custody of Children (if any): Where children are concerned, there will be no need for litigation if you and your spouse can agree upon who is to have custody of the children. Additionally, costs will also be saved if you can decide on issues regarding access and care and control of the children.

5. Maintenance of the Wife: It would expedite matters if both parties can agree on how much is paid to the wife each month.

6. Divorce Lawyer Fees: You have to decide whether the cost of engaging a divorce lawyer is borne by you, your spouse, or shared as between the two of you. If the costs are shared, you will also have to decide on the proportion each party has to bear.

Where all these matters are determined before consulting a lawyer, your lawyer will be able to quote you a fixed price as to the divorce procedure. This is known as a “Fixed Fee” model where what you pay is simply what is quoted. Thus, there will be certainty on the costs involved. Compared to a Contested Divorce where your lawyer will have to expend time and efforts in more processes (such as drafting letters of demands to your spouse), this will definitely save you lots of money.

4. Determining The Quantum of Maintenance



The principles applied by the court to assess the need for maintenance and amount for payments can be found under Sections 69 and 114 of the Women’s Charter. It is the duty of the Court to take into account all facts and circumstances of the case.

The main factors considered are:

1. The income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the former wife;

2. Financial needs of former wife and children (if any);

3. Age of each party to the marriage;

4. Any physical or mental disability of the wife or child;

5. Duration of the marriage;

6. Standard of living prior to divorce;

7. Contribution made towards marital union;

8. Loss of any benefit acquired in the marriage.

9. Ability of the husband to pay maintenance.

Parties are encouraged to seek a reasonable claim for maintenance. Claim should include ex-wife’s income and monthly breakdown of the expenses as well as the expenses of the children if their maintenance forms part of the claim.

4.1 SUBSTANTIAL CLAIM

If you are not working or do not have a high income, you should make a substantial claim with regard to maintenance. So long as the court is satisfied with your reasons for maintenance, it will make a substantial order for payments in your favour.

4.2 NOMINAL CLAIM

If you are financially sufficient, or even better off, than your husband, the court will unlikely award you a substantial claim in maintenance. Nonetheless, you should still push for at least a nominal maintenance fee of $1.
A nominal order will preserve your right to claim maintenance under Section 112 of the Women’s Charter in future, should the need arise. If the Court does not grant you any maintenance at you, you are indefinitely closed off from any prospects of maintenance.

5. Supporting Documents



There should be supporting documents to substantiate the list of expenses. This will allow the Judge in Court to decide on the appropriate amount of maintenance to be ordered.

The usual documents include:

1. List of monthly personal expenses;

2. List of monthly expenses for the children, if relevant;

3. Salary slips of both parties;

4. Income tax returns;

5. Documents evidencing any debts;

6. Receipts for household, personal and children’s expenses; and

7. Any other documents that may be relevant to the parties’ means.

6. Period of Maintenance

Usually the period of maintenance will last until the wife or the husband dies or the wife remarries. However, in some cases, achieving a “clean break” may also be a determinant in ordering a lump-sum payment for an ex-wife to whom a husband no longer owes consortium. 

7. Child Maintenance



Maintenance for a child/children is usually paid by the parent that does not control and care. A parent who has care and control of the child/children will responsible for making day-to-day living arrangements for them. The parent deprived of care and control will be granted access.

Under the Women’s Charter, both parents are equally responsible for the upbringing of their child/children and must play an active role in providing for their welfare. An order for maintenance will usually be in effect until the child reaches his/her 21st birthday, gains financial independence, or graduates from tertiary education, whichever is later. There are exceptions if your child is suffering from mental or physical disability and need a longer period of support.

8. Arrears of Maintenance



If the one party refuses to pay maintenance, the other party may file an enforcement application to the Family Court. Breaching the court’s Maintenance Order may result in a fine, imprisonment or both. The court adopts a strict approach in this matter as maintenance payments are essential for day-to-day expenses of the wife.
However, do note that you are not allowed to withhold access to the children even if your husband had not been paying child maintenance. Maintenance issues and access to children are considered separately by the court. In such situations, you may apply to Court to enforce the maintenance order against your husband.

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Beatrice Yeo Poh Tiang

Having handled over 10,000 divorces since 2006, Ms. Beatrice Yeo, the Founder and Principal Lawyer of the firm, is widely acknowledged as one of the best divorce lawyers in Singapore.

She has extensive experience in all aspects of Matrimonial Law, including Nullity Proceedings, Contested & Uncontested Divorce and Mediation.

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