9 Things To Know About Getting Child Maintenance In Singapore
Who is Obliged to Pay Child Maintenance?
In Singapore, as long as you are a parent of a child under 21, you are required to support your child in the form of providing child maintenance. This is because every parent is under a legal duty to maintain their child until he or she turns 21 years old.
This duty exists regardless of whether you and your spouse are still married to each other, or whether the child is legitimate. This duty still exists even if either spouse has remarried.
The court can order payment of child maintenance in the form of a monthly allowance, or a lump sum.
What Does the Court Consider when Deciding Whether to Grant Child Maintenance?
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.
Who Can Apply for Child Maintenance?
If your child is below 21, you may make the application for child maintenance so long as you are your child’s guardian, or have actual custody of your child. Your child’s siblings may also make the application if they are 21 and above.
If your child is 21 and above, he or she must apply for child maintenance by himself or herself.
The person applying for child maintenance from your spouse will have to prove that the child is unable to maintain himself or herself, and that your spouse has neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for him or her.
Applying for child maintenance as part of divorce proceedings
If you are applying for child maintenance as part of the process of divorcing from your spouse, your application for child maintenance will be heard during the ancillary matters hearing together with the other ancillary matters, such as the division of matrimonial assets.
Applying for child maintenance outside of divorce proceedings
Even if you have not filed for divorce from your spouse yet, you can still apply for child maintenance through making a Magistrate’s Complaint. Here’s how:
To file an application under iFAMS, log in to iFAMS using your SingPass ID. Once logged in, you will be able to create a draft application for your child maintenance order. You will need the following documents for the application:
The child’s birth certificate
Syariah Court divorce order (for applications for child maintenance following a Muslim divorce)
Identification document such as NRIC or passport
A step-by-step guide to filing an application under iFAMS can be found here. There is a nominal fee of $1 to file a child maintenance application under iFAMS.
The next step is to go to the Family Justice Courts (FJC) Registry or the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) to verify your documents and submit your maintenance application. You should also bring your child’s birth certificate with you.
If you did not submit a draft application via iFAMS, you can also make your application at either the FJC Registry or SCWO, though this option is more time-consuming.
After your application has been submitted, you will appear before a judge who will consider your application. If you applied at the FJC, attendance before the judge will be in-person while if you applied at the SCWO, attendance before the judge will be via video conference.
Before the judge, you will have to swear or affirm that the contents of your application and your answers to the judge’s questions are true and correct.
If your application is in order, the judge will issue a summons to your spouse. This summons will state a date for a first court hearing of the matter. Both you and your spouse have to attend the hearing. You will need to pay a nominal $1 for this summons to be issued.
The summons will then be served on your spouse. A summary of what happens in court after that is as follows:
If your spouse shows up in court, a court officer will read your application to your spouse. If your spouse agrees to your application, the court can record a consent order (i.e. a court order confirming what the parties have agreed to).
If your spouse fails to show up that day, a warrant of arrest will be issued against him.
If you fail to show up that day, your application will be struck out.
If your spouse does not agree to your application, the court may send the matter for mediation. If both of you manage to settle the matter, the court can record a consent order.
If mediation fails, both of you will be given a court date to start the process of the court deciding on the matter on both parties’ behalf.
Documents and receipts to prove such monthly expenses
Documents to prove the respective debts of yourself and your spouse (if any)
Your payslips and Central Provident Fund (CPF) statements for the last 6 months
Evidence of your employment (e.g. employer’s letter or employment contract)
Your Notice of Assessment of Income for the past 3 years
Your updated bank passbooks and/or updated bank statements (including sole and joint accounts)
Your bank deposit slips to show payment/non-payment of maintenance
What If My Spouse Wants Me to Sign an Agreement for Him or Her to Not Provide Any Maintenance For My Child after We Divorce?
While parties are free to come to their own agreements on the terms of their divorce, the courts tend to scrutinise agreements relating to children more closely than other ancillary matters when deciding whether to uphold these agreements.
The Singapore Court of Appeal has held that the welfare of the child will be the overriding consideration, and that the court will not allow parents to wash their hands off their responsibility of supporting their children. If your agreement with your spouse would leave your child with insufficient support, or if you and your spouse have agreed to an unfair distribution of responsibilities in relation to your child’s needs, the court would intervene and make orders to ensure that your child’s interests are taken care of.
Therefore, it may be unlikely that a court would endorse an agreement which has the effect of allowing your spouse to contract out of his or her responsibility to provide maintenance for your child.
However, if the court has allowed such an agreement but you subsequently wish for your spouse to contribute to your child’s maintenance, you may apply to court to vary the previous maintenance order.
Can You Change the Terms of the Child Maintenance Order Later On?
The court may vary your maintenance order if you prove that there has been a material change in circumstances which require a variation of the order, or if there is a good cause for the variation.
For example, an applicant managed to successfully apply for an increase in child maintenance after convincing the Singapore court that there had been a material change in the parties’ circumstances. This was because the applicant’s spouse had stopped paying for all the food, utilities, internet, phone bills and the domestic helper’s expenses, such that the applicant was left with the burden of paying these expenses.
In addition, note that your spouse may also apply to court to have the amount of child maintenance payable decreased if there has been a material change in circumstances which justify such a decrease in payment.
What If My Spouse Refuses to Comply with the Terms of the Child Maintenance Order?
If your spouse fails to comply with the terms of the maintenance order, you can apply to the Family Justice Courts for the maintenance arrears to be enforced against your spouse.
You should bring along the following documents listed in paragraph 25(1)(b) of the Family Justice Courts Practice Directions:
The calculations for the amount of maintenance arrears
The updated bank passbooks and/or updated bank statements of both yourself and your spouse (especially for the period when the maintenance was not paid)
A divorce lawyer will be able to best advise you on the exact application process and the amount of child maintenance you may be able to expect to obtain based on your unique circumstances.