Maintenance

Overview

This section addresses some of the commonly asked questions on proceedings involving maintenance in the Family Justice Courts (FJC).

The information provided below is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice. The FJC cannot provide legal advice or assist with drafting the contents of any document. 

References to legislation:

Applications can be made in the FJC in respect of maintenance including:

  1. Fresh application for maintenance for a spouse (including an incapacitated husband) or child;
  2. Enforcement of an existing maintenance order for a spouse, ex-spouse (including an incapacitated husband) or child;
  3. Enforcement of nafkah iddah or mutaah under a Syariah Court Order
  4. Enforcement of an order for the enforcement of maintenance of a parent; and/or
  5. Vary or rescind an order made by the Court in (a), (b), (c) or (d) above.

This applies in cases where the person making the application above (the Complainant) and the person who the application is being made against (the Respondent) are both residing within Singapore. If the Respondent is not, then the Court can only make orders for maintenance in limited circumstances.

What is maintenance and who can apply for it?

Maintenance is a form of financial support. Under the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353), Section 69, you can apply for maintenance;

  • For your child, from the other parent, if he or she neglects or refuses to provide the child with reasonable maintenance;
  • For yourself, from your husband, if you are a married woman whose husband neglects or refuses to provide you with reasonable maintenance;
  • For yourself, from your wife, if you are an incapacitated husband whose wife has neglected or refused to provide you with reasonable maintenance; or
  • For yourself, from your parent, if you are over 21 and you are still a full-time NSman or student.

What maintenance orders can the Court make?

The Court may order one party to pay maintenance for a wife and/or the child, or an incapacitated husband, if there is neglect in doing so.

Some of the more common maintenance orders which can be made by the Court are set out below:

  • A monthly allowance;
  • Repayment of specific expenses that are being paid by one party; or
  • Direct payment of expenses to a service provider e.g. Childcare Centre, Utilities Providers.

What orders can the Court make to enforce an order of Court to pay maintenance?

If one party fails to pay maintenance which has been ordered without good cause, the Court may order the outstanding amount of maintenance (usually referred to as the arrears) to be enforced against him or her. This also includes outstanding amounts payable under a maintenance order for a parent, spouse, ex-spouse (including an incapacitated husband) or child, nafkah iddah and mutaah payable under a Syariah Court Order

A common enforcement order made by the Court will set out the following.

  • What the arrears are as of the date of the order.
  • Whether the arrears should be paid in a single payment or in monthly installment.

How do I make an application?

This section summarises the steps to take if you are filing an application for:

  1. Fresh maintenance for a spouse (including an incapacitated husband) or child;
  2. Enforcement of an existing maintenance order;
  3. Enforcement of nafkah iddah or mutaah under a Syariah Court Order
  4. Enforcement of an order for the enforcement of maintenance of a parent; and/or
  5. Vary or rescind an order made by the Court in (a), (b), (c) or (d) above.

What happens after i make the application

After the application is made, the matter will be progressed through the Court system. It can potentially be settled with the consent of both parties, or resolved by a final hearing in the Court.


What happens if either party is absent from Court?

If any party fails to turn up for their Court dates e.g. a mentions date, trial date, date for mediation:

  • An absent Complainant (the applicant) will have his/her application struck out.
  • An absent Respondent (the person whom the application is filed against) will have a warrant of arrest issued against him.

What if I am not satisfied with the Court’s Order?

If you are not satisfied with the order, you may appeal to a Judge of the High Court.

If you wish to appeal, you must do so by filing a Notice of Appeal in the Family Division of the High Court c/o FJC Registry at level 3.

The Notice must be filed and served within 14 days of the order.

You must also provide security for the other party’s costs of the appeal in the sum of:

  • $2,000.00, if you are appealing against a Magistrate’s order, or
  • $3,000.00, if you are appealing against a District Judge’s order.

Please note that officers of the Court cannot help you to file your appeal papers. If you need assistance in such matters, you may wish to approach the Community Justice Centre, Community Legal Clinic or the Legal Aid Bureau.

What if the Respondent is residing outside Singapore?

If you want to file an application for maintenance against a Respondent who resides outside Singapore, you may do so if:

  • you know the Respondent’s address in the foreign country; and
  • the country is one of those which has made arrangements with Singapore on maintenance matters.

These countries are listed in the relevant notification referred to as the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) (Designation of Reciprocating Countries Notification).

If you meet these conditions, you may file an application for maintenance in the same way that you would if the Respondent lived in Singapore.

If you are applying to enforce an existing maintenance order, you must bring a copy of that order when you come to the Court to file your Magistrate’s Complaint. After your complaint is filed, the Court will send the necessary papers to the authorities in the Respondent’s country for enforcement.

If you are applying for maintenance for the first time, you will be given a Court date to attend before a Judge in open court. You must bring:

  • your Marriage Certificate, or the children’s Birth Certificates, if you are applying for their maintenance;
  • information on the respondent’s residential address in the foreign country; and
  • a photograph of the respondent.

You will give sworn or affirmed evidence, and produce any documents in support of the application—for example receipts for expenses incurred by the child, if you are applying for maintenance of a child.

The Judge may then issue a provisional maintenance order. The provisional maintenance order will be sent to the respondent’s country. The provisional maintenance order must be confirmed there before it becomes effective.

The procedures in each receiving country will vary depending on what mechanisms or practices have been put in place by the relevant authorities in that particular country. officers of the Court will not be able to advise you on how long the process will take in the receiving country.

Do I have to maintain my child if the Court has granted care and control to the other parent?

Under the Women's Charter, the responsibility of maintaining the children lies with both parents. This does not change if the parents are divorced, or if the children now live with just one parent. The Court normally orders the parent without care and control to pay the children's maintenance to the parent with care and control.

What factors does the Court consider in making a maintenance order?

Whether the Court is making the maintenance order under section 69 or Part X of the Women's Charter, the Court is duty-bound to consider all the circumstances of the case.

Sections 69 and 114 specify some particular issues that the Court will consider. These include:

  • the financial needs of the wife or child;
  • the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the wife or child;
  • any physical or mental disability of the wife or child; and
  • the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage.

What kind of documents do I need to prepare for maintenance related applications?

The Complainant, as well as the Respondent to your application, will be asked to produce the relevant documents in Court to enable the Judge to make a decision on the appropriate amount of maintenance to be ordered or varied. You should refer to paragraph 25 of the FJC’s Practice Directions for the full list. The usual documents include:

  • lists of monthly personal expenses, and lists of such expenses for the children, if relevant;
  • salary slips;
  • income tax returns;
  • documents evidencing any debts;
  • receipts for household, personal and children's expenses; and
  • any other documents that may be relevant to the parties' means.

In an application for enforcement of maintenance, the Complainant will usually only be required to prepare a calculation of the outstanding arrears of maintenance. This would include:

  • a table setting out the months where maintenance is outstanding, and any outstanding expenses to be paid as maintenance;
  • bank statements of the account designated for payment of maintenance showing the amount which has been, or has not been paid over the period claimed; and
  • proof of expenses which have been ordered to be paid under the maintenance order which is being enforced.

Can I withhold access to my child if the other parent has not been paying child maintenance?

No. The Court considers maintenance issues and parenting issues separately. You are still bound by the Court Order to allow the other parent to have access to the children even if he or she is not making regular maintenance payments.

You may wish to apply to Court to enforce the maintenance order against the other parent.

Can I withhold paying child maintenance if the other parent has not been allowing me to see the child?

No. The Court considers maintenance issues and parenting issues separately. You must continue to pay maintenance for your children, even if the other parent is not allowing you to see them.

If you wish to see your children, but are experiencing problems with the other parent, you may wish to consult a lawyer about enforcing the access order.

Do I need a lawyer?

No, you do not need a lawyer to make the initial application at the FJC. If you need a lawyer for the Court mentions or hearing, you may engage one. To maintain impartiality, officers of the Court are not able to provide legal advice or recommend lawyers. You may refer to the online directory of qualified lawyers maintained by the Ministry of Law Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA e-Services). If you need legal advice or legal assistance, you may wish to approach the Community Justice Centre, Community Legal Clinic or the Legal Aid Bureau.