7 Brutal Truths About Having an Illegitimate Child in Singapore

Last updated on February 20, 2019

Featured image for the "7 Brutal Truths About Having an Illegitimate Child in Singapore" article. It features a sad girl sitting alone.

Approximately 10,000 children have been born out of wedlock in Singapore from 2006 to 2016. It is no secret that Singapore labels such children as “illegitimate”. As a result of this label, these children are distinguished by both government policy and laws.

1.  A Child Born out of Wedlock is Labelled “Illegitimate” Under Singapore Law

Why does Singapore label children as legitimate/illegitimate?

The Ministry of Social and Family Development has stated that the legal and policy distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate children are meant to reflect the government’s desire to promote strong marriages.

“Parenthood within marriage” is encouraged as this is the prevailing social norm, which Singapore authorities view as the key to strong families. This “illegitimate” label has some consequences for both you and your illegitimate child.

2. An Illegitimate Child is Excluded From Benefits Otherwise Granted to a Legitimate Child

What are the benefits my illegitimate child is excluded from?

If your child is illegitimate, you do not receive the following benefits due to the government’s stand:

Benefits Exempted Description
Housing benefits In accordance with the HDB Public Scheme, you will not be able to form a family nucleus with your illegitimate child for the purposes of purchasing a HDB flat in Singapore. This is even if the unwed parent adopts his/her child. The only other available options are to qualify for the Singles Scheme, which allows Singaporeans who are aged 35 and above to purchase a HDB flat, or to appeal to the HDB to allow unwed parents under age 35 to purchase a flat. Although, out of the 300 appeals from years 2014 to 2016, only one fifth were approved.
Baby Bonus Your illegitimate child is not eligible for the Child Development Co-Savings (Baby Bonus) Scheme which includes the Baby Bonus cash gift and the dollar-for-dollar matching of savings for the child
Tax relief Unwed mothers do not enjoy the same tax reliefs as married mothers who are adequately provided in respect of children born within marriage. These include the Parenthood Tax Rebate, Qualifying Child Relief, Handicapped Child Relief, Working Mother’s Child Relief, and Grandparent Caregiver Relief.

What are the benefits granted to my illegitimate child then?

Notwithstanding the above, there are benefits provided to illegitimate children as well.

Benefits Granted Description
Child Development Account (“CDA”)  If your child is born from 1 September 2016 onwards, he or she is eligible for CDA benefits. All children born from 24 March 2016 onwards will also receive $3,000 upfront under the First Step Grant. (Note that this differs from the Child Development Co-Savings Scheme as mentioned above.)
Government-paid maternity leave If your child is a citizen of Singapore and is born or with estimated delivery date on or after 1 January 2017, you will be granted 16 weeks of maternity leave. Otherwise, the unwed mother will be granted 12 weeks of maternity leave.
Medisave grant and Medishield coverage for newborns All newborns will receive a Medisave grant ranging from $3,000 to $4,000 depending on the date of birth of the child, provided they are a Singapore citizen. They will also be automatically covered by Medishield Life from birth, including those with congenital and neonatal conditions, for life.
Centre-based infant care and childcare subsidies Provided that your infant or child is a Singapore citizen and is enrolled in a child care centre licensed by the Early Childhood Development Agency (“ECDA”), infant care and childcare subsidies are available according to a tiered-scheme.
Child care leave If you are a working mother, you will be eligible for child care leave before your child turns 7 years of age. Extended child care leave is also available when your child is 7 to 12 years of age.
Education subsidies Your child may be eligible for financial assistance for education, provided he or she is from a lower income background or has development or special needs.
Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (“KiFAS”) Your child may enrol in KiFAS provided they are a Singapore citizen, is enrolled in selected kindergartens, and fall within the income bracket.
Foreign domestic worker levy concession If your child is a Singapore citizen under 16 years of age and lives at the same registered address as you, the concessionary levy rate of $60 per month applies automatically from the 1st of the following month after the child’s birth.

3. You Might Face a Situation where the Other Parent Refuses to Support Your Illegitimate Child

Can the other parent decline to provide maintenance to my illegitimate child?

Under section 68 of the Women’s Charter, a child has the right to be maintained by his or her parents regardless of his or her legitimacy status. This means that both the father and the mother have the duty to provide shelter, clothing, food, and education to their illegitimate child, taking into account their means.

In the event that you find yourself as a single parent or non-parent maintaining the illegitimate child without support from the other biological parent(s), you may apply to the Family Justice Courts for child maintenance from him or her.

To assess whether the parent is fulfilling his or her duty to maintain the illegitimate child, the court will take into account the means of the parent. However, keep in mind that the financial burden should be borne equally among both parents.

4. Priority of Inheritance goes to the Surviving Legitimate Children

Will my illegitimate child receive a share of my inheritance?

The Intestate Succession Act defines “child” as a legitimate child and includes any child who is legally adopted. This is likely to mean that illegitimate children are not entitled to receive a share of his or her biological parent’s inheritance unless there is a will.

Pursuant to section 10 of the Legitimacy Act, an illegitimate child will receive a share of his or her biological mother’s inheritance upon her death only if the biological mother does not have any surviving legitimate children.

In light of the inheritance laws in place, it is advisable for parents of an illegitimate child to write a will. Otherwise, you may consider legitimising the child by marrying the other biological parent which will allow the child to receive his or her share of the property under section 5 of the Legitimacy Act.

5. Naming Rights are Restricted with Respect to Your Illegitimate Child

Do I have the right to change my child’s surname?

Under section 10 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, your child will take the surname of the biological mother if the father is not an informant of the child.

In the event that you are getting married to a man who is not the biological father, you may not change the child’s surname in the Birth Certificate to a third party’s surname if the child is under one year old.

6. Legitimising Your Child Might be the Only Option

How can I legitimise my child?

Under the Adoption of Children Act, it is possible to remove the label of illegitimacy by adopting your biological child. The child will then be a legitimate child as if born in marriage. While this grants your child legitimacy, in practice it does not entitle you to housing benefits and Baby Bonus cash grants, which are tied to the parent’s marital status.

In addition, note that this will terminate the rights and responsibilities of the other parent. For example, the other parent will no longer be able to claim for maintenance against the adopted child under the Maintenance of Parents Act.

However, this means of legitimising your child may not work for LGBT couples. For example, men may only apply as individuals to adopt male children, unless special circumstances warrant the adoption of a female child.

Alternatively, an illegitimate child may also gain legitimacy if his or her biological parents subsequently married under section 3 of the Legitimacy Act. Again, this option is not available for LGBT couples under Singapore law.

7. Children Born out of Surrogacy are also Illegitimate Children

If my child is born abroad out of surrogacy, is he or she considered illegitimate?

With tremendous advancements in technology, surrogacy is increasingly becoming an accessible means for an infertile or gay couple to have a child. However, Assistive Reproductive centres in Singapore are prohibited from carrying out surrogacy procedures here. It is currently not illegal for individuals to obtain surrogacy procedures, whether in Singapore or overseas.

But under Singapore law, a child born out of surrogacy is not considered the child of the biological parents, and hence illegitimate.

The biological parent may consider adopting the child born out of surrogacy to legitimise the child. In 2018 for example, the Singapore High Court allowed a gay Singaporean man to adopt his biological child born through commercial surrogacy in the United States as doing so would be in the child’s interest.

However, Singapore’s public policy stance is generally against parenthood outside of marriage and the formation of same-sex family units. The transactional nature present in commercial surrogacy is also frowned upon.

As a result, regardless of their marital status or sexuality, parents may encounter difficulties legitimising their biological children born out of commercial surrogacy by adopting them.

If the adoption application is unsuccessful, the child born out of commercial surrogacy is likely to remain illegitimate in the eyes of the law.

If you require more support, you may approach a Social Service Office for financial assistance or Family Service Centre for socio-emotional support.

Should you require further information as to the rights of your illegitimate child, feel free to read our article targeted towards single and unwed mothers or get in touch with our family lawyers for assistance.