Maintenance of Parents: Your Child’s Duties and How to File

Last updated on April 30, 2021

Daughter hugging mother from the back

What is the Maintenance of Parents Act?

The Maintenance of Parents Act (MPA) provides elderly or needy parents living in Singapore with a legal channel to seek maintenance from their children if they are unable to maintain (i.e. provide for) themselves.

Maintenance can be claimed from children who are financially capable of supporting their parents but are not doing so. In an application for maintenance, parents can provide the names of all their children from whom they wish to claim maintenance.

Under the MPA, parents who meet the eligibility requirements can access the services of the Office for the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents (CMP) or the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents (TMP).

The CMP offers an informal means for parents and their children to resolve a dispute over the provision of maintenance through non-legal means, i.e. through conciliation.

On the other hand, the TMP provides aged parents a legal option to file a Maintenance Order against their children if, the non-legal avenue provided by the CMP is unsuccessful.

What are the Eligibility Requirements to File for Maintenance?

Under the MPA, a person is eligible to file for maintenance if he/she is:

  • Domiciled and resident in Singapore;
  • 60 years of age and above; and
  • Unable to maintain himself adequately

Persons below 60 years of age are also eligible to file for maintenance, provided that they:

  • Suffer from infirmity of mind or body (i.e. mental or physical illness), that prevents them from maintaining themselves, or makes it difficult for them to maintain themselves; or
  • Have some other special reason for requiring maintenance

When is a parent unable to maintain himself?

Under section 3(4) of the MPA, a parent is unable to maintain himself if his total or expected income and other financial resources are inadequate to provide him with basic amenities and basic physical needs.

These needs include but are not limited to, shelter, food, medical costs and clothing.

Can non-biological parents also file for maintenance?

Non-biological parents (e.g. step-parents) are able to file for maintenance against a step-child if, they meet the eligibility requirements under the MPA.

This is because the step-parent has been conferred legal rights and responsibilities over the step-child through adoption or the assumption of legal guardianship.

Accordingly, the step-child may be required to maintain their step-parent as if the step-parent was their biological parent.

What If My Child Says He/She Cannot Afford to Provide Maintenance?

If your child says that he/she cannot afford to provide maintenance, he/she is required to have relevant supporting documents as proof. For example, during the conciliation session (see below), your child will be required to bring:

  • His/her bank account passbook;
  • Latest CPF statement; or
  • Payslip.

However, a child is strongly encouraged to financially support his/her parent, even if it is in the form of a token sum or in kind.

Will I be Guaranteed Maintenance After Filing an Application?

It is important to note that not all parents who file an application are awarded maintenance. In other words, maintenance is not guaranteed after filing an application.

In addition, a child can refuse to provide maintenance if the child can show proof that the parent had abandoned, abused or neglected the child. For example, a parent could have neglected a child by failing to support them while they were young.

However, it is the responsibility of the child to provide proof of abandonment, abuse or neglect when filing for a Maintenance Order with the Tribunal (see below).

How Can I Obtain Maintenance from My Children?

1. File a claim with the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents (CMP)

The CMP offers an informal and non-legal means for a parent and child to resolve the issue of provision of maintenance amicably through conciliation.

Parents must first strive for conciliation at the Commissioner’s Office before filing an application for maintenance at the Tribunal.

A parent has to contact the Commissioner’s Office directly at 1800-222-0000, before proceeding to file a claim with the CMP. You may also visit the Commissioner’s office at Family Link @ Lengkok Bahru, 8 Lengkok Bahru, #02-01 Singapore 159052.

Alternatively, a parent would be referred to the CMP by agencies such as Social Service Officers, Family Service Centres or Hospitals.

What is conciliation and what happens during a conciliation session?

A conciliation session offers the parent as well as the children the opportunity to share their views on the parent’s claim for maintenance.

A conciliation officer will facilitate the session by hearing your views and those of your children. He/she will solely act in the interests of both you and your child to ensure that a fair and equitable maintenance settlement is reached.

The conciliation officer will not make decisions, recommendations or assessments of your situation, nor is he/she able to give advice on the matter.

It is important that you and your child participate in the conciliation session in a calm and civil manner. Aggressive behaviour, verbal abuse or fights are not allowed during conciliation. If such incidents occur, your claim may be dismissed.

What if my child does not respond to the notice to attend conciliation?

Your child is required to attend a conciliation session, and the Commissioner is empowered by law to ask your child, in notice of writing, to attend a session when you have filed a claim.

If your child fails to attend the session without a valid reason, this will be taken into consideration by the Tribunal at the hearing of the maintenance application.

What happens if my child agrees to pay maintenance during this stage?

If your child agrees to pay maintenance, you and your child will sign a memorandum of agreement.

This agreement will state the following:

  • The agreed amount of maintenance;
  • The date on which the payment of the maintenance will begin; and
  • The details of the parent’s bank account.

The conciliation officer will provide a copy of the parent’s bank account details to the child for verification. This is to ensure that the maintenance will be deposited into the correct bank account.

What happens if the conciliation session is unsuccessful?

If conciliation is unsuccessful, the parent may wish to file an application at the TMP to obtain a Maintenance Order against their children.

2. File for a Maintenance Order at the Tribunal for Maintenance of Parents (TMP)

The TMP is a last resort if the parent and child is unable to resolve the dispute through conciliation. It is a legal channel where the Tribunal will decide if the parent’s application for maintenance should be granted or dismissed.

A quorum of 3 Tribunal members will hear the application and make an order after considering the circumstances of the situation.

How do I file a maintenance application at the Tribunal?

In order to file a maintenance application against your child, you will need to make the application in person at the Secretariat Office of the Tribunal using the prescribed application form. This form is available at the Office, as well as on the Maintenance of Parents website.

Do note that none of the parties can be represented by a lawyer at the Tribunal. Instead, the Commissioner will represent parents in filing a claim at the Tribunal.

In addition, you are required to bring along and provide the following documents and information for the maintenance application:

  • Your NRIC;
  • Your bank account passbook or statement;
  • Information on your assets/savings;
  • Information on your living expenses;
  • Any medical reports, if applicable; and
  • Name, NRIC number and last known address of your child.

The application is free of charge.

What if the parent has lost mental capacity?  

Where the parent is unable to make an application for maintenance under the MPA due to a loss of physical or mental capacity, section 11 of the MPA allows the application to be made on the parent’s behalf by:

  • Any member of his family;
  • Any person in whose care he resides; or
  • Any other person whom the parent has authorised to make the application on his behalf.

What happens after I have filed the application?

Documents will be served on your child for him/her to respond

After you have filed the application, the Tribunal will serve the following documents on your child by registered post:

  • Notice of Application;
  • The completed application for maintenance; and
  • Statement of Applicant (i.e. the parent’s statement in filing for maintenance).

Your child will be given 14 days to respond to your maintenance application and file an answer using the prescribed form. If your child wishes to include their siblings in the application, they will have to do so using another prescribed form.

What if my child is overseas?

As the MPA allows the Tribunal to serve notice to your child’s last known address, the Tribunal is empowered to make a Maintenance Order against him/her even if he/she is overseas. This is provided that:

  • You know your child’s address in the foreign country; and
  • Your child lives in a “reciprocating country” (i.e a country that has made arrangements with Singapore on maintenance matters).

Attend mediation

Before hearing your application, the Tribunal will refer you and your children to undergo mediation with a conciliation officer. This is to assist you and your children in resolving the dispute out-of-court as far as possible.

To facilitate the mediation, you and your child should make complete, full and honest disclosure to the conciliation officer and to one another of all relevant information and documents that might be required during the mediation.

The date of the mediation session will be stated in the Notice of Application. If the mediation is unsuccessful, then you and your child will be required to attend a hearing on the application before the Tribunal.

What are the factors that the Tribunal will take into consideration in assessing applications for maintenance?

Under section 5 of the MPA, the Tribunal will take into consideration the following factors in assessing the claim for maintenance:

  • The financial needs of the parent, taking into account reasonable expenses for housing and medical costs
  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the parent and the manner in which the parent has spent his savings or dissipated his financial resources
  • Any physical or mental disability of the parent
  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the child
  • The expenses incurred by the child in supporting his spouse and/or children
  • The contributions and provisions, whether financial or otherwise, which the child has made for the maintenance of the parent

What are the possible outcomes of a Tribunal Hearing?

After hearing the application for maintenance, the Tribunal may make one of the following orders:

1. Make the Maintenance Order on the application

The Tribunal may make a Maintenance Order in favour of the parent if, after considering the factors above, the Tribunal finds that:

  • It is just and equitable for the child to maintain the parent;
  • The child is found to be financially capable of maintaining the parent after providing for himself, his/her spouse and children; and
  • The parent is unable to maintain himself through work or from his property or any other source, despite his efforts to do so.

Maintenance Orders are legally binding, and your child will be required by law to provide maintenance once such an order has been issued against them.

If there is more than one child named in the application, the Tribunal may apportion the maintenance in a fair manner among all the children.

2. Dismiss the application

The Tribunal may dismiss a parent’s application for maintenance if there is proof that the parent had abandoned, abused or neglected his children.

Under section 14(7)(a) of the MPA, the Tribunal can also dismiss an application if, based on the parties’ evidence, it is deemed to be frivolous or vexatious (i.e. the application does not have sufficient grounds to proceed, or is brought forward just to cause annoyance to the child).

3. Adjourn the hearing on the application

The Tribunal may also adjourn the hearing to a later date if there is a need to. For example, it may want to summon another person to attend the hearing and give evidence as a witness.

Can I apply to change the Maintenance Order made by the Tribunal?

The parent or any of his children who are named in the Maintenance Order may apply for a variation of the Order under the following circumstances as provided under section 8(1) of the MPA:

  • The Order was based on a misrepresentation or mistake of fact;
  • There has been a material change in the circumstances of the parent or the child that, for example, requires an increase or decrease in the amount of maintenance payable; or
  • For some other good cause that satisfies the Tribunal.

Applications to change the Maintenance Order must be made in person at the Secretariat Office of the Tribunal.

Can I appeal against the Tribunal’s order?

It is possible for the parent and/or the child to appeal the Tribunal. For example, a parent may make an appeal over the amount of maintenance payable.

Appeals must be made to the High Court by writing to the Family Registry of the Family Justice Courts.

We hope this article has addressed any doubts or concerns that you may have about your child’s obligations and filing an application for maintenance in Singapore. For more information, you might wish to refer to the Maintenance of Parents website.

Do also note that it is the legal duty of a parent to maintain his/her child until he/she turns 21 years old. If you feel that your spouse is not providing reasonable maintenance for your child, you may wish to contact one of our trusted family lawyers to explore the possibilities of obtaining maintenance for your child.

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