Maintenance of Spouse in a Singapore Divorce
How is maintenance upon divorce awarded in Singapore? If the wife earns more than the husband, can she still ask for maintenance? In what circumstances does the wife have to provide maintenance for her husband/ex-husband, if any?
Maintenance of the Wife
Section 113 of the Women’s Charter empowers the court to order a man to pay maintenance to his wife or former wife, either during matrimonial proceedings, or after a divorce, judicial separation, or nullity of marriage has been finalised.
The fact that the wife is drawing a large salary (evincing financial self-sufficiency) may influence the Judge, who may be reluctant to award a high quantum, if any, in maintenance fees to the wife. Also, the division of matrimonial assets, especially in circumstances where substantial assets are awarded to the wife, may justify a smaller maintenance for the wife. Maintenance may be paid either in a lump sum or in periodic payments.
Maintenance of the Husband
For a long time now, the law in Singapore was such that the husband was the only party required to provide maintenance for his ex-wife where necessary. However, amendments to the Women’s Charter have made it possible for the husband to apply for maintenance as well. Ill or incapacitated husbands or ex-husbands can now apply for maintenance if he is:
- Incapacitated by a physical or mental disability, before or during the course of marriage;
- Unable to earn a living as a result of the disability; and
- Unable to support himself
Determining the Quantum of Maintenance
The court will look at the facts and determine whether the party seeking maintenance has such a need; and if so, the appropriate quantum of maintenance. Pursuant to section 114 of the Women’s Charter, the factors that will influence such a decision include:
- The earning power of both parties, previously, currently and in the future.
- The assets owned by either and both parties.
- The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of both parties in the future. (For example if the wife is awarded the care and control of the child, she would also need to bear the financial burden of raising the child, whilst the child would require maintenance too. Therefore, the husband may be ordered to pay for such sums.)
- The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the marriage broke down.
- The age of the parties and the duration of the marriage.
- The contributions made by each party to the family.
- Any potential losses suffered by the parties as a result of the marriage.
Tip for Spouses Applying for Maintenance
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This sounds like a “duh” statement, but getting maintenance might actually be difficult if you’re earning a high salary. – The judge may take it that you are financially self-sufficient and hence don’t need much maintenance from your spouse. Or that you don’t need any at all. – But if you aren’t awarded any maintenance during the divorce, you won’t be entitled to apply for ANY maintenance from your ex-spouse in the future. This is even you need the financial support because your circumstances have materially changed. – Therefore even if the judge is reluctant to award you a high amount of maintenance, try to push to get at least $1. This will preserve your option to apply for more maintenance from your ex-spouse should the need arise in the future. #SingaporeLegalAdvice
Even if the Judge is reluctant to order a large maintenance fee, the party applying for maintenance should still push for at least a nominal maintenance fee of $1. This ensures that he/she still has an option of applying for an increase in maintenance under section 112 of the Women’s Charter in future, should the need arise.
However, if the Judge does not grant any maintenance at all, there is no possibility of obtaining maintenance subsequently.
Hence to ensure that there is a safety net of having maintenance when needed, one should try to obtain minimally a $1 maintenance fee. This was highlighted in the Court of Appeal case of AFE v APF, where it was clarified that a lack of order given by the Judge equated to closing off any prospects of maintenance indefinitely.
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