What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Provide Maintenance

Last updated on November 18, 2019

A couple fighting over money

You may have received a maintenance order from the judge for your ex-spouse to provide maintenance for your child, yourself, or the both of you. However, your ex-spouse has defaulted on maintenance payments. What can you do to continue receiving such payments?

Applying to Enforce the Maintenance Order

In such situations, you may apply to enforce the maintenance order through making a Magistrate’s Complaint.

When making the application, consider submitting a draft application online via iFAMS (Integrated Family Application Management Systems) first. This is not compulsory, but you are encouraged to do so.

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 to enforce the maintenance order. You will need the following documents for the application:

  • Order of Court for the maintenance order you wish to enforce
  • 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 an application to enforce a maintenance order under iFAMS.

The next step is to go to one of the following organisations with the above documents to have them verified, and then submit your maintenance application:

* The HELP Family Service Centre and PPIS As-Salaam Family Support Centre are only able to handle applications for the enforcement of maintenance orders arising from divorce proceedings.

If you did not submit a draft application via iFAMS, you can also make your application at the above locations, 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 other locations, 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.

What Happens after the Application to Enforce the Maintenance Order is Accepted?

If your application is in order, the judge will issue a summons to your ex-spouse. This summons will state a date for a first court hearing of the matter. Both you and your ex-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 ex-spouse. A summary of what happens in court after that is as follows:

  • If your ex-spouse shows up in court, a court officer will read your application to your ex-spouse. If your ex-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 ex-spouse fails to show up that day, a warrant of arrest will be issued against him/her.
    • If you fail to show up that day, your application will be struck out.
  • If your ex-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.

You should also prepare a calculation on how much maintenance you are currently owed. For example:

  • A table stating which months you’re being owed maintenance and how much you are being owed
  • Bank statements which show how much maintenance has/has not been paid yet
  • Documentary evidence of expenses that you are allowed to claim maintenance for

What Can Happen to the Defaulting Ex-Spouse after a Successful Application to Enforce a Maintenance Order

Ordered by the court to pay maintenance

When enforcing the maintenance order, the court will order the defaulting ex-spouse to pay the outstanding amount of maintenance.

Such a court order will typically state what the outstanding maintenance sum is as of the date of the order, and whether the amount owed should be paid in a single payment or in monthly instalments.

Subject to a fine and/or jail term

Under section 71 of the Women’s Charter, the defaulting ex-spouse may be fined and/or or imprisoned for up to 1 month for each month of maintenance owed.

Even if imprisonment is meted out, this does not excuse the defaulter from making payment upon release.

Sent for financial counselling

The court may order the defaulting ex-spouse to go for financial counselling. This is especially in cases where the defaulters themselves are in financial difficulties.

Other consequences

The court can also order the defaulting ex-spouse to undergo one or more of the following:

  • Perform unpaid community service for up to 40 hours
  • Be subject to an attachment of earnings order – which compels the defaulter’s employer to deduct the maintenance money from his/her monthly wage and pay it to the court.

You can also get a credit bureau to list the debt in a defaulting ex-spouse’s credit report, which can be accessed by banks and financial institutions. This way, should your ex-spouse desire to take out loans or sign up for hire-purchase schemes in future, it will be very difficult for him/her to do so.

What Else Can You Do?

Even if you may feel aggrieved that your spouse is not providing maintenance, you should continue to perform the duties required of you. For example, if you are the parent with care and control of your children, you should continue to grant access to your spouse.

Despite the changes made to streamline the process for filing complaints and to provide more options for courts to deal with defaulters, persistent defaulters may still get away simply by refusing to pay. This will force their spouses to return to court frequently each time they default on payment, causing them to incur additional legal expenses.

This also causes cases to drag on indefinitely. Some do so in the hopes that the complaining spouse might give up after a while, given the hassle of repeatedly filing applications to enforce maintenance.

If you are in such a situation, you may want to consider applying to court to vary the monthly maintenance payments to a lump sum maintenance payment instead. Speak to one of our experienced divorce lawyers if you want to find out more about how to do so.

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