Single and Unwed Mothers in Singapore: Frequently Asked Questions

In this article, we address some common questions and queries that have been raised by unwed and/or single mothers in Singapore. This FAQ is a collaboration with Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support Ltd, an NGO for girls 21 and below who are in a pregnancy crisis in need of help and support.

  1. Can I press charges against my boyfriend for not taking responsibility for our baby?
  2. My boyfriend’s family has refused to take responsibility and denies that it is their son’s baby unless I undergo DNA testing. Can I get them to pay for the cost of the DNA test?
  3. My boyfriend’s family has refused to take responsibility and denies that it is their son’s baby unless I undergo DNA testing. Can I get them to pay for the cost of the DNA test?
  4. Does the father of my child have the right to see the baby if he is paying maintenance? If he is not paying any maintenance, does he still have any right?
  5. What can I do when the father of my child defaulted his maintenance payments claiming that he is currently unemployed?
  6. Is there any way for a single mother to apply for a rental flat?
  7. My daughter is 21 years old and pregnant, and is currently in a relationship with a married man. I caught my daughter engaging in sexual intercourse with her boyfriend when she was under-aged. She was 14 then and he was 19. I wish to apply for a court order to forbid them to meet again. Can I press the charge of statutory rape now? Is there any difference if my daughter is presently below 21 years of age?
  8. Where can I seek legal advice? I heard about the $1 Legal Aid? Where is that and what is the requirement?
  9. The father of my child has never been in the picture since I got pregnant. Few months/years later he came back wanting to claim his right on the baby? What should I do?
  10. Can my ex-boyfriend’s family or my own family forbid me from seeing my own baby? I am a teen mom below 21. My dad feels that I cannot handle my baby. My boyfriend’s mum refuses to let me see my baby. My parents are divorced and I am under the legal custody of my dad but due to some conflict I am currently staying with my mum. What can I do? I miss my baby a lot.
  11. I got married to my wife as she claimed that the baby is mine. One year later, she met her ex-boyfriend and finally admitted that baby is not mine. I have grown to love the baby. However, she has forbidden me from seeing the baby. Is there anything I can do for this injustice? Can I fight for the baby? Can I press any charges against her?
  12. If my wife/husband has an affair, is there anything that I can do?
  13. Where can I seek protection when my husband/boyfriend has violent tendencies? What can I do to seek help?

1. Can I press charges against my boyfriend for not taking responsibility for our baby?

It is important that both parents consider the best interests of the child. Hence, while it is not possible to press criminal charges against your boyfriend for refusing to acknowledge your child, if he refuses to accept responsibility, you may wish to obtain legal assistance to negotiate or attempt mediation with the father. This is to ensure that he is aware of his financial and moral obligations with regard to your child. Singapore case law also recognises that the unmarried father of a child has parental authority over, and responsibility for the child.

If this fails and he refuses to accept responsibility, you may wish to consider getting the Court’s assistance in ensuring that your child is adequately supported. This can include claiming maintenance for your child by obtaining a maintenance order. This would mean that your boyfriend, as the biological father, is legally obligated to provide financial support to your child until your child is 21 years old.

2. My boyfriend’s family has refused to take responsibility and denies that it is their son’s baby unless I undergo DNA testing. Can I get them to pay for the cost of the DNA test? 

If DNA testing is performed and it is found that your boyfriend is the biological father of your child, then you can legally claim maintenance from him to support your child. The maintenance paid can then go towards covering the costs of the DNA test; however, there is no straightforward way of getting your boyfriend’s family to pay for the costs initially.

3. How can I seek maintenance from the father of my child even though we are not married? Is there any difference if the name of the father is registered on the birth certificate?

Unmarried female partners can claim maintenance for their children from the biological father, although they are unable to claim maintenance for themselves. Having the name of the father registered on the birth certificate serves as evidence that he is the biological father, and can be legally obliged to pay maintenance through a maintenance order.

4. Does the father of my child have the right to see the baby if he is paying maintenance? If he is not paying any maintenance, does he still have any right? 

There is generally no guarantee that a father who pays maintenance on a regular basis can have smooth access to his child, as the Court considers maintenance issues and parenting issues separately. It is therefore common for legal proceedings to be commenced in the Family Justice Courts to resolve custody and access issues, even when concerning unmarried couples. This is because while Singapore law does not recognise the rights of unmarried couples, the law on custody, care and control and access are the same for married and unmarried couples.

Nevertheless, so long as he is the biological father, he is entitled to some form of visitation rights, or access, to the child, regardless of whether he is paying maintenance or not.

5. What can I do if the father of my child has defaulted in his maintenance payments claiming that he is currently unemployed? 

If there is a maintenance order in place and the father is unable to make payments due to his being unemployed, the Court may vary the maintenance order due to a material change in his circumstances. However, he will have to apply to the Court for an Order that the terms of the maintenance order be modified or even suspended, until he is able to make the payments.

In the absence of evidence of such a material change in circumstances, it is possible for you to apply to enforce the maintenance order at the Family Justice Courts. The Court will then impose the appropriate penalties, which may include a prison sentence, or a community service order.

6. Is there any way for a single mother to apply for a rental flat?  

It is possible to apply for a rental flat under the Public Rental Scheme, either as a family or as joint singles.

If you are applying as a family, your household must include at least another Singapore citizen or permanent resident. This can include your parents if they will also be living with you in the rental property, or if you are widowed or divorced, your child who is under your legal custody.

If you are applying as joint singles, the other listed occupier must also be a Singapore citizen and considered a single.

Further information on the eligibility criteria for rental flat schemes in Singapore can be found here.

7. My daughter is 21 years old and pregnant, and is currently in a relationship with a married man. I caught my daughter engaging in sexual intercourse with her boyfriend when she was under-aged. She was 14 then and he was 19. I wish to apply for a court order to forbid them to meet again. Can I press the charge of statutory rape now? Is there any difference if my daughter is presently below 21 years of age?

It is a criminal offence, to have sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16, with or without the minor’s consent. If the minor is a girl below 14 years of age, the offence is called statutory rape.

In this instance, sexual intercourse with your daughter who was not below 14 years at the time, constitutes the offence of ‘Statutory Penetration of a Minor under 16’, and the offender is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years and/or a fine. This is regardless of whether your daughter, a minor, consented to the act.

As there is no time bar that applies to criminal cases in Singapore, it is possible to lodge a police report for the offence committed against your daughter when she was 14 years old. However, if she has reached the age of majority (i.e. is 21 years of age), she has the right to decide if she wishes to proceed with possible criminal proceedings against the alleged offender. If she is still a minor, then her parent or legal guardian may wish to do so on her behalf.

8. Where can I seek legal advice? I heard about the $1 Legal Aid? Where is that and what is the requirement? 

In Singapore, the Legal Aid Bureau provides legal aid, assistance and advice to Singapore citizens or permanent residents and who pass both the means test and the merits test. A S$1 fee is usually paid when a potential applicant comes to the Legal Aid Bureau to seek initial advice and consultation from the lawyers on their case.

The means test determines an applicant’s financial eligibility for legal aid by looking at the applicant’s disposable income and disposable capital. Only persons with a disposable income of not more than S$10,000 per year, and a disposable capital of not more than S$10,000 may be granted legal aid.

Under the merits test, you must show that you have a good reason to bring or defend your case under the law.

It must be noted that legal aid is not free and most people will be required to make a contribution towards the costs of work done in the case. This amount is assessed with regard to the applicant’s financial means, the nature of the case, the amount of work done and the amount of money that has been recovered for the applicant.

The Legal Aid Bureau typically handles cases such as divorce, adoption, estate matters and claims for compensation in injury or medical negligence cases. It does not handle criminal proceedings and certain civil proceedings like defamation cases.

Detailed information on the eligibility requirements is available here. A brochure highlighting the Legal Aid Scheme in Singapore can also be downloaded.

9. The father of my child has never been in the picture since I got pregnant. A few months/years later he came back wanting to claim his rights to the baby? What should I do? 

As long as he is the biological father, he is entitled to some form of visitation rights, or access, to the child, even if he was not involved in raising the child before. However, this does not necessarily equate to having complete access to, care and control of, or custody over the child, unless the biological father wishes to bring legal proceedings to obtain these additional rights to the child.

10. Can my ex-boyfriend’s family or my own family forbid me from seeing my own baby? I am a teen mom below 21. My dad feels that I cannot handle my baby. My boyfriend’s mum refuses to let me see my baby. My parents are divorced and I am under the legal custody of my dad but due to some conflict I am currently staying with my mum. What can I do? I miss my baby a lot. 

As the biological mother of the child, you may wish to commence legal proceedings in the Family Justice Courts to obtain reasonable access to your child. This is because as a minor yourself, there may be concerns over whether your personal circumstances will ensure that the well-being and interests of your child are taken care of, if you wish to obtain custody, care and control.

Nevertheless, there are generally no legal grounds to forbid you from seeing your child, as you are the natural mother.

11. I got married to my wife as she claimed that the baby is mine. One year later, she met her ex-boyfriend and finally admitted that the baby is not mine. I have grown to love the baby. However, she has forbidden me from seeing the baby. Is there anything I can do about this injustice? Can I fight for the baby? Can I press any charges against her? 

As the child remains that of your wife and her ex-boyfriend, you have no rights or duties to this child, although you can choose to treat the child as the child of the family and maintain the child. Although you may wish to have access to the child, there is no legal requirement for this and it requires consent of the biological parents in these circumstances.

12. If my husband has an affair, is there anything that I can do? 

If you believe that your husband is having an affair, you may consider commencing divorce proceedings. The sole ground of divorce is irretrievable breakdown of marriage. This can be shown in various ways, including that your husband has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him.

However, the standard of proving adultery is high, and is usually provided by a confession from the spouse who has committed adultery, or evidence such as a report from a private investigator. It is important to note that there are high costs involved if you want to hire a private investigator, and such a report may not be accepted by the Court if the evidence is not considered to be strong.

In the absence of such evidence, then you may wish to consider commencing divorce proceedings on the basis that your husband has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him (colloquially known as “unreasonable behaviour”) or unreasonable behaviour with improper association (other than adultery).

Do note that you can commence divorce proceedings if you are a Singapore citizen or have lived in Singapore for at least 3 years prior to commencing the divorce. You would also have to be married for at least 3 years. If not, a separate court application needs to be taken out prior to commencing divorce proceedings.

13. Where can I seek protection when my husband/boyfriend has violent tendencies? What can I do to seek help? 

Practically, you may wish to lodge a police report, and ask an NGO for help, e.g. Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), and if you are 21 and below and pregnant, Babes. They may advise you on steps to take aside from the legal options below.

Peronal Protection Order (PPO) – If you are the victim of violence by your husband, you may wish to apply for a PPO. PPOs can only be applied against a family member e.g. spouse or ex-spouse, or relative whom the court may regard as a member of your family. You would therefore not be able to obtain a PPO against your boyfriend, as he would not fall within the category of a ‘family member’. You will need to apply at the Protection Order Services at Level 1 of the Family Justice Courts. There are also alternative locations available for those unable to come down personally. It is not necessary to appoint a lawyer when making an application for a PPO.

Further information can be obtained at: https://www.familyjusticecourts.gov.sg/Common/Pages/FamilyViolence.aspx

Protection from Harassment Act – In the case of violent tendencies of your boyfriend or a non-family member, you may wish to consider obtaining a court order pursuant to the Protection from Harassment Act. This Act provides for the criminalisation of conduct that places the victim in fear, or provocation of violence. This includes the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. An application for a Protection Order under this Act needs to be made in Court. In urgent cases, the Court may also grant an Expedited Protection Order, until a hearing for a Protection Order is conducted.

Disclaimer: The information above does not constitute any form of legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for appropriate advice.

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Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support Ltd
Blk 26, Jalan Klinik #01-42/52
Singapore 160026
www.babes.org.sg


Babes operates a 24-hour helpline, and teenagers facing a pregnancy crisis or requiring assistance can either contact their toll-free line at 1800-TeenMom (1800-833-6666), or SMS helpline at 8111-3535.

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