For parents who are going through a divorce, an order for child maintenance will be made as part of the final orders in the divorce proceedings.
See: Section 127 of Women’s Charter (Singapore)
Application for maintenance order at the Family Justice Courts
If it has been found that one parent has neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for his/ her child who is unable to maintain himself/ herself, the Court may order that parent to pay a lump sum or a monthly allowance for the maintenance of that child.
This application is suitable in cases where:
1. Parents are not married.
2. Parents are going through a divorce and one parent has neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the child of the marriage before the conclusion of the divorce proceedings.
See: Sections 68 to 71 of Women’s Charter (Singapore)
Step 1: Application for child maintenance
To make an application for child maintenance, an applicant must bring along the following documents to the Family Justice Courts:
1. His/ her identity card.
2. Photocopy of the child’s birth certificate.
3. Photocopy of the applicant’s marriage certificate (if applicable).
The person making the application is known as the “complainant” while the other party is known as the “respondent”.
After the complainant submits his/ her application for maintenance, he/ she must swear or affirm his/ her complaint before a Magistrate or District Judge. To swear/ affirm the complaint is to confirm that the contents in the application form are true and accurate.
Assuming all is in order, a summons will be issued to the respondent. The complainant needs to pay a nominal fee for the issuance of the summons.
Step 2: Service of the summons
The respondent will receive a letter notifying him/ her to accept the summons at the Maintenance Registry of the Family Justice Courts on a stipulated date (service date) and time.
If the respondent fails to show up, the Court’s process server will serve the summons on him/ her at his/ her home or workplace. The respondent will be informed to attend Court on a stipulated day.
On the service date, parties will be able to engage in mediation.
In the mediation process, parties will be able to communicate openly with each other and explore options through the assistance of a mediator. The appointed mediator will facilitate discussion between parties.
If parties manage to reach a settlement via mediation, the settlement will be recorded as a Court order and the case concludes.
If no settlement is reached, the case will be mentioned in Court 1 of the Family Justice Courts.
Step 3: Court mentions
A mention is an administrative hearing which will usually last no more than 10 minutes.
The Court will give directions for parties to file and exchange affidavits (sworn/ affirmed factual statements). The following documents will be exhibited in parties’ affidavits:
1. List of monthly expenses, for themselves and the child.
2. Receipts evidencing expenses.
3. Salary slips.
4. IRAS Notices of Assessments.
5. Bank and CPF statements.
6. Documents evidencing any debts.
Lawyers will be able to assist parties in the preparation of the affidavits.
Trial date(s) will be given at the last mention.
If the complainant does not turn up on any of the Court dates, including the service date, his/ her application may be struck out and a fresh application for child maintenance needs to be filed if necessary.
On the other hand, if the respondent does not turn up on the mention date, the Court may issue a Warrant of Arrest against him/ her.
Step 4: Trial
Eventually, if parties are not able to resolve their differences out of Court, there will be a trial after which the Court will make the necessary orders. Parties may appeal to the High Court if they are not satisfied with the orders.
If the respondent refuses to pay the ordered maintenance, an application for enforcement can be filed in the Family Justice Courts. Arrears can be recovered up to a period of 3 years prior to the filing of the enforcement application.
Enforcement procedures are similar to the procedures for a fresh application as explained above. However, the applicant would need to bring along a copy of the Court order when making the application, in addition the documents listed in Step 1.
After an application is made, the Court may direct the Respondent to “show cause” as to why:
1. He/ she has breached the child maintenance order; and
2. Enforcement action should not be taken against him/ her.
The Court has the power to impose a fine or jail term on the defaulting parent.
Attachment to earnings order
The Court also has the power to make an “attachment to earnings order” which requires the employer of the defaulting party to deduct the order maintenance sum from his/ her salary and to pay this sum to the person receiving or to Court so that the person comes to Court to receive the amount.
Your divorce/ family lawyer can assist by:
1. Advising you on the strength of your case (if you wish to make an application for child maintenance or defending you against an application for child maintenance).
2. Representing you in all proceedings relating to child maintenance, including application and enforcement.
3. Drafting and filing the documents required by the Court, including your affidavits.
4. Representing you in negotiations with the other party, mediation sessions and in Court for trial and mentions.
You may also be interested to read more about:
2. Annulment (Nullity) of Marriage
5. Maintenance Issues (Alimony)