Can I Obtain Lump Sum Maintenance for Myself and my Child?

lump sum maintenance

In Singapore, parties may apply for spousal maintenance and or child maintenance. In addition, former wives and incapacitated husbands may apply for spousal maintenance.

Children up to 21 or above 21 years of age who are serving full-time National Service or attending tertiary education (e.g. university) may apply for child maintenance.

The Family Justice Court may order such maintenance to be made through a lump-sum payment or periodic payments.

Principles concerning lump sum maintenance payments

Lump-sum maintenance payment may be ordered where:

  • there is a need for a clean break in the marriage to avoid further litigation and acrimony between the parties;
  • it would not cripple the husband financially; and
  • if there is reason to believe that defaults in payments may be likely.

In most cases, as between the former spouses, a clean break would be desirable:

  • Especially where there remains much animosity between the parties. This prevents any further legal disputes between the parties, such as where there is a multiplicity of legal proceedings generated.
  • Parties may also have moved on with their lives, such as getting remarried and having their own separate families.

The Court also looks at the husband’s ability to afford a lump sum payment given his earning capacity and financial resources. If the husband has sufficient financial resources/ substantial assets, the Courts may order a lump sum payment since this would not cripple the husband financially.

As to the risk of default in payments, the Court would need indication that the husband has or is likely to default on payment, given his history of payments (or lack thereof) or whether he has plans to move out of Singapore.

Spousal Maintenance

It is important to note that maintenance for an ex-wife is not a given, and even nominal maintenance will not be ordered automatically or as a matter of course.

Wives who apply for maintenance must justify their financial needs and expenses.

Where a wife is gainfully employed throughout the marriage in a dual-income household, it is unlikely that the Court will award the wife any maintenance. This is because she can support herself financially.

However, where a wife has been a housewife for a substantial, if not for most of the marriage (i.e. a single income household), the Court is likely to grant her maintenance, subject to reasonableness. Of course, this also depends on her age.

The younger the wife is and the shorter the marriage, it may be expected that the wife should endeavour to return to the workforce to secure employment.

However, if the wife is older and has not been working for a longer period or lacks qualifications, such that it will be difficult for her to find another job or return to the workforce, the Court is likely to grant her maintenance.

The issue is then of the quantum of maintenance and whether such maintenance should be by way of lump sum maintenance.

Read more: Determining Maintenance – What the Court Will Ask You

In this regard, the Courts may use the formula in the Court of Appeal case of Ong Chen Leng v Tan Sau Poo [1993] SGCA 53 (“Ong Chen Leng”) as a guide to determine the multiplier (i.e. the number of years for the lump sum maintenance, with the multiplicand being the amount of monthly maintenance):

The Court of Appeal first used the following formula in the case of Ong Chen Leng v Tan Sau Poo [1993] SGCA 53 (“Ong Chen Leng”):

Multiplier = [(Y + Z)/2] – X

X: Payee’s present age
Y: Average age expectancy of the payee
Z: Usual retirement age of payer
(usual retirement age of the payer is the CPF retirement age of 65)

However, it is important to point out that more recently, in the case of TNL v TNK [2017] 1 SLR 609; [2017] SGCA 15, the Court of Appeal made it clear at [62] that the method used in Ong Chen Leng was simply a guide rather than the rule of law and that the award of maintenance must ultimately remain a multi-factorial inquiry by the courts as required under section 114 (1) of the Women’s Charter.

In this regard, section 114 (1) of the Women’s Charter provides that the Court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the following matters:

  • the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
  • the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
  • the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
  • the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;
  • any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;
  • the contributions made by each of the parties to the marriage to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family; and
  • in the case of proceedings for divorce or nullity of marriage, the value to either of the parties to the marriage of any benefit (for example, a pension) which, by reason of the
  • dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring.

The Court would also consider the monies the wife is entitled to under the ancillary matters orders (i.e. the amount she gets from the division of matrimonial assets between parties) and whether the husband himself would have a reasonable sum (e.g., to meet his own retirement and health needs).

Child Maintenance

It bears emphasis that an order for a lump sum payment for the child’s maintenance is ordered sparingly. As between former spouses, a clean break may be desirable. But between a parent and child, a clean break is rarely desirable.

Especially when the child is young, the child’s financial needs will likely change, so the Courts are unlikely to order lump sum maintenance for the child.

Furthermore, where the relationship between the children and their father is strong. There is a genuine interest in his keeping up with the maintenance payments, the Court is unlikely to order a lump sum maintenance for the Children.

The Court, when ordering maintenance for a wife, an incapacitated husband or a child under this section, is to have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the following matters:

  • the financial needs of the wife, incapacitated husband or child;
  • the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the wife, incapacitated husband or child;
  • any physical or mental disability of the wife, incapacitated husband or child;
  • the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;
  • the contributions made by each of the parties to the marriage and the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;
  • the standard of living enjoyed —
    1. by the wife before her husband neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for her;
    2. by the incapacitated husband before his wife neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for him; or
    3. by the child before a parent neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the child;
  • in the case of a child, how the child was being, and in which the parties to the marriage expected the child to be, educated or trained; and
  • the conduct of each of the parties to the marriage, if the conduct is such that it would, in the opinion of the Court, be inequitable to disregard it.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Court will consider various factors when deciding (1) whether maintenance should be granted, (2) the amount of maintenance to be granted and (3) whether such maintenance should be by way of periodic payments or a lump sum maintenance payment.

The Court is mindful of the new realities which follow a failed marriage. This includes separate households, remarriage and even a change of financial circumstances. Each case ultimately turns on its facts.

The suitability of seeking a lump sum maintenance for you and/or your child depends on the specific circumstances of your case.

Our Family Lawyers will be better able to guide you through the process with knowledge of your specific circumstances. For more detailed advice on maintenance issues, you can contact our Specialist Divorce Lawyers.

Should you require legal representation, kindly contact Gloria James-Civetta & Co for a free 20 minute consultation with one of our family lawyers.
Call us on +65 6337 0469