We will take you through four case studies to give you a sense of the considerations that come into play in determining the maintenance sum.
Before that, here is the relevant statute that the court will interpret in coming to its decision. Section 69(4) of the Women’s Charter provides that the court, when ordering maintenance for a wife or child under this section, shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the following matters:
- the financial needs of the wife or child;
- the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the wife or child;
- any physical or mental disability of the wife 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 to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;
- the standard of living enjoyed by the wife or child before the husband or parent, as the case may be, neglected or refused to provide reasonable maintenance for the wife or child;
- in the case of a child, the manner in which he was being, and in which the parties to the marriage expected him 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.
In summary, the two dominant factors that the court considers are:
- The financial needs of the child/spouse; and
- The ability of the parent who is being sued for maintenance to meet these needs
Turning to the first example, we consider the Singapore High Court case of THG v LGH.
|Wife’s income was $600||Applied for child’s maintenance to be increased from $150 to $700||Child’s expenses was $800|
|Husband’s income was $2200, take home pay: $1700||Husband remarried and had two young children from second marriage||Husband’s expenses was $1400|
|Court’s decision: $375|
As can be seen, even though the child had clear financial needs, given the wife’s relatively low income, the ability of the husband was also clearly limited in meeting the child’s needs.
Hence, the court had to balance these two interests in awarding that sum.
Read More about: Child Maintenance: Contribution and Application
Next, we have the Singapore High Court case of Yasufumi Shinozaki.
|Wife’s income was $1200||Wife used to be earning $7000 a month. But can now only work part time at night as she spends the day caring for the children||Child’s expenses was allegedly $4400. In any case, wife demonstrated financial need in her having to desperately sell her car at a significant undervalue|
|Husband’s income was officially $4000.||Husband’s income was likely to be much more, from a business on the side||Husband’s expenses was $1400|
|Court’s decision: $2500|
In this case, the wife was able to provide some information of the business ran by the husband on the side, as well as some extravagant expenses by the husband on his aircraft-modeling hobby. In so doing, she demonstrated the financial ability of the husband.
She was then able to demonstrate the financial needs of the children in the sale of her car, and her getting a part-time job on top of caring for the children in the day.
Regarding maintenance to the spouse, the rationale behind this is to even out any financial inequalities between the spouses, taking into account the economic prejudice suffered by the spouse during the marriage.
Thus, in the Singapore Court of Appeal case of Tan Sue-Ann Melissa, the husband earned $7000 per month. The wife was given the maintenance of $2000 per month.
However, the husband suffered a fresh injury and started earning significantly less. The court hence reduced the maintenance amount to $1100.
In our final case study of NI v NJ, the husband had passed the mandatory retirement age and his employment prospect was uncertain. The court had earlier ordered a maintenance amount of $4000.
The wife appealed seeking $6000. However, the court dismissed that appeal, hence sticking to the sum of $4000.
The court was not persuaded that the wife should continue to enjoy an expatriate lifestyle and live in and shop at Orchard Road.