After the breakdown of a marriage, it remains the responsibility of both parents to upkeep their children financially.
In some countries, namely Australia, the US, and the UK, there is a child maintenance calculator that uses a mathematical approach to determine how much a parent should pay for child maintenance.
The cost usually depends on the number, and age of the children, the income that each parent draws and the children’s expenses that each parent has been historically paying.
While child maintenance in Singapore is not calculated using such a rigid approach, the Courts still consider similar factors in determining the quantum of child maintenance that each parent should pay.
Concept of Child Maintenance
Child maintenance in Singapore is generally payable until the child reaches 21 years old. However, where the child suffers from physical or mental infirmity, or the child is still serving his national service, or where the child is still pursuing an education at university, parents may be ordered to pay child maintenance past the age of 21.
Who must pay Child Maintenance?
Pursuant to the Women’s Charter, a parent is responsible for the maintenance of his or her child. This would include both biological and adoptive parents.
The Courts of Singapore have affirmed that each biological parent has an independent duty to maintain his or her child, whether directly, through the provision of necessities and meeting the child’s needs, or indirectly, through paying for the costs of providing such necessities.
Moreover, the Court opined that no parent could contract out of the obligation to provide for his or her child. Therefore, for adoptive parents, the Women’s Charter is clear that where a person has accepted a child who is not his child as a member of his family, it shall be his duty to maintain that child before he reaches the age of 21 or as the case may be, pursuant to whether there are any exceptional circumstances.
How is Child Maintenance calculated?
As mentioned, the Courts in Singapore do not take a mathematical approach in assessing the quantum of child maintenance to be paid. Instead, they consider the particular facts of each case before deciding what would be a fair amount for each parent to pay.
Section 69(4) of the Women’s Charter sets out a list of factors that guide the Courts in determining the appropriate quantum. The factors are as follows:
- The financial needs of the child;
- The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the child;
- Any physical or mental disability that the child suffers from;
- The age of the spouses and the duration of the marriage;
- The standard of living enjoyed by the child; and
- How the child was being educated or trained and the expectations of the child’s parents.
Ultimately, while these factors are helpful in lending a hand to the Courts to come to a decision, they are not comprehensive. Each case will still be decided based on its own unique factual matrix.
The Courts have expressed that the more important factors taken into consideration are the child’s financial needs, the respective parents’ ability to provide and the standard of living enjoyed by the child.
Income Ratio Approach
In the leading case of ANJ v ANK, the Court used the income ratio approach to determine the appropriate division of financial responsibility that each parent was to bear regarding child maintenance.
In that case, the parents’ earnings were in the proportion of 62:38, while the ratio ordered by the Court was in the proportion of 65:35.
The Court took into account other factors when ordering the proportion granted, such as who was the main caregiver of the child and, most importantly, their financial resources.
It can be seen that the Court is mindful of practical circumstances when deciding how much each parent should pay for their child’s expenses.
The Court will not unfairly make a parent who cannot afford to pay for their child’s expenses fork out a sum of money that would financially cripple them. Instead, they will give due regard to each parent’s earning capacity and financial resources.
The goal is to ensure that every child has access to a reasonable amount of maintenance even after the dissolution of their parent’s marriage. Due regard will be given to the child’s list of expenses in order to determine if the quantum of maintenance sought is reasonable.
There is no fixed formula to determine exactly how much each parent must pay for child maintenance. The Courts in Singapore take a holistic approach in assessing all the facts of the case before coming to a decision as to the appropriate amount to order for child maintenance.
Our Divorce Lawyers will be better able to guide you through the process with knowledge of your specific circumstances. For more detailed advice on child maintenance issues, you can contact our Specialist Divorce Lawyers.