Maintenance of Child—Parental Responsibility—Who is a Parent?


In Singapore, there are two groups of people who are liable to be ordered by a court to provide maintenance for a dependent child. According to Section 68 and 69(2) of the Women’s Charter, a parent is primarily responsible for the maintenance of his or her child. Parental responsibility, including financial responsibility, lasts throughout their joint lives.

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Parental responsibility

Who is a parent?: A ‘parent’ for the purposes of maintenance of a child is not defined. It must include the biological parent. This also includes the adoptive parent, according to Section 7 of the Adoption of Children Act which provides that the person named as an adoptive parent steps into the shoes vacated by the biological parent who gave up the child for adoption.

According to Section 46(1), both the mother and father have equal parental responsibility. Generally, parents are expected to co-operate in discharging their joint responsibility for the benefit and well-being of their child. The obligation rests equally on both father and mother. Parental responsibility remains until the child is financially independent. The obligation is the same irrespective of the child’s legitimate status.

The current law of a parent’s liability is encapsulated in Section 68 of the Women’s Charter. It states that except where an agreement or order of court otherwise provides, the parent has a duty to maintain or contribute to the maintenance of his or her child, whether the child is in his or her custody or not, and whether they are legitimate or illegitimate, either by providing them with the basic necessities as may be reasonable having regards to his or her means and station in life or by paying the cost thereof.

Immaterial whether living with parent

It is immaterial whether the child lives with the parent. A parent living apart from his or her child is equally liable as the other to provide for the financial needs of the dependent child.

Immaterial whether legitimate

It is equally immaterial whether the character of the relationship between the child and his or her parent is legitimate.

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