In Singapore, spousal maintenance is a payment made by one spouse to the other in the event of separation or divorce.
Maintenance can also be paid on an interim basis before final judgement is reached and only awarded if one party cannot support themselves without payments from the other. It can be awarded for a specified term or for life in some cases.
This guide explains everything you need to know about maintenance in Singapore, from how much maintenance one can expect to receive, to interim spousal maintenance applications, and what happens if an ex-spouse defaults on their payments.
How much maintenance can I get after a divorce?
The law provides that the amount of maintenance ordered should allow the wife to continue to live at a level she did immediately before the breakdown of a marriage.
At the same time, this principle must be applied in a commonsense holistic manner that considers the new realities that flow from the breakdown of a marriage.
The wife is still expected to secure gainful employment and earn as much as reasonably possible. Multiple rejections when applying for jobs are expected, and cannot be used as an excuse.
When assessing the amount of maintenance to be paid by a man to his former wife, the court considers various matters such as:
- the income each of the parties to the marriage has,
- the financial needs of each of the parties,
- the standard of living enjoyed before the breakdown of marriage,
- the age of each party,
- the duration of the marriage,
- any physical or mental disability of either party, and
- the contributions made by each of the parties to the marriage.
Read more: Determining Maintenance in Singapore
How many times can I apply for maintenance?
An important thing to note when applying for maintenance is that courts can only hear an application for maintenance once.
This means that once a lower court has already dismissed an application for maintenance, the party is not entitled to make a fresh application on appeal.
As a result, maintenance applications need to be carefully prepared.
Our divorce lawyers can assist and guide you through the application process for maintenance.
Since only one application is allowed, a popular option for those who are financially well off and not in need of maintenance at the moment is to seek a nominal order of maintenance.
This preserves one’s right to apply for substantive maintenance, and invokes the court’s jurisdiction to vary the maintenance order, should the need arise in the future.
However, courts will not automatically award nominal maintenance.
In a situation where the wife can take care of herself, with no signs of her successful career being adversely affected in the near future, the court will not grant the wife’s request for nominal maintenance.
Read more: Guide on Spousal Maintenance in Singapore
Can spousal maintenance orders be varied or rescinded?
Yes. Either party can apply to the court to vary or rescind a maintenance order if there is a significant change in circumstances, like a substantial change in income, unexpected financial hardship, or if the recipient spouse remarries.
What is Interim Spousal Maintenance?
Interim spousal maintenance refers to the temporary financial support that one spouse might be ordered to pay to the other while divorce proceedings are ongoing.
This contrasts with permanent or long-term maintenance that may be awarded after the conclusion of the divorce proceedings.
The objective of interim maintenance is to ensure that the financially dependent spouse can maintain their standard of living during the divorce process and isn’t unfairly disadvantaged due to financial hardships arising from the pending divorce.
Whether an interim order is granted would depend on whether there is a clear and/or urgent need for it.
When Can You Apply for Interim Spousal Maintenance?
In Singapore, you can apply for interim maintenance:
Upon Filing for Divorce
: As soon as you initiate divorce proceedings, you can apply for interim maintenance. This is to ensure that there isn’t a prolonged period during the divorce process where you’re without financial support, especially if you were financially dependent on your spouse.
When There’s a Financial Need
: If you lack sufficient means for your daily expenses and sustenance during the divorce process and your spouse has the capacity to provide, you can apply.
Before Ancillary Matters Are Settled
: Since the final maintenance amount (if any) is typically decided during the ancillary matters phase post the granting of the interim judgment in the divorce, you can apply for interim maintenance to assist with living costs until those ancillary matters are resolved.
What happens if my ex-spouse defaults on maintenance payments?
If your spouse defaults on maintenance payments, you can file a complaint in court by way of an enforcement application. The court may enforce payment through various means, including garnishing wages or imposing fines.
Continuous default can lead to more severe legal consequences.
The Singapore Court takes a holistic approach in determining what’s fair. If you find yourself in a position of seeking, modifying, or enforcing maintenance, it’s essential to understand your rights and responsibilities.
For tailored advice and a deeper understanding of your specific situation, our divorce lawyers can advise you on your position.
We’re here for you
At Gloria James-Civetta & Co, we aim to find a solution that will work for you and your family. Our matrimonial law team will provide a consultation tailored to your circumstances and needs.