Regarding Women's Charter

Dear LSS member,

1.    I would appreciate it if LSS gives an answer to a question about the practice of Women’s Charter. This answer may affect all marriages in the island.

2.    There is a widespread concept that “a wife is entitled to apply to the Family Court for maintenance during marriage” (or “entitlement theory”). It is written in one book [1] that “Section 69(1) of the Women’s Charter allows any married woman to make a complaint to the Family Court with a view to the court ordering her husband to provide her reasonable maintenance”, in line with a number of local law books [2-5].

3.    According to Maintenance Case Flow of the Family Court, a wife with a marriage certificate is able to apply for maintenance for herself. Mediation will be conducted, followed by a trial if the mediation fails.

4.    However, is the “entitlement theory” really true?  Women’s Charter says:

a.    69.—(1)  Any married woman whose husband neglects or refuses to provide her reasonable maintenance may apply to a District Court or a Magistrate’s Court and that Court may, on due proof thereof, order the husband to pay a monthly allowance or a lump sum for her maintenance.

5.    Let’s suppose that a husband who has a fixed monthly income of $2000 submits all his income to his wife and gets from her $600 as minimum monthly expenses. This wife has no rights to apply for maintenance because she is unable to prove her husband’s failure in providing her reasonable maintenance. The husband’s rights to maintain himself overwrite his duty to maintain his wife.

6.    In actual practice, a wife’s application may be approved by default and turn into a trial but the approval is conditional but not absolute. If the wife cannot prove her husband irresponsible during the trial, the term of the trial will lapse and the Court will have no powers to make any orders but to dismiss the wife’s application. No evidence, no applications and court orders.

7.    According to the website of Family Court, the usual evidence for maintenance order consists of parties’ incomes and personal monthly expenses. So is the starting point for considering the maintenance for a wife the earnings of the husband and the wife [4], or the irresponsibility a husband to fulfill his duty of maintenance?

Is a married man entitled to provide maintenance without the third party’s interference?

8.    At the very point when a marriage is registered/gets started, a husband has acquired full rights to provide maintenance for his wife in ways he prefers. At this point, the husband’s duty of maintenance is negligible as the accumulation of the duty of maintenance takes time.

9.    It is self-evident that any married man, by default, has provided her wife reasonable maintenance. A husband has no obligations to identify to his wife his financial support as maintenance, because his only duty is simply to provide maintenance. It is a wife’s duty to prove that his husband’s financial support to her is not enough or cannot be used as maintenance, as indicated in one book [6].

10.    According to the “entitlement theory”, it is a married woman’s right to apply for maintenance, no matter her husband has provided it or not. So a rescission/cancellation of a maintenance order may deprive a wife’s rights for maintenance after her divorce, if any.

11.    If a responsible husband gets a maintenance order, he probably won’t be able to get rid of this order unless he files divorce. However, the fact is that a wife may apply as many times as she wishes if she is able to show with evidence of her husband’s irresponsibility.

12.    Unfortunately, none of the cases cited in the books mentioned above has listed the failure of a husband in providing her wife reasonable maintenance. So on what grounds have those maintenance orders been made?

13.    The statistics over the past 10 or 20 years on the rejection rate of wives’ applications for Maintenance during their marriage will clearly show the role played by the “entitlement theory” in making maintenance orders.

14.    If a marriage breaks down irrevocably solely as a result of a maintenance order on a responsible husband, is it possible for the ex-couple to apply to the Court for compensation?

Thank you very much for your patience and attention to my naive thoughts. I would appreciate it if LSS reply this letter at your earliest convenience to the public.

Best regards,

A responsible husband

Reference:
[1]    Leong, W.K., Elements of family law in Singapore. 2007, Singapore: LexisNexis. Page 477. ISBN: 9812365990
[2]    Goh, P.S., 婚姻法. 家事法. (一), 新加坡《妇女宪章》50年. 2012, Singapore. Page 88. ISBN: 9789810720810
[3]    Foo, S.F., When marriages break down : rights, obligations and division of property. Law for layman series. 2005, Singapore: Sweet & Maxwell Asia. Page 177. ISBN: 9810529538
[4]    Koh, T.H., Divorce, untying the knot : all you need to know about divorce laws in Singapore. 2005, Singapore: Times Editions. Page 90. ISBN: 9812328203
[5]    沈茂树 (Shen, M., 离婚 = Divorce : 新加坡婚姻家庭法、中国婚姻法律制度、以案说法 / 沈茂树律师著. 2002, 新加坡 玲子传媒私人有限公司. ISBN:  9814127175
[6]    Leong, W.K., Singapore women’s charter : 50 questions.2011, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Page 93. ISBN: 9789814311076

Editor’s note: Are there also any lawyers out there willing to help out this particular reader to answer his questions. If need be, you can forward us your email and we’ll pass your contact to this reader so that he can contact you directly for help.

The Woman’s charter is full of loopholes, let me elaborate furthur;
1) When a man and a woman register a marriage, you need to identify their own incomes first before deciding on maintenance orders.
a) What happens when the woman earns more than a man? Is the man entitled to claim maintenance?
b) How do you define “enough maintenance”? Every family have different lifestyle and different “maintenance needs”.
c) If children are involved, they should be “first claim owners” of any maintenance orders.
d) “Maintenance orders” should not “en-rich” the person who files the claims first.
e) Legal rights of citizens and non-citizens with regards to “maintenance orders”.
f) Once settlement is reached there should not be any furthur disputes in the future regarding future income, especially during divorces.

– Contributed by Oogle.

Author: Gilbert Tan TS

IT expert with more than 20 years experience in Apple, Andriod and Windows PC. Interests include hardware and software, Internet and multimedia. An experienced Real Estate agent, Insurance agent, and a Futures trader.

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