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Maintenance based on needs rather than gender could take place

This and other maintenance-related changes could take place as the Government looks at how to strengthen different parts of the Women's Charter.

SINGAPORE: Award maintenance based on needs and not just by gender – that is one proposed amendment to the Women's Charter that could take place after public consultations wrap up early next year. 

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday (July 23) after a dialogue with representatives from various women's groups, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said on Wednesday (July 23) that the Government will look at different parts of the Charter to see which areas can be strengthened.

"While today we are very focused on the issue of supporting the women and the children, there are some very exceptional cases where we may have to look at the interests of the men, who might be incapacitated for whatever unfortunate circumstances,” he said. “They might have met with an accident and be unable to work, so the issue is if they get into divorce proceedings, then what can we do as individuals and as a society to help them in such unfortunate circumstances where they get a double whammy - where they not only see their marriage broken up, but at the same time they might be unable to care for themselves."

So in cases of severe disability, a woman could be asked to contribute maintenance to support her ex-husband. It is part of the push to alleviate financial hardship for vulnerable families during divorce. Currently, women are entitled to maintenance from ex-husbands regardless of how much they earn.

Mr Chan also said his ministry is also looking at strengthening support for women whose ex-husbands default on maintenance payments. This could be because these men do not hold stable jobs, or perhaps are from other countries and flee Singapore after the divorce.

Enforcement of maintenance is also being looked at by a committee tasked to review the family justice system here, after the Family Justice Bill was tabled in Parliament earlier this month. In the last two years, there were about 3,000 applications filed in court each year to enforce maintenance payments. About 60 per cent of the defaulters in these cases were from the low-income group.

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