Divorce maintenance claim 'defies logic'

Not logical for remarried woman to opt to stay home to claim support from ex-hubby: Judge

A judge ticked off a divorcee for opting to become a housewife after she remarried so that she could claim maintenance for herself and her child from the previous marriage.

The judge said it was not logical for the woman, who could work, to stay at home because her new husband would support her and their own child - and yet expect her former husband to support her and the child she had with him.

In her decision grounds released earlier this month, District Judge Cheryl Koh wrote: "Taking (her) argument to the fullest, parties would be able to shirk their maintenance obligations to children of their previous marriages by simply remarrying, having new children and stopping work to stay at home and look after their new children."

The woman had asked for $2,500 monthly maintenance for the 10-year-old child, which included $300 a month in babysitting fees for the woman's mother.

Judge Koh wrote: "It defies logic that both (the woman) and her mother are required to stay home to look after the child."

She cut the maintenance sought to $600 a month and an extra $300 at the year's end as expenses for the child.

The couple, who had two children, had divorced in 2011 because of the woman's unreasonable behaviour. She remarried the same year, about six months after the interim divorce judgment; he remarried a year later. Although care and control of the children was granted only to the father, the elder child ended up with the father while the younger one lived with the mother.

The man did not seek maintenance from his former wife to support the child in his care.

The woman claimed she had been unemployed since the 2011 divorce, but the district judge found that her CPF statements contradicted this, showing she was employed until April 2012. The judge also noted that the woman did not give any reason why she could not get a job.

Judge Koh wrote: "If (she) had chosen to stay home after April 2012 because of her remarriage and new child from her second marriage, then the same argument equally applies to the (father) in that he could also stop work because of his remarriage and new child from his second marriage."

In a separate divorce case judgment released in the same week, also involving custody being given to the man, District Judge Suzanne Chin awarded sole care and control of a couple's two girls to the father.

One reason was that the judge found there was " instability" in the home of the boyfriend where the woman, aged 32, had proposed to relocate the children.

The couple had been married for about nine years before getting an interim divorce order in 2014 because of the woman's unreasonable behaviour. The woman met her current boyfriend in 2013 and now has a 10-month-old son with him.

The judge noted that she had occasionally invited the boyfriend to her previous matrimonial home and had "acted inappropriately before the children".

Judge Chin also noted that the children did not really have much of a relationship with the boyfriend and were, in fact, afraid of him.

"In the circumstances, I did not think that it would be in the interests of the children to be placed in a situation where they have daily contact with the wife's boyfriend."

The judge urged both parties to "strive to set aside their differences and work towards a solution of co-parenting which would have the children's interests at heart".

"It is evident that both parents love the children and want what is best for them," said Judge Chin, adding that the children had been "very much impacted by the conflict between them and need their continued love and support".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Divorce maintenance claim 'defies logic''. Print Edition | Subscribe