Man has to help maintain illegitimate child: Court

A company director failed to convince the High Court that he should not have to help maintain an illegitimate child whom he fathered but never wanted.

The 53-year-old father of three, whose extramarital tryst with a sales director in the same company led to the child's birth, argued that he had disowned his offspring and should not be treated as a parent as he had no contact with the child.

But Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu made it clear that, under the Women's Charter, the father had a duty as a parent to support the child. "To paraphrase the provision, a parent has a duty to maintain his or her children, whether they are legitimate or illegitimate," the judge said in judgment grounds released yesterday.

Lawyers said the case underlined the law on a putative father's obligations for maintenance and rules that intention is irrelevant, even if the child was begotten from a one-sided affair or a brief encounter, such as in a brothel.

The company director had claimed that his relationship with the woman had been purely sexual and that he had been outfoxed by her, as she sought to beget a child by him.

She countered that their relationship had been based on mutual affection and consent and that she loved him.

The man's lawyer, Mr Koh Tien Hua, argued in the High Court that common law and other statutes, such as the Constitution, treat the mother as the parent of an illegitimate child.

But the woman's lawyer, Ms Leong Pek Gan, referred the court to the Women's Charter.

The judge held that the Women's Charter "clearly contemplates" a man being regarded as a parent of an illegitimate child as well. He ruled that both parents were obliged to pay for the upkeep of the child and they should bear the financial burden equally.

"The norm should not be that parents contribute in proportion to their means because that will place unequal burdens on them for no good reason."

The judge found that although the woman earned a lower monthly salary of $5,200 compared with the man's monthly income of $14,075, there was no evidence she was unable to pay half the monthly $1,440 maintenance for the three-year-old boy.

To this end, he reduced the monthly sum to be paid by the father from $1,050 - set by a district judge in 2013 - to $720.

The 41-year-old woman is a divorcee with a five-year-old daughter and worked in the firm where the man owns a majority stake.

"I have never wanted this child and I didn't even plan for this," said the man in his testimony.

vijayan@sph.com.sg