The Straits Times
Published on Dec 20, 2012

Alimony law has kept up with the times


MR SULTHAN Niaz ("Changing alimony laws will get women back to work"; last Friday) suggests changing alimony or maintenance laws to restrict alimony to women with low educational and income levels, and when they could be in a dire financial situation upon divorce.

Such a change, he posits, will send a strong message to women that staying home will no longer be a viable option for them.

The current framework addresses those concerns adequately and no legislative amendments are needed.

Mr Niaz is right when he states that alimony is open to every married woman no matter how well off or highly educated she is.

However, the court does not automatically grant alimony without giving due consideration to certain non-exhaustive factors, such as the wife's income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources.

Second, even if the court deems alimony necessary, it must still decide on the quantum of alimony, and these non-exhaustive factors will again be taken into account.

In a case earlier this year between Mr Chiam Heng Chow and his former wife, Madam Foo Ah Yan, the Court of Appeal had to decide on the issue of alimony.

In that case, the Court of Appeal re-affirmed the longstanding principle that a "former wife who has assets of her own should not expect a full subsidy of her lifestyle".

It also stated that "a former wife must, where possible, exert reasonable efforts to secure gainful employment and contribute to preserve her pre-breakdown lifestyle".

This has been the law in Singapore since 1995, contrary to Mr Niaz's view that the alimony law in Singapore has not moved with the times.

The alimony law here does not need to be changed.

The current legal framework adequately addresses the concerns that Mr Niaz has raised.

Bryan Tan