Proposed changes to the law on the maintenance of parents aim to strike a balance between safeguarding vulnerable seniors and protecting children from the misuse of the law. The changes would help to preserve the spirit of the law but refine its operation so that it is fairer to all sides in family disputes. The Maintenance of Parents Act, passed in 1995, established the legal parameters of Singapore as a society that values filial piety. The Act allows Singapore residents aged 60 years and above who are unable to provide for themselves to claim maintenance from their children who are capable of supporting them but are not doing so. Amendments to the Act enabled the authorities to do more to help resolve maintenance disputes amicably. The law prioritised conciliation over legal action in the spirit of preserving family ties. It is those ties that form the basis of filial piety.
The changes being proposed now advance that logic. One of the proposals is that parents with a record of abusing, neglecting or abandoning their children would be required to first ask the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents for permission before embarking on the compulsory process of conciliation with their children to try to resolve their differences. If conciliation fails, seniors can take their grievances to the tribunal, which will decide whether and how much maintenance should be awarded.