More help for people in getting their monthly maintenance from ex-spouses

SINGAPORE - People who have trouble obtaining their monthly maintenance from ex-spouses can get help earlier, as a result of the enhancements the Government is making to the Maintenance Record Officer (MRO) scheme.

These changes were announced on Friday (July 14) at the Family Justice Practice Forum 2017. They are expected to be implemented by the end of the year (2017).

The MRO scheme was piloted in the second half of 2016 to help ensure that people get their monthly maintenance from ex-spouses. The officers obtain information on the parties' financial situation, provide assistance to those facing problems and identify those who refuse to pay even though they can afford it.

The Courts can then punish such defaulters who are unwilling to pay even when they can.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: "We understand that maintenance issues continue to be an area of concern for some parties, even after the divorce has been finalised. For the parent who requires financial contributions from the other towards the child's upkeep, having to return to Court to enforce a maintenance order can be tedious and frustrating."

"This is especially so when the other parent has the means to pay, but refuses to do so."

One of the changes made to the scheme is that instead of waiting for the affected person to file multiple enforcement applications, officers can be involved once the first application is filed.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Family Justice Courts are also looking to have the Maintenance Record Officer included as part of the Court process, such that judges can direct the parties involved to provide all relevant documents for the MRO.

Currently, the MRO is involved only when both parties consent to it and they decide what information they are willing to provide.

Mr Tan added: "We recognise that for the MRO to be more effective, he would need to be able to identify applicants and their children who need help early on and render the necessary assistance."