Not all parents who take their children to court, or the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents (TMP), are awarded maintenance.
Last year, 65 per cent of the cases were awarded maintenance, with 15 per cent dismissed and 11 per cent of the parents withdrawing their petitions. For some of the other cases, the parent died before the case was heard.
A Ministry of Social and Family Development spokesman told The Sunday Times the tribunal will consider the parent's means and needs, the children's income and expenses as well as whether the parent had supported his children when they were young. The tribunal may order the children to give maintenance if it feels it is just and equitable for them to support their parent. Likewise, it may dismiss an application or reduce the sum sought if it is shown proof that the parent had abandoned, abused or neglected his children.
Two in three seniors were awarded $300 or less a month by the TMP in the last five years.
Mrs Chua Yi Xin, senior social worker at Trans Safe Centre, recounted a case where a father's bid to get his two sons to support him was dismissed. The sons were angry with their father, who is in his 70s, because he was violent towards their mother and kept a mistress in Batam.
Mr Ng Koon Sing, head of Comnet Senior Services at AMKFSC Community Services, said: "The TMP is fair. We can't automatically assume the children are at fault when they don't support their parents."
Since 2011, seniors seeking maintenance have had to go to the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents (CMP) first. The CMP is not a court and its staff will mediate to help both parties come to an agreement, such as getting the children to give and the sums given.
If this conciliatory approach fails, the parent can take his dispute to the TMP.