Ex-husbands may soon seek spousal maintenance
MPs pass Bill allowing incapacitated husbands & ex-husbands to apply for spousal maintenance
As a Member of Parliament since 2006, Ms Jessica Tan has seen women leaving husbands who had been diagnosed with serious illnesses.
These men, stricken with diseases like cancer, were left with no means to support themselves.
The East Coast GRC MP was one of nine who spoke in support of the Women's Charter (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in Parliament yesterday.
One of the amendments is to allow incapacitated husbands and ex-husbands to apply for spousal maintenance.
Ms Tan told Parliament: "I feel that this amendment is fair as it recognises the support expected of husband and wife during times of illness and disability.
"This is in line with the spirit of the Women's Charter. As outlined in the duties of the husband and wife... the amendment is in the right spirit."
Critics may argue that women and children remain the majority of those who need help in maintenance and alimony, said MP for Marine Parade GRC Seah Kian Peng.
But he noted that the amendment would not change the level of help extended to this group.
"The group (of incapacitated ex-husbands) may be small, but their cause is no less just," said the MP, who is also a board member of the Centre for Fathering.
Associate Professor Daniel Goh, who was yesterday sworn in as a Non-Constituency MP, called the amendment a "belated concession to the principle of gender equality".
MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling asked: "What safeguards will the MSF (Ministry of Social and Family Development) put in place to ensure that even though the husband is incapacitated and appears to be the weaker party, maintenance will only be granted on legitimate grounds?
"What if the applicant had not even contributed to the raising of the family before he was incapacitated?"
On her concerns, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: "The scenario of a woman of lesser means struggling to support herself and the children is a big concern. What more if such a woman had to maintain her incapacitated ex-husband.
"To reiterate, the incapacitated husband must meet all the criteria set out before he can apply for maintenance from the wife."
He added that even if all these criteria are met, it does not mean the husband or ex-husband will automatically be entitled to maintenance.
"The Court will have to consider all circumstances of the case, including the income and earning capacity of his wife or ex-wife, financial needs of both parties, and the needs of the children.
"This is no different from the considerations for maintenance for wives and ex-wives, where they are also not automatically entitled to maintenance," Mr Tan assured the House.
I feel that this amendment is fair as it recognises the support expected of husband and wife during times of illness and disability.
- MP Jessica Tan