What if a Court in another Country has made a Maintenance Order?
If a foreign court in a reciprocating country made a Maintenance Order (“MO”) and the payer lives in Singapore, the MO can be registered in a Singapore court. However, in the event the payer moves out of Singapore, the registration will be cancelled.
Enforcement of the MO
Upon registration of the MO, the payee can apply to enforce the MO if the payer fails to pay maintenance, and the maintenance is not more than three years overdue.
Depending on the facts of the case, the court may order the payer to do all or any of the following:
- Pay the unpaid maintenance as a fine
- Serve a jail term of up to one month for each month’s worth of unpaid maintenance
- Be subject to a garnishee order – those who owe debts to the payer will pay all or part of the debt to the payee instead
- Give a banker’s guarantee for an amount of up to three months’ worth of maintenance, and for a duration of up to three years
- Undergo financial counselling or a similar programme
- Perform up to 40 hours of unpaid community service
- Be subject to an attachment of earnings order – the payer’s employer will pay the maintenance out of the payer’s salary
Read more: FAQs : Child Maintenance in Singapore
Variation and revocation of the MO
Action taken by a Singapore court
A Singapore court can vary or revoke the MO. However, in certain circumstances, the court may issue a provisional order instead. The provisional order, and thus the variation or revocation, will only be valid if the foreign court (which made the MO) decides to confirm it. The foreign court may also alter the provisional order before confirming it.
For revocation, the Singapore court must issue a provisional order if either the payer or the payee, or both, lives overseas.
For variation, the Singapore court must issue a provisional order if:
- Either the payer or the payee, or both, lives overseas;
- The payer is the one applying to vary or revoke the MO; or
- The variation is not one where the rate of maintenance payments is being reduced because the payer’s financial circumstances have changed. Moreover, the foreign court has the power to confirm the provisional order.
Action taken by a foreign court
Likewise, in a situation where a foreign court registers a MO granted in Singapore and where the variation of MO is sought, the foreign court may make a provisional order to vary the MO, and the Singapore court will decide whether to confirm and/or alter the provisional order.
The Singapore court will make its decision in the same way that it handles variation applications – i.e. it will determine if there has been a material change of circumstances, or if the MO was based on a misrepresentation or mistake of fact.
As for revocation, the foreign court can revoke the MO. The foreign court will then give notice to the Singapore court that the MO has been revoked.