Do women still need maintenance from their exes?

Do women still need maintenance from their exes?

Say you're a hotshot company executive, or entrepreneur. You meet someone and marry at 28. At 30 the first child comes along. You give up your job and raise the child. Baby No. 2 comes when you're 32.

When the youngest kid enters secondary school, you're 45. You decide it's time to stop being just Mum and start the business you've always wanted to. It takes off amazingly. You make $200,000 in Year 5, when you're 48 and looking forward to your 20th wedding anniversary.

That's when you find out your husband has a mistress with whom he has a six-month-old child. He wants a divorce.

In court, the father of your children is ordered to pay $2,000 a month in child support.

As for maintenance, the judge tells you that since you earn $200,000, which is, say, the same as your husband, you're not entitled to any.

Maybe he says it's chauvinistic to think that a woman like yourself, who can start a business from nothing to make a profit of $200,000 a year, needs maintenance from her ex-husband.

Would you celebrate that decision as one up for women's power?

Or bemoan its unfairness for not recognising - and compensating you for - the years when you had zero income and zero Central Provident Fund savings and worked for free as cook, cleaner, chauffeur, tutor, coach and cheerleader, while your husband climbed the corporate ladder and salted away enough money to buy his mistress a condo?

I got to thinking about this issue, following suggestions that the Women's Charter needs updating to become a more gender-neutral Women's Charter.

This came following reports that a judge turned down a woman's maintenance claim from her ex. She earned $215,900 a year, according to her 2010 income tax returns - slightly more than him.

I agree with the judge who said that maintenance isn't the "unalloyed right" of women after a divorce. I also agree that the Women's Charter should be made gender-neutral into a Marriage Charter or some such, so that both spouses are entitled to similar benefits.

But I disagree with the underlying argument of the judge.

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