'Why should I give her so much?'

'Why should I give her so much?'

His divorce has not been finalised but this marketing sales manager is adamant he will not be giving his wife the $1,500 that has been bandied around by lawyers as child support and spousal maintenance.


The amount is almost half of the $3,500 a month that Mr J H earns.

He claims his wife earns almost three times that, about $9,000, as a business development director in the IT industry.

Plus he is doubtful of the real paternity of their 16-month-old daughter.

He says that he found out about the alleged affair when the other man's wife called him to "keep my wife in check".

His wife was seven months pregnant at the time.

"Even if the baby is really mine, I don't understand why I should give her so much for maintenance," he says.

"She betrayed our marriage."

More pertinently, Mr J H stresses, is the fact that after CPF deduction, he will have less than $3,000.

He says: "I can barely support myself, how can she expect to wipe me out this way?"

When contacted, his wife says the sum is "only what he has been providing to the household from the time we were married".

Mr J H's case echoes growing calls from men, who have written to the media, calling for changes to the Women's Charter - which one says was enacted at "a time when most women were either not highly educated or not educated at all".

Unlike divorce laws in countries such as the US, Australia and much of the European Union, the Women's Charter does not allow men to claim maintenance from their wives. Rather, women are eligible for maintenance regardless of their financial status.

Last month, when High Court judge Choo Han Teck asserted that maintenance was not the "unalloyed right" of a woman, and rejected a career woman's demand of $120,000 in maintenance from her ex-husband, he sparked widespread debate here.

Mr Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University, says the equal standing of the parties in a marriage has always been a key principle.

"In the Singapore context, very often it is the wives who care for the families and may include them sacrificing their careers," he says.

"In exceptional cases, we see the ex-husbands as the homemakers. This is where there is the sense that the law is unfair, since alimony is something that ex-husbands can't claim. But these cases are far and few between."

Prof Tan says the courts do take into account the income and wealth of each party in determining the maintenance for ex-wives and where the woman earns more than the man, the courts will normally grant a token sum as maintenance order.

He adds: "We are likely to see the law being amended such that ex-husbands will be eligible for maintenance from their ex-wives.

"Even then, one should not expect that there will be many such cases since the reality is that women still remain very much the homemakers in our contemporary familial settings."

Often, child support is more significant and takes precedence over maintenance orders as the welfare of the child is "a paramount concern", says Prof Tan.

"As such, the best interests of the child is the key concern of the courts."

These words are however falling on deaf ears for Mr J H.

He crisply states that the amount he had previously contributed was "based on the fact that we were then happily married".

"Not now."

And he will be fighting every step of the way.

This article was first published on August 24, 2014.
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