A guide to child maintenance

What is a reasonable sum of money needed to raise a child?

Lawyers, judges and divorcing parents will be better able to answer that question, when new guidelines on child maintenance are expected to be released by early next year.

They will be based on actuarial data on family expenses, offering a more objective view of how much is needed to bring up a child.

A table will suggest different maintenance amounts depending on the child's age and parents' income.

These factors are already considered in divorce cases today, but lawyers do not have a template with which to determine what is "reasonable".

The move is thus welcomed, given that the issue of child maintenance is one of the most acrimonious when parents separate.

There are accusations of expenses being inflated.

There are charges that the money is used for the parent's, usually the mother's, own expenses.

With no guidelines, duelling parties wield multiple receipts and credit card statements as ammunition for how much they spend - or not - on the child.

Then there is the subjective question of what exactly constitutes a child's needs.

Take tuition. Is it a necessity? Parents have very different answers.

A woman writes on The Straits Times' Facebook page: "I don't see anything wrong in giving child maintenance (for) tuition and enrichment classes, which may be crucial for the child to get direct admission into the school based on his talent.

"Birthday parties and yearly travels should be included as they help de-stress the child and develop his social skills."

Others disagree. One alludes to a "greedy ex-wife who always wanted more to feed her lifestyle".

The new guidelines, drafted by a third party, should thus go some way in reducing acrimony, the time taken to close divorce cases and parents' legal costs.

The biggest beneficiary will be the child himself.

Having to deal with parents who are separating is already a huge change.

With the new guidelines that can reduce rancour between his parents, he can hopefully adjust better to his new life.


This article was first published on Jan 18, 2017.
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