DIVORCE. If you are married and reading this, would you shudder and shy away from the word?
What was once considered shameful and only spoken about in quiet whispers is now a widely accepted notion in our community. As a society, we have grown to accept that if a marriage is not working out, it is simply best to part ways and move on, instead of expecting unhappy partners to remain shackled to each other for life.
Similarly, the recent shift in Singaporean household dynamics also reflects the change in our society’s mindset as to how a normal marriage now can be. We applaud our Singaporean wives with their extraordinary abilities to soar to great heights, and admire husbands who give up their jobs and choose to care for their children.
However, when marriages don’t work out and end up in Divorce, the state of our vulnerable children usually ends up slipping through the cracks. In an already overwhelming world, they now need to grapple with various questions: Why are my parents living in different houses? Why are there no more family dinners? Why can I only see my Dad or Mum on Sundays at 3pm?
It is thus heartening to see the Government, the Family Justice Courts and the Ministry of Social and Family Development come together to make changes to the social and legal fabric of our society to cater to the different types of family issues.
On 29 February 2016, the Parliament passed the Women’s Charter (Amendment) Bill. Amongst the most notable changes are:
1. Maintenance for incapacitated husbands
Currently, under the Women’s Charter, maintenance may be ordered for children, wives and ex-wives. The Courts would take into account various factors such as the financial circumstances of both parents, the needs of the children or the ex-wife and any other relevant factor before determining a maintenance quantum.
The new changes to the Women’s Charter propose that spousal maintenance may also be ordered for husbands or ex-husbands who are incapacitated and unable to work and maintain themselves. The Courts would still have to take into account various other factors such as the wife’s financial circumstances, the parties’ respective needs etc before making a decision on maintenance.
This is clearly a landmark step towards having the Women’s Charter provide some concrete and basic form of gender equality. In the spirit of marriage commitment, spouses or ex-spouses are to be legally obliged to care for their incapacitated partner.
Click on next page to find out what are the other changes in the Women’s Charter that could impact you in case of a divorce in Singapore.