Singapore's Chief Justice, Sundaresh Menon, recently announced the establishment of a committee to produce new guidelines that will assist in the calculation of child maintenance payments in Singapore. Unlike in Australia, there is no formula available to assist parents in determining a reasonable amount of child maintenance in Singapore, so this is welcome news for a system that currently relies solely on judicial discretion.

According to child maintenance laws in Singapore, the primary carer of a child is required to pay for the reasonable costs associated with the care of a child until they turn 21. Reasonable costs can include accommodation, food, clothing and education.

A court will consider the child's reasonable needs, any disabilities, the parent's financial capacity to pay and their standard of living, as well as the manner in which the child is expected to be educated. However, the determination of what is a 'reasonable amount' is discretionary and therefore the outcome is dependent on the judge for each case.

The new guidelines

The purpose of the guidelines is to provide guidance to judges based on objective data, similar to the formula used by the Child Support Agency (CSA) in Australia.1

The guidelines are expected to include a table with different maintenance amounts, depending on the age of the child and their parents' income. The table will act as a 'judicial tool' which will provide quantitative guidance to judges.

Mark Parker, partner and co-head of Lander & Rogers' Family & Relationship Law practice, said, "As we presently understand the position, Singapore's guidelines will not replace the law or the factors to be considered in determining child maintenance amounts. However, the guidelines will provide a more precise template for the court to consider.

"The guidelines are expected to improve the consistency and efficiency of judicial determination of child maintenance issues in Singapore which will benefit parents and children."

The guidelines, which are expected to be released in 2018, should also assist parties in settling child maintenance disputes outside of the court system.