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Court rejects 22-year-old man's bid for maintenance from mother

Court rejects 22-year-old man's bid for maintenance from mother

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 23 Jun 2019
Author: K.C. Vijayan

Shortage of past cases reflecting how this relevant provision for awarding maintenance to someone over 21 is to be interpreted: Judge

A judge refused a 22-year-old man's bid to compel his wealthy mother to maintain him, ruling that a psychiatric condition he suffered, which allowed him to defer national service, did not mean he could not work for his upkeep.

District Judge Goh Kiat Yi noted that a deferment from NS did not mean he could seek maintenance.

Under the Women's Charter, the court can order maintenance for someone over the age of 21 under certain circumstances, including if they have a mental or physical disability, if they are or will be serving full-time NS, or if they are studying or undergoing training.

The judge said there was a shortage of past cases reflecting how this relevant provision for awarding maintenance to someone over 21 is to be interpreted.

"I was unable to accept that this was a case where the law or the facts justified the court in departing from the usual position that a child above 21 should not receive court-ordered maintenance. There was also no neglect or refusal by the mother to provide the son with reasonable maintenance," said the judge.

The judge in decision grounds released last week said the NS deferment did not "equate to a medical diagnosis that he is unable to work to support himself. There is no medical report by any of the Mindef doctors stating so".

The court also found his NS postponement contradicted his central argument that his condition affected his ability to work.

The judge noted that after the man's NS was deferred in 2015, he started and ran an entire logistics business between 2016 and 2017, from which he drew a monthly salary of $5,000 to $6,000.

"The fact that Mindef has presently agreed to postpone his enlistment for two years, does not assist the son as they had likewise granted him a deferment previously. This further suggests that his medical condition was already in existence back in 2014 to 2015. That was no impediment to him starting and running a business," said the judge.

He had applied through legal aid-assigned lawyer S. Lalita for $2,500 monthly maintenance from his 45-year-old businesswoman mother. His parents divorced in 2003 and he and his younger brother were placed in the care of his mother. None of the parties was named in the grounds.

The son claimed he was unable to support himself because his mother had taken over control of his logistics business, which eventually failed. He also claimed he was once banned from driving for a year because his mother had failed to pay the insurance and road tax, and he was caught for the offence.

He claimed his depression, suffered since 2007, had worsened and his medical condition was why he could not work.

His mother, defended by lawyer Jeanny Ng, maintained she had always supported him financially, including in the upkeep of the flat where he lived, and questioned his purported medical condition.

She denied she was obliged to support him, but was prepared to do so if he genuinely needed medical treatment, though this should not go on indefinitely.

The Family Court hearing in March noted she had given him $1,200 every month from April last year, which was increased by $600 less than five months later, for his medical bills.

The judge held that for "someone who is unemployed and has no obligations to anyone" the sum the mother has paid was enough. "While the mother was indeed well-to-do... I did not think for the reasons above that she was legally obliged to maintain the child nor did she fail in her duty to do so," said the judge. The man is appealing.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.




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