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Man wins appeal against court order to pay 60% of adult son's overseas degree studies

Man wins appeal against court order to pay 60% of adult son's overseas degree studies

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 25 Mar 2020
Author: K.C. Vijayan

Justice Choo Han Teck said the son, a polytechnic graduate, will have to find his own means to study in Canada.

A man succeeded in his appeal against having to help pay for his son's degree studies overseas, with the High Court ruling on Tuesday (March 24) that maintaining a child does not extend to paying for all his education expenses.

Justice Choo Han Teck said the son, a polytechnic graduate, will have to find his own means to study in Canada.

At issue in the case had been a relevant provision in the Women's Charter under Section 69 for the duty of a parent to provide maintenance in relation to a child above 21 years old, including payouts necessary for his education.

But Justice Choo said in his judgment that the provision is not meant to be used by a child "after he has reached adult status and is independent".

"Maintenance, as we know, does not mean maintaining fully or of an unreasonable amount. To say that a parent has a duty to maintain a child is not the same as saying he must pay for all the expenses of the child's education," he added.

In February last year, a Family Court judge had ordered the father to fund 60 per cent of his son's degree studies in Canada, finding that the son was entitled to seek such maintenance.

The son, now 24, was 22 when he applied for the maintenance.

The family court judge had further ruled last year that the son's 56-year-old private tutor mother bear 40 per cent of the required maintenance sum, based on the proportion of the couple's income.

The parents divorced in 2004 when the child was eight and it was agreed then that the father should not pay maintenance for him as part of the terms of the split.

The father has since remarried and has two stepsons, while the mother remained single and supported the son.

All the parties were not identified in the judgment.

The son had sought to pursue a journalism degree in Canada, as he felt his polytechnic diploma was not good enough for him to get a job, according to the court documents.

The father, represented by lawyer Thirumurthy Ayernaar Pambayan, appealed to the High Court, arguing he should study in Singapore and that there are at least six local institutions that offer comparable courses in journalism.

Justice Choo, noting that the mother had sole custody, care and control of the son after the divorce, said given that she had accepted the terms of the split, including that the father would not pay maintenance, the "only person whom the (son) should have sought maintenance from today is his mother".

"In the present case, the father consented and fulfilled his part of the order. He had paid forward, in a consent order that was intended to let each party go on with their lives undisturbed by legal proceedings if both sides complied with the orders," said Justice Choo.

He added that the son could ask his parents to fund his study, but any obligations to him are now limited.

He said: "This case is an example for everyone concerned in family disputes, to encourage both parents to have access to and bond with their children. If the (son) at eight years old had maintained a strong bond with the (father), this matter would probably not have reached this court."

Justice Choo, who made no order as to costs, also ruled that the son would not have to return the $3,000 paid by his father as part payment for the studies following a court order last May.

"I will not order the respondent to repay that $3,000 so that both father and son can henceforth go their own ways without further ado."

The 60-year-old father, through his lawyer, said: "I am grateful for the court's decision and thank my lawyer for the efforts. I look forward and wish to move on from this."

Mr Thirumurthy said the son is currently studying in Canada.

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

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