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Monday, Jun 23, 2014

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Protect men too in divorce cases

The Straits Times | Monday, Jun 23, 2014

The Women's Charter provides adequate protection of women in the event of a divorce.

What seems lacking is the protection accorded to men ("Recognise all parties' needs in divorce"; June 14).

At times, the overriding concern of the Charter to protect women may come at the expense of men.

Four groups of men are especially vulnerable.

The unemployed: Recent divorce judgments indicate that men with no income have to financially support their former spouses, even those with a regular income. The fact that the man is jobless would indicate he needs financial help too, so how can he be capable of supporting his ex-wife?

Retirees: Retired men lack a steady stream of income. But this does not exempt them from having to provide maintenance for their ex-spouses, including the working ones. Those with substantial assets can liquidate them to provide maintenance.

However, is it fair to those with fewer assets than their former spouses to bear the additional financial burden? Bear in mind that he has his own retirement needs too.

House-husbands: Unlike their female counterparts, they cannot apply for maintenance support. They are thus required to look for employment to support themselves. Imagine the financial predicament faced by a 50-year-old house-husband who has lost touch with the working world. Those in poor health: The law mandates that a man must support his wife if she is very sick, in marriage or after the divorce. But what if the situation is reversed, such as women who divorce their sick, unemployed husbands? Under current legislation, women are not obligated to support their former spouses.

The legislation in Singapore accords men and women equal rights in a marriage; the same ought to apply in divorce.

With the impending review of the Women's Charter, it is perhaps time to amend the legislation so all parties in a marriage, including men, are truly protected.

Oo Choon Peng


This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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