ON FEMINISM, ZERO MAINTENANCE FOR DIVORCED WOMEN AND RENAMING THE WOMEN’S CHARTER
ADB v ADC  SGHC 76
The parties in this case had obtained an interim judgment for divorce. The issue here was the amount of maintenance the court should order the husband to pay the wife, who sought a lump sum maintenance of $120,000. While the husband earned around $8.187.29 as a senior officer in the Singapore Prison Service, the wife was capable of raking in as much as $215,900 a year as a Regional Sales Manager of a multi-national company. The High Court dismissed the wife’s claim for maintenance for herself.
In coming to his decision on 17 April 2014, Justice Choo made the following noteworthy observations:
1. Maintenance was an “unalloyed right” of a divorced woman in the past when housewives lived on the maintenance of men. However, many women in Singapore are now financially independent. Truly equal and independent women do not require nor desire chauvinistic and patronising gestures;
2. The fact that a wife had been a devoted mother and wife whilst juggling her full time job would be taken into account when determining the division of assets; and
3. If courts think it necessary to “preserve” the wife’s rights to maintenance, they can make an order of no maintenance with liberty to apply. Variation would still be permitted.
Many commentators thus far have taken very favourably to this decision. This includes AWARE, the advocators of women’s rights in Singapore, saying that “they [maintenance orders] should be made on the basis of fairness, not gender. And they [women] should likewise be available where it would be equitable for a woman to support her former spouse financially”. Currently, only women are entitled to seek maintenance from their ex-husbands.
Other commentators have gone a step further, with calls to rename the Women’s Charter (which sets out the law on marriage in Singapore). The provisions should also be reviewed to more accurately reflect the circumstances of today.