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EB v EC (divorce maintenance of stepchildren) [2006] SGHC 44

Outcome: Appeal dismissed


1 The parties had three children of the marriage, two of whom were the Wife’s children from her previous marriage (“A” and “B”), and the third was the parties’ biological child. The Husband was ordered to pay interim maintenance for all three children, and subsequently, the Judge hearing the ancillary matters stopped the maintenance for A and B as of the date of the order. The Husband appealed against the Judge’s decision not to give her order retrospective effect.

Court’s Decision:

2 Section 70 of the Women’s Charter, which provides for the duty to maintain a child accepted as a member of one’s family, applies in principle to any matrimonial proceeding, including an application under s 127 of the Women’s Charter, which stipulates the power of the court to order a parent to pay maintenance for children. The power to order a parent to pay child maintenance must be premised on the parent’s duty to maintain: at [15] and [16].

3 The ceasing of the duty of the non-biological parent who has accepted the child as a member of his or her family (“non-parent”) under s 70(2) of the Women’s Charter, if the child is taken away by his father or mother, is meant to cover the situation where the biological parent who is not a member of the non-parent’s family removes the child from the custody of the non-parent: at [17] to [19].

4 Once a non-parent has accepted a child as a member of his or her family, he or she cannot abandon that responsibility by simply changing his or her mind: at [21].

5 The word “or” under s 70(1) of the Women’s Charter should be read conjunctively – the non-parent has the duty to maintain the child accepted as a member of the family, so far as the father and the mother of the child fail to do so. Failure to maintain does not mean a total failure, but an inability to maintain the child in the lifestyle he or she was used to: at [22] to [24].

6 However, the duty to maintain does not always lead to an order to maintain, and the court also has the power to not order maintenance under s 127 of the Women’s Charter: at [26].

The full text of the decision can be found here.

This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.

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