Can you claim child maintenance from your child’s father?
Section 68 of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) governs the duty of parents to maintain children. The duty applies whether or not the children are legitimate:
Duty of parents to maintain children
68. Except where an agreement or order of court otherwise provides, it shall be the duty of a parent to maintain or contribute to the maintenance of his or her children, whether they are in his or her custody or the custody of any other person, and whether they are legitimate or illegitimate, either by providing them with such accommodation, clothing, food and education as may be reasonable having regard to his or her means and station in life or by paying the cost thereof.
If the father’s name is in the birth certificate, it has evidentiary value and will help to prove that the man is the father of the child. However, this can still be disputed. Conversely, even if the father’s name is not on the birth certificate, you would still be able to claim maintenance if you can prove that the man is the father (e.g. by DNA tests).
For more information on child maintenance and how to apply for it, read this.
What rights does the biological father have?
Under the Guardianship of Infants Act (Cap. 122), both biological parents have equal rights to guardianship, with the welfare of the child as the main consideration. One parent does not have greater rights over the other parent. Apart from welfare factors like which parent is a better carer (in terms of spending time with the child and having the financial capacity), the court also places importance on the stability of your child. If your child has been staying with you all along, and has not been in contact with his biological father for many years, it is likely that custody will be given to you, presuming he has been well taken care of by you.
In matrimonial law, the relationship between parents and children is seen in terms of custody, care and control, and access:
- Custody: Responsibility over the upbringing and education of the child, i.e. decision-making power over important aspects of the child’s life
- Care and control: Authority and responsibility over the day-to-day matters of the child, child resides with this parent
- Access: Regular hours of contact with the child, e.g. one day during the weekend, or partial weekday too, overnight access
Other points to note:
- Courts generally recognise and promote joint parenting so that both parents can continue to have a direct involvement in the child’s life.
- Maintenance is a duty- so if you have proven to be poor carer, custody may be transferred to your child’s father if he is more equipped to take care of the child.
- If your child’s father wants to be involved in the life of your child, he can apply for joint custody and access rights under the Guardianship of Infants Act.
- Read more here to get a clearer idea on maintenance and custody.