In Singapore recently, a son took his father to court for failing to pay for his overseas studies. The court ordered that the father pay 60% of the overseas education cost. Even though the father was able to pay, he was unwilling because he believed the son wanted to use the money for a lifestyle he disapproved of.

The son took the matter to court after he missed a deadline to enrol in an educational institution in Canada. The father is divorced from the mother, and the father has two stepsons from another marriage whose tertiary education he had fully paid for. Although he agreed to pay for his son’s fees and had requested particulars of the course, the father became uncontactable after this request.

In court, the father revealed that he believed his son would not be committed to his overseas studies because he understood his son wanted to leave the country because he preferred men than women. Ultimately, the court ruled in favour of the son because the son was entitled to seek maintenance payments from his father as he would be receiving instruction at an educational institution.

Read the full article on Yahoo News: Son gets court order for father to pay 60% of overseas tertiary education


Under the Women’s Charter in Singapore, a court may order a parent to pay for a child’s maintenance (when the child is above 21 years old) if the child will be studying at an educational institution. Is there a right for children to demand that their parents would pay for their tertiary education? Correspondingly, aging parents are also able to sue their children if the latter refuses to pay for their elderly maintenance fees.

The law seeks to protect certain duties arising within the family and steps in to enforce these duties when they are not performed. By legislating to enforce the familial duties, critics argue that this would replace moral obligation with legal duties and lead to an undermining of family values.

The Maintenance of Parents Act functions as a safety net for needy and neglected parents who have no other recourse but to sue their children. Is the son in this case left with no other recourse? Ultimately, this case rests on its particular set of facts and it is important that the father had initially agreed to pay for the son’s education. Without this agreement, the court may have to decide if the father was liable to pay for the son’s overseas education eventually.

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. None of the parties were named in the judgment made by the Family Court. Why do you think anonymity is so important to the parties in this judgment?
  2. Do you agree that legislating to replace moral duties with legal duties is problematic? Why or why not?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘undermining’: erode the base or foundation; lessen the value of
  2. ‘maintenance’ (legal): provision of financial support for a person’s living expenses