Not paying alimony? Ministry of Law enforcement officers to be empowered to seize financial info.

This will help distinguish between those who are unable to pay and those deliberately defaulting on their payments.

Daniel Seow | March 01, 2024, 01:03 PM



The Ministry of Law will be setting up a new enforcement unit with powers to seize financial information on people who do not comply with alimony orders.

This was announced by Minister for Law K Shanmugam in Parliament on Mar. 1, 2024, during the Committee of Supply debates.

New process to enforce maintenance orders

Shanmugam said, "We observe there's a fairly high incidence of non-compliance with maintenance orders and a significant number of repeat applications for enforcement, usually by the wife or ex-wife."

To better enforce maintenance orders, the Family Justice Reform Act passed in 2023 has introduced a new Maintenance Enforcement Process (MEP), he explained.

A new unit comprising Maintenance Enforcement Officers (MEOs), which falls under the purview of the ministry, will be empowered to obtain information about parties' financial circumstances directly from the parties or third parties, such as banks and government agencies.

Will get financial info of non-compliers more readily

Shanmugam noted that will relieve applicants from having to instruct lawyers to apply to the court to obtain the information, which "takes time, effort, and cost", a process which could go on for years if the respondent was non-cooperative.

He added that with more accurate and clear information, the MEO and the courts would be better able to distinguish between respondents who are unable to pay alimony and those who refuse to pay.

If the divorcee is unable to pay alimony due to their circumstances, the officer will recommend them to the relevant unit for financial assistance.

But for those who deliberately default on their alimony payments, the process will strengthen deterrence against them, Shanmugam noted.

He said the court will monitor payments, typically for around six months, and failure to pay can lead to imprisonment.

"This system should hopefully help reduce repeated defaulters," he added.

Shanmugam also revealed that the MEP will be operationalised starting in the second half of 2024.

Top image from Unsplash.