Maintenance of Parents Act

Singapore Infopedia


The Maintenance of Parents Act provides for Singapore residents aged 60 years old and above who are unable to subsist on their own, to claim maintenance from their children who can support them but are not doing so. Parents can sue their children for lack of maintenance, in the form of monthly allowances or a lump-sum payment. The Act also constituted the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents to review applications brought by parents.

On 23 May 1994, then Nominated Member of Parliament Associate Professor Walter Woon introduced the Maintenance of Parents Bill in parliament.The purpose of the bill is to provide a safety net for needy and neglected parents who had no other recourse. Although there was no urgent need at the time, the nation needed to prepare to cope with an increasingly aging population.2

Prior to this bill, there was no legal requirement for adults to support their parents, no matter how needy the parents are or how well-off the children may be. The bill sparked debate and criticism among the public and members of parliament (MPs). Those who opposed it voiced fears that the bill would replace moral obligation with legal duty and widen the relationship gap between the children and parents. They also felt that in Asian values, children are committed to taking care of their parents, and legislation was not needed. On the other hand, those who supported the bill opined that, while the number of abandoned parents was small, the bill was a social safeguard against pitfalls that came with an aging population and against a trend of individualism among the next generation.3

The bill had its second reading in Parliament on 27 July 1994; 50 MPs voted for it, and 13 MPs, including two opposition MPs, voted against it or abstained. An 11-member select committee then amended the bill and recommended setting up a tribunal to administer the law.4 The bill was passed in parliament on 2 November, 1995,5 and the legislation came into operation on 24 November 1995.6

The Maintenance of Parents Act (Cap. 167B) states that Singapore residents, 60 years old and above, who are unable to maintain themselves adequately, are entitled to claim maintenance from their children, either in a lump-sum payment or in the form of monthly allowances. Relatives or caregivers may apply for court action on a parent’s behalf, with the parent’s consent.7

The Act established the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents.8 The tribunal comprises a minimum of three members appointed by the Minister, including a president with the qualifications of a district judge and is empowered to make and review maintenance orders. Conciliation officers review every case and mediate between the parties. If mediation fails, the case will be heard at the tribunal.9

The amount of maintenance to be paid is decided by the tribunal based on a set of criteria, including financial needs, earning capacity, expenses incurred and the physical health of the parent and children. The maintenance claim may be dismissed if the children can prove that they were abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents when they were young.10

Other provisions of the Act include the following:11

– The child being sued has the right to make his siblings joint respondents even if they were not named in the parent’s original claim.
– Any person who is found to be in contempt of the tribunal may be fined not exceeding S$5,000 or face an imprisonment term not exceeding six months.
– Maintenance orders issued under the Act are to be enforced in the same manner that maintenance orders for wives and children are enforced under the Women’s Charter 1961.
– Only the basic amenities and physical needs of the applicant, such as shelter, food and clothing, are provided for. The maintenance should not be linked to the applicant’s previous standard of living.
– Definition of children includes illegitimate, adopted and step-children.

Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents
Under the administration of the Ministry of Social and Family Development,the tribunal began operations on 1 June 1996.12 Eleven members were nominated, and its first president was the former director of Legal Aid Bureau, K. S. Rajah.13

Within its first three years of operation, over 400 elderly people have approached the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents for help. The applicants tended to be fathers, Chinese and single parents, either widowed or divorced.14

Amendment Act (2010)
After a workgroup led by MP Seah Kian Peng reviewed the Act in 2010, it was amended in November 2010. The changes were implemented on 15 March 2011.15

The key amendment established a conciliation-first approach to resolve maintenance disputes, making it compulsory for the elderly to seek conciliation with their children at the Office of the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents, before filing for a maintenance order at the tribunal. The conciliation approach has produced positive results. The annual number of cases of the elderly who eventually filed for maintenance orders at the tribunal decreased from a three-year average of 170 (from 2008 to 2010) to 86 (from 2011 to 2013), and has stabilised to about 30 cases a year from 2017 to 2022.16

Amendment Act (2023)
After over a decade since the last amendment, a workgroup, chaired by Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng and consisting of eight other MPs, was formed January 2022 to review the Act.17

On 4 July 2023, Parliament passed four key amendments, enhancing the powers of the tribunal and the commissioner:

–      Parents with records of abandonment, abuse or neglect have to obtain tribunal’s permission before proceeding with their claims.18
–      The tribunal can dismiss applications without merit, without informing or requiring the children to respond.19
–      The commissioner can invite children of destitute parents for conciliation without needing the parent to file a formal claim.20
–      The tribunal can make non-monetary orders, such as counselling orders. If the parent does not comply with the non-monetary order, the child is not obliged to pay maintenance.21

Lim Puay Ling

1. Parliament of Singapore, Maintenance of Parents Bill. Introduction and First Reading, vol. 63 of Official Reports – Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 23 May 1994, col. 37.
2. Parliament of Singapore, Maintenance of Parents Bill, vol. 63 of Official Reports – Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 27 July 1994, cols. 318–61; “
Law Can Be Used as Bargaining Chip to Threaten the Recalcitrant,” Straits Times, 28 July 1994, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Parliament of Singapore, Maintenance of Parents Bill; “Spirited Debate on Parents’ Bill,” New Paper, 26 October, 1995, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Parliament of Singapore, Maintenance of Parents Bill, cols. 362–64.
5. Parliament of Singapore, Maintenance of Parents Bill (As Reported from Select Committee), vol. 65 of Official Reports – Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 2 November 1995, cols. 210–13).
6. Maintenance of Parents Act 1995, The Statutes of the Republic of Singapore, rev. ed., 2020, rev. ed.
7. Maintenance of Parents Act 1995.
8. Maintenance of Parents Act 1995, section 14.
9. “Tribunal to Be Set Up by Mid-year,” Straits Times, 14 February 1996, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “The Report,” Straits Times, 26 October 1995, 35. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Maintenance of Parents Act 1995.
12. “Maintenance Tribunal: 74 Claims Made,” Straits Times, 15 July 1996, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
13. S. Suressh, “In Memoriam: KS Rajah,” Law Gazette (September 2010),
14. “Over 400 Parents Turned to Tribunal,” Straits Times, 4 April 1999, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Carolyn Quek, “More Maintenance Issues Solved by Conciliation,” Straits Times, 15 March 2011, 1; Judith Tan and Liew Hanqing, “Maintenance of Parents: MPs Want Law Amended,” Straits Times, 5 October 2010, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Eric Chua, “Speech by Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social and Family Development,” Second Reading of the Maintenance of Parents (Amendment) Bill, 4 July 2023,; Parliament of Singapore, Maintenance of Parents (Amendment) Bill, vol. 95 of Official Reports – Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 4 July 2023.
17. Nur Hikmah Md Ali, “Parliament Passes Bill to Protect Children from Abusive Parents Seeking Maintenance,” Today, 5 July 2023. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
18. Parliament of Singapore, Maintenance of Parents (Amendment) Bill.
19. Theresa Tan, “Parents Seeking Maintenance Have to Declare if They Have Abused Their Children in the Past,” Straits Times, 4 July 2023. (From Newslink via NLB’s eResources website)
20. Eric Chua, “Speech.”
21. Eric Chua, “Speech”; Nur Hikmah Md Ali, “Parliament Passes Bill.”

Further resources
Dawn Chia, “More Parents Seeking Support From Grown-up Children Who Refuse to Help,” New Paper, 17 February 2005, 2. (From NewspaperSG)

Chung Tsung Mien, “Parents to Sue? ‘Better to Let Authorities Recover Money From Children,’” Straits Times, 29 May 1994, 21. (From NewspaperSG)

Ng Wei Joo, Sharon Snodgrass and Disa Sim, “Singaporeans Young and Old Split Over Bill to Support Parents,” Straits Times, 27 May 1994, 26. (From NewspaperSG)

Wang Hui Ling, “Countries Which Have Maintenance Laws for Parents,” Straits Times, 4 June 1994, 32. (From NewspaperSG)

Wang Hui Ling, “Maintenance Of Parents Bill Finds Little Favour With ZaoBao Letter-writers,” Straits Times, 18 July 1994, 29. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as of October 2023 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Rights Statement

The information on this page and any images that appear here may be used for private research and study purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.

More to Explore

Oriental Hotel murder


The Oriental Hotel murder was a crime that occurred on 6 June 1994 at Oriental Hotel Singapore, when Abdul Nasir Amer Hamsah and Abdul Rahman Arshad attacked and robbed two Japanese tourists, Fujii Isae and Takishita Miyoko. Both women sustained injuries during the attack but Fujii suffered severe facial injuries...

Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute (SAFTI)


The Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute (SAFTI) was the training institute for officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Officially opened on 18 June 1966, it was located at Pasir Laba Road, which is bounded by Upper Jurong Road and Lim Chu Kang Road. SAFTI remained...

Ho Ho Ying


Ho Ho Ying (b. 23 January 1936, Wenchang, Hainan, China–) is a prominent pioneer of modern art in Singapore and an influential art critic. His works have been exhibited in many countries, including Australia, China, France, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. He is also a...

Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD)


Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) is an infectious disease caused by intestinal viruses, the most common being the Coxsackie virus Enterovirus 71. The symptoms of HFMD include fever, sore throat and runny nose, rash on the hands, feet and buttocks, mouth ulcers, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea and tiredness...

John Martin Scripps: Body-parts murder


John Martin, born John Martin Scripps, was the first Westerner hanged in Singapore for murder on 19 April 1996. He was convicted for the murder of South African tourist, Gerard George Lowe, in March 1995. The police were alerted when various parts of Lowe’s dismembered body were found floating in...

Michael Olcomendy


Michael Olcomendy (b. 29 August 1901, St. Etienne de Baigorry, France–d. 4 July 1977, Singapore) was the first Catholic archbishop of Singapore. He rose from being a parish priest to become the metropolitan archbishop of the Malacca-Singapore Archdiocese, then the archbishop of Singapore from 1973 to 1976. He served the...

Kallang body parts murder


In June 2005, Chinese national Liu Hong Mei was killed by her supervisor and lover, Leong Siew Chor, who subsequently chopped up the body up into seven parts. After the murder, Liu’s body parts and belongings were dumped at various places – in the Kallang River, Singapore River, rubbish bins...

Lim Yew Kuan


Lim Yew Kuan (b. 16 November 1928, Xiamen, China–) is a well-known second-generation Nanyang Style painter, printmaker and sculptor. Lim is also an arts educator who has taught art for four decades, including a stint as the second principal of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). Lim has created...

Singapore Democratic Alliance


The Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) is a coalition of political parties in Singapore, officially registered on 28 June 2001. At the time of its formation, the alliance comprised the Singapore People’s Party (SPP), National Solidarity Party (NSP), Singapore Justice Party (SJP), Singapore National Front (SNF) and Singapore Malay National Organisation...

Huang Na murder


Huang Na, aged 8, went missing on 10 October 2004. Her disappearance resulted in a nationwide search. Her body was eventually discovered in a box dumped at Telok Blangah Hill Park. Took Leng How, a colleague of Huang Na's mother, was charged with her murder. He was convicted and hanged...