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Children over 21 can sue parents over university education support

A 22-year-old Singaporean student has successfully sued his father over the funding of his overseas university education, specifically in Canada

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SINGAPORE — Children over the age of 21 who are unable to provide for themselves can take their parents to court over university education payment support, according to the Women’s Charter. A 22-year-old Singaporean student recently successfully sued his parents after they refused to support his overseas university education.

A clause in the Women’s Charter mandates payouts for education of children, even those over 21 who are unable to support themselves.

According to a report in The New Paper 22-year-old Singaporean student has successfully sued his father over the funding of his overseas university education, specifically in Canada.

The 60-year-old father is the sole shareholder of a logistics company and director of various other companies.

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He was given 10 days to settle the first payout for his son’s Canadian university education in Canada. At a Family Court on August 21, the father won a temporary reprieve on the enforcement order.

District Judge Suzanne Chin allowed the stay pending the outcome of his appeal against the maintenance order to fund his son’s tertiary education.

The student’s 54-year-old mother was also required by the Family Court judge to cover 40 percent of the funds needed to pay the educational fees.

This particular case called to attention scope of parents’ duties in terms of paying for children’s overseas tertiary education.

According to veteran family lawyer Rajan Chettiar, the Women’s Charter has provisions which state that children up to the age of 21 should have the support of their parents. After the age of 21, Chettiar said that the support may apply “if, say, the child is still studying full time in tertiary education or in training that prepares them for work”.

Continued support by parents also applies when the adult children are mentally or physically disabled; are currently or will be studying at an educational establishment or undergoing training or apprenticeship for a trade, profession or vocation; or serving full-time national service.

But how far do parents’ financial support extend when it comes to their children’s education?

Matrimonial and personal injury claims lawyer Seenivasan Lalita noted that parents are mandated to pay for their children’s education up to tertiary education or their first degree.

For children who wish to continue with further education, such as for “a second degree, master’s or PhD, the court usually does not require parents to provide for it”, said Lalita.

The same report from The New Paper highlighted that according to lawyer Koh Tien Hua, from Eversheds Harry Elias, the court does take into consideration what the parents can and cannot afford. If the parents’ funds are not sufficient to cover the maintenance, the court may decide not to make an order.

Veteran criminal and family lawyer Amolat Singh commented that if still studying or in training, the child is “not gainfully employed and financially cannot stand on his own two feet”, therefore requiring assistance from parents.

Amolat said that the student may be “left in the lurch or buried under debt even before he has earned a cent” if parents are unable to help, especially if they can afford to fund the studies.

Lawyer Ivan Cheong, matrimonial and family lawyer at Eversheds Harry Elias, said the child does not need to be a Singaporean; however, the parent the child is needing educational support from is in Singapore.

Lawyers specialising in family law have said that the clause in the Women’s Charter is reasonable and just. /TISG

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