June 23rd, 2011

We welcome initiative to encourage prompt maintenance payments

A new service offered by a credit bureau will make maintenance payment records part of credit reports.

A failure to pay spousal or child support can now be recorded on an individual’s credit report. The DP SME Commercial Credit Bureau (the Bureau) has been designated by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) to be the first credit bureau for the purposes of receiving a report on unpaid maintenance arrears.

When MCYS consulted the public on proposed changes to the Women’s Charter in 2010, one of the central amendments suggested by AWARE was to set up a central body to collect maintenance payments. We believe that the services provided by the Bureau are a step in the right direction, as the risk of having a stain on your credit report will encourage more defaulters to meet their maintenance obligations on time.

A person who is owed a debt can approach the Bureau personally with the Court Order that states the maintenance arrears. The Bureau will record the debt and make the information available to members of the Bureau.

The Bureau’s membership consists of more than 700 companies, including leading banks, retailers, moneylenders and other credit providers.

The initiative is part of a suite of measures introduced by MCYS to improve the rate of compliance of maintenance orders. During the last four years, there were approximately 3,400 applications for enforcement of maintenance orders every year.

Ms Chen Yew Nah, managing director of the DP SME Commercial Credit Bureau, says the aim of the new reporting system is to encourage prompt payment of spousal and child support obligations.

“In Singapore most people place a great value on having a good credit standing. Knowing that a record of your matrimonial maintenance debts is kept by a credit bureau will motivate defaulters to keep up to date with their obligations.

“When an individual approaches a member of the Bureau seeking credit or to do business with them, a failure to honour a maintenance payment will show up as part of the credit check. It is up to each individual member of the Bureau to determine what they will do with the information.”

Separately, the Bureau will also be able to provide a range of optional services, which include providing mediation between the both parties to help settle disputes; issuing reminders on when and how to pay marital obligations; tracing the defaulter’s whereabouts if necessary; collecting payment and undertaking debt collection on behalf of maintenance recipients.

Each month, all the Bureau’s members provide details of the companies and individuals that owe them money, as well as which debts have been paid on time and which have not. This information is then fed into the DP SME Commercial Credit Bureau database so that a clearer picture of a debtor’s behaviour can be seen. Each of the Bureau’s 700-odd members can request a credit report on a company or an individual. Currently the DP SME Commercial Credit Bureau has more than 800,000 individual payment records of Singaporeans and Singapore businesses.

More information is available here.

2 Comments ...

  1. Iris Chua Chor Luan

    I applaud the efforts made by MCYS to set up the Bureau, a step further to help women who’s errant ex spouses defaulted in maintenance. You may be interested to know that ST Forum has published 2 of my letters regards to difficulties faced by women on 8th June and my comments on forum regards the special report on spousal maintainence ‘men just won’t pay’ which was published today 9th July.
    May you care to comment thru ST forum so to further strengthen the case to be a voice for unjust treatment faced by helpless women

    #2671
  2. Priscilla

    It is interesting and timely to note that DP SME Commercial Credit Bureau has been authorised to manage defaulters who do not pay their ex-spouses maintenance fees and or alimony. I would just like to share my story that this is only the tip of the iceberg. I have been divorced 11 years now and have been going up and down the courts for about 5-6 years to get the maintenance order enfored but nothing concrete was done by the courts. Each time my ex-spouse is asked to come, he will tell the court that he will honor the payments at least for the current ones. My children are now 24 and 20 and I had struggled over the years financially to bring them up after my divorce and not to mention mounting inflation costs. If the figures are anything to go by, his arrears stands at S$105,600 today (it was a monthly court order of S$800 per month for both children).

    There were two reasons for this – one is he was never once charged nor put behind bars even for a short period on the maintenance defaults. Everytime I get to the court, I am asked to repeat the whole story over and over to the court staff on what he owes and they do not seem to refer to the previous records that were submitted. Eventually, I gave up and till today, nothing had been done and I have finally given up. A warrant of arrest was issued but the court acted after one year to ask him to attend court and that was it … again nothing was done. Though we agree some ex-spouses are responsbile towards their children, there are others who are not . It is as if, let the court charge me so what attitude and they will rather go than to pay.

    I feel that enough is not being done, well at least from my experience. I had only wasted my time and effort over the years going to the court to enforce but no action. And I think Ms Corinna Lim from AWARE has summed it all up in her statement “You can give the courts a hundred ways to enforce this, but it’s always the woman who has to go back to court .. she’s just going to give up.” So this in essence, is exactly what happened to me.

    #2694