Son gets court order for father to pay 60% of overseas tertiary education

PHOTO: Getty Images
PHOTO: Getty Images

SINGAPORE — A father who was taken to court by his son after failing to pay for the 22-year-old’s overseas studies was ordered to pay 60 per cent of related education costs.

The father was able to pay for his son’s fees but was unwilling to, as he believed the son wanted to use his money to lead a lifestyle that he disapproved of, District Judge (DJ) Jinny Tan said in a judgement released on 26 July.

None of the parties were named in the judgement made by the Family Court after two days of hearing in January and February.

The father is appealing against the ruling.

The son filed an application against his father in June last year after he missed a deadline to enrol in an overseas educational institution.

In his application, the son sought a lump sum maintenance, which included full tuition fees for two years, and related expenses.

Son missed overseas college’s intake

The father divorced from the son’s mother in 2004. Thereafter, the mother was paying full maintenance of the son, who was born in 1996.

The older man, who had since remarried, has two stepsons whose tertiary education he fully paid for.

His son, who had a polytechnic diploma, had a grade point average of 1.82 out of 4.00, which was not good enough for a local university. He chose to pursue further studies in Canada - a preparatory programme at Columbia College and later a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta.

The father agreed to pay for his son’s fees but requested that the full particulars of the course, including its fees, be sent to him.

The son sent the letter of acceptance from Columbia College and information on related fees to his father, who then asked for a copy of the son’s NRIC and diploma certificate. The father became uncontactable after his son asked him for the reason behind his request.

After the son missed the college’s September 2018 intake, he sued his father in court.

Son going overseas for lifestyle, not education: father

The father, who was not represented in court, claimed that he requested the documents from his son in order to get a bank loan but his son did not comply. He also expressed doubt that his son could do well in his overseas education.

During cross-examination by his son, the father questioned the son’s motivation for going overseas.

The father stated, “What I learnt from him that he wants to leave this country because at the age of eight years old, he found himself that he...preferred men than women.”

Stating that his son would not be committed to his overseas studies, he said, “It’s for his own benefit, which is very unfair. That’s the reason I’m pressing him, study in Singapore, get better marks. Can re-apply to, okay, university again.”

But DJ Tan said the son would not have sent information on the school fees if there wasn’t an agreement between them for his father to pay, the judge added.

“He refused because he was in principle not agreeable to the idea of the son using his money, to go overseas to lead a lifestyle which he disapproves of.”

Father earned more than he let on: judge

The district judge also found that the father had not come clean while declaring his income to the court. While he claimed that his monthly income was $1,000, his 2018 Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore returns showed his annual income was $25,155, which averaged to about $2,000 per month.

The father also receives income as a director of several companies and from other sources.

Under the Women’s Charter, a court may order a parent to pay for a child’s maintenance if the child is above 21 only under certain circumstances - such as if the child will be studying at an educational institution.

Noting that the son was taking steps to improve his employability, DJ Tan ruled that the son was entitled to seek maintenance as he would be receiving instruction at an educational institution.

However, the judge found it unreasonable of the son to solely rely on his father for the maintenance, saying both parents should be responsible.

DJ Tan ruled that the son’s mother should bear 40 per cent of the son’s maintenance. The mother works as a private tutor and has an annual income of $15,000.

The rest of the cost will be borne by the father, who was ordered to pay the son’s maintenance in phases when required by the son.

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