Questions Facing Unwed Mothers: Birth, Adoption, and Maintenance


Photo by Stijn Dijkstra from Pexels

Amelia* is turning 18 years old this year and has just gotten out of an abusive relationship with her now ex-boyfriend. Around the time of the breakup, she found out that she was about eight weeks pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child. When she told him about the pregnancy, he told her in no uncertain terms that he wanted nothing to do with her or her child. Strangely, however, he is adamant that the child should not be given up for adoption. He told her to choose between aborting the pregnancy or raising the child on her own. Amelia has since been kicked out of her family home and is distraught and at a loss as to what to do.

Some friends have told Amelia that aborting the pregnancy would “solve all her problems”. Afterall, Amelia is practically a child herself, how can she be expected to raise a child on her own? Where will she find the means to raise the child?

On the other hand, since the news of Amelia’s unexpected pregnancy broke, many have stepped forward to lend their support. Several families have opened their houses to welcome Amelia into their homes. Older married couples have offered to adopt the child. Some people around her have opened their hands, offering to support both Amelia and her child financially.

While she considers all the life-changing options before her, Amelia is worried that, if she should carry the baby to term, her ex-boyfriend may later return to hurt her child. How can she protect the child from her abusive ex-boyfriend when she could not even protect herself from him?

We heard of Amelia’s story recently and decided to address some of her concerns in this article.

Does the child’s biological father have a say in whether the child is to be aborted?

No, the child’s biological father has no say in whether the child is to be aborted.

The Termination of Pregnancy Regulations requires all pregnant women to attend a mandatory pre-abortion counselling.[1] Upon completion of the pre-abortion counselling, the pregnant woman would receive a “Certificate of Attendance”. Authorised medical practitioners should not terminate the pregnancy of a woman unless she produces a Certificate of Attendance in the prescribed form (i.e., Form VII in this schedule).[2]

Before a pregnant woman can undergo the procedure to terminate her pregnancy, a mandatory minimum of 48 hours must lapse after she has attended the pre-abortion counselling.[3] After the procedure, patients will be offered post-abortion counselling.[4]

Unwed teen mothers are strongly encouraged to reach out to Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support and Safe Place for help.

Can an unwed mother choose to omit the name of the child’s biological father from the child’s birth certificate?

In the event where:

  • a child is born out of wedlock (i.e., the biological parents of the child are not married to each other); and
  • the child’s biological father is not the informant of the birth,

the child’s mother may choose not to name the child’s biological father in the child’s birth certificate. In such instances, the child would take the surname of his/her biological mother.[5]

Can an unwed mother still apply for maintenance from the child’s biological father even though he is not named in the child’s birth certificate?

The child’s biological father and mother are under a duty to maintain or contribute to the maintenance of the child, regardless of whether the child is legitimate or illegitimate.[6] Thus, an unwed mother may apply for maintenance from the child’s biological father even though he is not named in the child’s birth certificate. Assuming that the child’s biological father accepts that he is the biological father of the child, he would be required to contribute to the maintenance of the child.

However, if the man challenges the paternity of the child (i.e., whether he is in fact the child’s biological father), the child’s mother would then have to order a DNA test to prove the man to be the father of her child.

Does an unwed mother need the consent of the child’s biological father should she wish to give up her child up for adoption?

As the child’s biological father, he would have certain rights, duties, obligations and liabilities to the child. Thus, should the unwed mother wish to give her child up for adoption, the consent of the child’s biological father is required.[7]

What if the child’s biological father refuses to consent to the child being put up for adoption?

Even if the child’s biological father refuses to give his consent to the adoption, the Court still retains the discretion to dispense with his consent.[8]

Can an unwed mother prevent the child’s biological father from seeing his child?

As the child’s biological father, he has a right of access to the child. If the child’s mother refuses to allow the child’s biological father access to the child, the child’s biological father may bring a court action to gain access to the child. The Court may, upon the biological father’s application, make orders as it may think fit regarding the biological father’s right of access to the child.[9]

Can an unwed mother relocate overseas with her child without the consent of the child’s biological father?

In 2010, Singapore acceded to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Hague Convention”). The objective of the Hague Convention is to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State. The remedies available under the Hague Convention are only available in countries which have signed the Hague Convention.[10] As of the date of this article, the countries which have signed the Hague Convention are listed here [pdf file].

Thus, should the unwed mother relocate overseas with her child without the consent of child’s biological father and the country to which she brings the child is a Contracting State to the Hague Convention, the biological father may make an application under the Hague Convention for the return of the child to Singapore.

What alternative does an unwed mother have in this case?

An unwed mother may choose to adopt her own child. An Adoption Order would sever the legal parent–child relationship between the child and his/her biological father. This means that the biological father would no longer have any say in the child’s life and she would be free to relocate overseas with her child to start their lives afresh.

That said, the unwed mother should also consider that once the Adoption Order is made, the biological father would no longer be obliged to maintain the child. This would leave the unwed mother solely responsible to provide for the child.

Although Section 4(1) of the Adoption of Children Act stipulates that adopters must be at least 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the child, Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Adoption of Children Act gives the Court discretion to grant an Adoption Order in cases where the adopter is related to the child by blood.

Today, Amelia has been lovingly welcomed into the home of a couple who heard about her situation. If you know of someone who is homeless or are going to be/at risk of being homeless the Homeless Hearts of Singapore can help. You may also contact New Hope Community Services, Catholic Welfare Services, or your nearest family service centre.

* Name has been changed for privacy reasons.


[1] See Regulation 5(1) of the Termination of Pregnancy Regulations.
[2] See Regulation 5(3) of the Termination of Pregnancy Regulations.
[3] See Regulation 6(1) of the Termination of Pregnancy Regulations.
[4] See Regulation 5(4) of the Termination of Pregnancy Regulations.
[5] See Section 10(1) of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act.
[6] See Section 68 of the Women’s Charter
[7] See Sections 4(4) and 5(a) of the Adoption of Children Act. See also Attorney-General v Chia Soo Choo [1994] 2 SLR (R) 882 (HC).
[8] See Section 4(4) of the Adoption of Children Act.
[9] See Section 5 of the Guardianship of Infants Act.
[10] See Article 35 of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction [pdf file].


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