Absentee fathers owe N$1.8m in maintenance
Absentee fathers in Windhoek alone owe about N$1.8 million in child maintenance fees to their partners and girlfriends, Prosecutor-General, Martha Imalwa has revealed.
This comes as parliament passed the amended Child Care and Protection Bill, which now allows pregnant women to claim for child maintenance.
In a brief interview with The Villager, Imalwa said Chapter 13 of the Child Care and Protection Bill is dedicated to contribution orders which enable the courts to eliminate loopholes.
“This chapter is dedicated to all persons legally liable to maintain or to contribute towards the maintenance of a child. It includes legal procedures to be undertaken in such circumstances in the best interests of the child”, she said.
She also added that, “The Maintenance Courts are often overwhelmed by the increasing number of maintenance orders, and loopholes in the system allow for some of these fathers to default on their payments because court orders are not well- enforced.”
Imalwa said ‘deadbeat’ fathers default on maintenance payments, often using unemployment as an excuse for non-payment.
Such fathers will now face the full wrath of the law, and may even face jail time.
She said any person who refuses or fails to comply with a legit order commits an offence, and is liable to a fine not exceeding N$2 000, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.
The Bill further states that Sections 33 and 39 of the Maintenance Act, 2003, read with such changes as the context may require, apply to a person who refuses or fails to comply with a contribution order.
The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC)’s Gender Research & Advocacy Project Coordinator Dianne Hubbard was upbeat.
“The new law will make sure that all children are treated equally. It says that all children are entitled to a fair share of their parents’ resources, regardless of their order of birth - and the same principles will apply to all children, regardless of whether they were born inside or outside of marriage, and regardless of what customary law applies” she stressed.
Hubbard added that a share of pregnancy and birth-related expenses can now be included as part of a maintenance claim, meaning that mothers and fathers are expected to share the responsibility for the child right from the very point of conception.
The new laws also make provision for primary caretakers - persons other than parents who take primary responsibility for the daily care of a child - to approach the Maintenance Court for help with getting payments from one or both parents directly.
“The new law will operate more efficiently. Those ‘deadbeat dads’ who ignore the summons to come to court will find that maintenance orders can now be made in their absence”, Hubbard noted.
She said the Act furthermore sees the introduction of maintenance investigators, who will make it harder for people to hide themselves or their income.
Where someone does not have a cash income to use for maintenance, the new law allows for payments in kind, including maintenance in the form of cattle.
by Hileni Heita