Despondent mothers beg for child maintenance

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Eveline de Klerk

Swakopmund-Waiting for child maintenance is reducing some mothers to beggary and puts the intended receivers of such funds – the children – at a disadvantage.

Child maintenance can range from a few hundred dollars per month to several thousand, depending on the parental income.

This came to light during a series of public hearings on issues related to child maintenance conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday and Tuesday in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

Ombudsman Advocate John Walters conducted the hearings, at which single mothers shared their experiences, frustrations and humiliation when trying to collect money from maintenance clerks at the courts.

Among the issues raised, the women said the system lacks integrity and does not work in their favour, as they have to wait for weeks or months without receiving money. They said the money was rarely processed on time, despite having been deducted on time by employers and would remain in the system for months.

“The court clerks that deal with maintenance are rude and reluctant to assist us. Regardless of how many hours you sit in front of them, they would simply close the door when it is 1 p.m., as they don’t do pay-outs after that. They would close the door in your face and tell you to come back tomorrow,” one of the single mothers reported.

Another said some maintenance clerks were reluctant to make a simple phone call or read a confirmation email sent by the employer to indicate that the money had been paid over.

It was also explained during the hearing that most companies do electronic transfers and then send through proof of payment to the clerk in charge of the payments.

“They are unfriendly and will also not guide you as to how to deal with issues when the money is really not paid in. And you, the complainant, have to call and find out why the money is not paid,” another mother mentioned.

A further concern raised was over warrants of arrest that were not executed, despite several attempts by mothers to bring the issue of non-payment to the courts’ attention. “We don’t know what the hold-up is, despite us following up several times with them. All I can say is that the system is failing us while it is supposed to make it easier for us to collect the money,” one said.

A divorced woman claimed the courts were lenient with ex-husbands and said she was waiting for a High Court ruling to be enforced, so she can get child support. “We divorced in 2016 and my husband was ordered to pay maintenance for our children, as ordered by the High Court. However, we are still waiting for the ruling to be enforced. Dockets disappear and nothing is being done.

“Some of us were told by the court that we are not entitled to maintenance, while we are still legally married, although my husband left me with our three kids,” the woman reported.

Speaking to New Era after the meeting, Advocate Walters said there were indeed serious shortcomings in the justice system and that very little had been done to get errant fathers to comply with court orders.

“There is immediate action needed. Such orders as this reduce women to beggars, but in the end it is the child that suffers when the money is not received. The system seriously needs to be looked at,” he said. Walters said further public hearings would be held next year, after which he will draft and submit a comprehensive report to the Ministry of Justice for action.

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