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Child support: Employers may be sent to prison

Ronnie Skelton (File Photo)

Ronnie Skelton (File Photo)

The British Virgin Islands has proposed relatively tough actions against employers who fail to carry out court orders under the territory’s first comprehensive legal framework that is seeking to address the vexing issue of child maintenance.

Under the proposed Child Maintenance and Access Bill, employers may face up to six months imprisonment if they discriminate against any employee whose pension or salary the court orders them to garnish for the purpose of child maintenance.

“No employer shall dismiss, suspend, penalise or victimise an employee on the basis of an attachment order [to deduct funds] being made against that employee under this Act,” the proposed law said.

It went on to state that any employer who violates that provision by discriminating commits an offence, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 OR a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months.

Failing to garnish

The proposed law, in the meantime, indicated that action will also be taken against employers who refuse to carry out a court order to garnish the salaries or pensions of persons who refuse to pay child maintenance.

The court order will contain a penal notice, ‘notifying the person ordered to make the deduction and subsequent payment that he or she will be personally liable for the payment, if he or she fails to make the deduction in compliance with the attachment order’ that instructs the garnishing of salaries or pensions.

Further, under the proposed Child Maintenance and Access Bill, a person ordered to garnish salaries or pensions must notify the court of any change of circumstance that affects the deduction and payment of the child maintenance. That must be done within 14 clear days of the change, added the proposed law, which Minister of Health Ronnie Skelton is piloting through the House of Assembly.

The Bill also outlines a number of actions that may be taken against persons who refuse to pay child maintenance.

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