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Proposed law punishes misuse of child support

Ronnie Skelton. File photo

Ronnie Skelton. File photo

A proposed law currently before the House of Assembly is seeking to punish persons with fines or imprisonment for misusing funds they receive for the maintenance of children.

“A person who has received funds for the maintenance of a child shall apply those funds for that purpose,” noted Clause 29 of the Child Maintenance and Access Bill, which Minister of Health and Social Development Ronnie Skelton is piloting through the House.

The proposed law states that a person who commits an offence is liable on summary conviction ‘to a fine not exceeding $1,000 OR to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six weeks – OR both’.

The offender also ‘shall repay the misapplied funds’, added the proposed law.

The issue of misusing child maintenance funds is among many being addressed in the new law, which Government said seeks to ‘establish a comprehensive regime to ensure that parents provide adequate maintenance for their children, as well as to ensure that both parents have access to their child in order to participate in the child’s upbringing’.

The legal framework regarding the maintenance of children is currently provided for in a few sections of the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure Act, which is being amended to facilitate the new law, the government further said.

Concerns over whether parents have been misusing funds paid for child maintenance has been a longstanding one.

Back in August last year, Director of the Family Support Network Dr Sylvia Simmons claimed that a number of fathers have been telling the court that they don’t pay child maintenance because their children’s mothers have been spending the money on themselves.

“I have sat in court when fathers would make comments to the judges that they are not giving the mothers any monies because she will use it on herself. So, their solution is simply not to take care of their children, or [they] might also make comments – let your ‘new man’ take care of their children,” Dr Simmons lamented.

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