SEPTEMBER 1 — A recent article about a single Muslim mother's plight in getting court ordered maintenance from her former husband has highlighted the issue of “deadbeat dads” i.e. fathers who refuse or fail to financially support their own children.
Over the years, we have come across many such sad cases of divorced and single mothers coping with the financial burden of raising their children alone. Societal expectations and gender based stereotypes have placed the responsibility and therefore the burden of child caring and rearing on women.
It is unsurprising then that single mothers are having added problems when fathers do not contribute their fair share of child support or maintenace or refuse to do so. Single mothers are particularly more acutely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many single mothers are facing financial hardship and uncertainty due to the current difficult period.
It is now time to consider creating a centralised child support agency in Malaysia which will be tasked with tracing, collecting and disbursing unpaid or overdue child support or maintenance payments as ordered by the courts, whether civil or Shariah.
This specialised agency can work with the various state and Federal government agencies such as LHDN, EPF, Socso, ASN, banks and financial institutions in carrying out its mandate.
The enforcement of child maintenance payments is a major legal issue in Malaysia. Voluntary child maintenance payments are not always made. The parties are forced to go back to court to enforce such payments and incur costs and go through time consuming proceedings.
Further, the courts are inundated with applications which force the justice system to be embroiled in enforcement proceedings for family related matters that are not always successful and which could be better handled by a specialised agency.
In addition, single mothers who are left bearing the financial burden of child rearing, are forced to chase after their former spouses when child maintenance payments are not made . They are forced to incur further legal costs and suffer more delays. Many are stuck and are not able to move on with their lives.
Unfortunately, in such situations the ones who suffer the most are the innocent victims, the children. While their mothers struggle to give them their basic necessities, these children are deprived of their birthright — a better standard of living — when their fathers refuse or delay making child maintenance payments.
Besides creating a central child support agency, we need to also streamline court proceedings.
The manner in which divorce and ancillary matters pertaining to children, child maintenance and property division are currently conducted by the courts should be revamped to ensure that the parties are not unnecessarily burdened by protracted legal proceedings which can ultimately affect the welfare of the most vulnerable members of the family unit — the children.
While marriage and the creation of a family are sacred religious duties, let us not overlook the financial obligations of the parties for the family they created. It is with the above reasons in mind that we propose the setting up of a central child support agency.
* Press statement by Chong Eng, Penang State Assemblyman for Padang Lalang, on September 1, 2020.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or organisation(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.