Supreme Court issues child support regulations

The Supreme Court has issued a ruling on child support on Tuesday to standardise expenses obtained by the judiciary for childcare support.

The apex court said parents must pay at least MVR2000 if child support is being provided for one child under 18 years of age. The amount includes MVR1000 for expenses for a child and an additional MVR1000 to support the guardian of the child.

If a parent has to provide support to more than one child, they must pay at least MVR1000 for each child.

Furthermore, the parent has to provide at least MVR1000 to support the parent or guardian of the children, even in cases where a parent has to support children from multiple partners.


Finance Minister rejects Family Court’s claim that government is holding child support money

Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad has rejected a statement from the Family Court alleging the ministry is delaying the release of child support money needed by single parents.

The money is paid to the court, which acts as an intermediary between separated parents. Jihad claimed the ministry has now begun to release the payments.

However, Family Court Registrar Ahmed Shafeeu told local media the court has been receiving complaints over delays in receiving the child support payments.

According to Shafeeu, once a parent submits child support money to the court the money is deposited in the state income account. The Finance Ministry is then supposed to return the money to the court, which issues it to the intended recipient.

Shafeeu states that this is under the order of the Finance Ministry, as defined in the Public Finance Act.

“However, I do not believe at all that there is any reason why this money has to be deposited in the state income account,” Shafeeu stated.

“Lots of people who deposit the money, and who are waiting to receive the money, continue to submit complaints about the delay repeatedly,” he said.

He further stated that no solution has been found to date, although discussions on the matter were held with the Finance Ministry three weeks ago.

Currently in cases of divorce among parents, if the mother applies for child support the father is required to provide a monthly contribution of MVR 1000 (US$65) per child.


Parliament passes amendments to increase child support payments

Parliament has passed amendments to increase the amount of money for child support to MVR 2,000 (US$130) as part of the Family Regulation.

Amendments proposed to article 65 state that that a father who has more than one child must pay MVR 1,000 (US$65) per child per month as child support until the children reaches the age of 18.

According to the amendments, a father who has one child is required to pay MVR 2,000 per month until the child turns 18.

Amendments proposed to article 63 (a) also state that MVR 2,000 per month must be provided during iddah – a period of waiting undertaken by a woman after a divorce.

Previously, the Family Regulation stated that MVR 500 (US$32) should be provided to women during iddah, and MVR 250 (US$16) should be provided as child support, local media reported.

In accordance to article 55 of the Family Act, if a father does not have the financial means to support his children, the court will discuss the issue with the relatives of children in order to make them responsible for the child’s upbringing should they agree.


Child support payments increased to MVR 1000

Child support payments are to increase to MVR 1,000 (US$64) after the Parliament Regulation Committee decided the previous amount of MVR 450 (US$29) was too small, local media reported.

The amendment to article 65 of the Family Regulation now states that a father who has more than one child is required to pay MVR 1,000 per child, per month until the child reaches 18 years of age, local media stated.

A father who has one child is required to pay MVR 2,000 (US$129) per month until that child reaches 18.

The amendment further states that MVR 2,000 must be provided to a woman during iddah – the period of waiting after a divorce, local media reported.

The amendment to the Family Regulation was proposed by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam.


DRP proposing to increase child support, increase age to 18

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayythithunge Party (DRP) has said the party will submit amendments to increase the monthly child support up to Rf1000 (US$65), a 122 percent increase compared to the existing amount.

Under the regulation drafted under the 2001 Family Law, fathers are currently mandated to pay Rf450 (US$29) per child to the former spouse following the breakdown of a marriage.

Similarly, Rf500 (US$32) must be paid to the woman until the period of Idha expires. Idha is period of time a divorced woman is required to wait before re-marrying . DRP is also proposing to increase Idda payment to be increased up to Rf2000 (US$129) – 300 percent increase.

DRP’s parliamentary group member Rozaina Adam told reporters that several single-mothers are today financial burdened and struggling to raise children.

She stressed that, “existing child support amounts are inadequate and outdated compared to the current cost of living.”

“Inflation has gone up. The cost of living has increased. Therefore, Rf450 is not enough to cover childcare costs now,” the MP for Thulusdhoo constituency noted.

Under the amendments that will be submitted next week passes, Rozaina says, fathers will have to pay child support till the child reach 18 years, instead of 16.

Meanwhile, she also emphasised on the legal challenges faced by the mothers in obtaining child support.

She noted several cases are delayed in courts across the islands due to absence of judges and other various reasons, while in other cases, the child support money collected by the court are not distributed to its recipient’s for months- an issue highlighted by the Auditor General following the audit of the courts.

The audit found that Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) made no effort to distribute child support money worth over Rf1.3 million (US$85,000) while some remains uncollected – indicating that single-mothers are bearing the financial burden of raising children.

The Maldives has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, with almost 47 percent households headed by females and single mothers.

A monthly allowance of Rf2000 (US$130) is distributed by state to single-mothers; however, flaws in the system and miscommunications leave many mothers empty-handed, especially in the atolls.

“I have a five year old son. His father has not provided child support since we got divorced. But I do not get child support because I am a civil servant. That is very upsetting because I can barely cover our costs from my salary,” a school supervisor working on Hithadhoo island previously told Minivan News.

A local gender affairs expert told Minivan News the Maldives needed urgent legal reforms to ensure a better social care system for single parents and children under their custody. However, she argued, “dependent systems must not be created without  empowerment programs to encourage women to break out of it.”


Department of Judicial Administration failed to distribute RF1.3 million in child support

The Director of the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) has made no effort to distribute child support money worth over Rf1.3 million (US$85,000), according to the Auditor General, while large amounts of money owed after court rulings has not been collected from offenders or distributed to successful plaintiffs.

According to a 2010 audit report on the DJA released on Thursday, auditors found that if the recipients of the child support did not explicitly collect the money from the court, the money remained undistributed and no additional measures were taken by the court deliver the child support to its rightful recipient.

“Until December 2010, a total of Rf1,301,767.67 million remains undistributed with the court. However, the documents indicate that the court has made no efforts to distribute the money,” the report reads.

Following the breakdown of a marriage, husbands are mandated to make payments to their former spouses to cover the costs of childcare.

The report further notes that “as the records on child support money received by the court so far have not been maintained by the court properly”, it was unclear as to how much money the court was also supposed to receive as per the court orders.

The audit report noted that the DJA had not collected a total of Rf 1.6 million (US$104,000) owed by men found guilty of divorcing their wives outside the court.

A total of Rf2.1 million US$136,000) needs to be collected by the Civil Court as of February 2011, while a significant sum of Rf22 million (US$1.42 million) is owed to the Criminal court following court rulings and remained uncollected as of January 2011.

“The Department of Judicial administration has not done adequate work to collect the funds,” Auditor General Ibrahim Niyaz observed in the report.

Niyaz refrained from issuing an opinion on the financial statements provided the DJA, citing that the statements were not prepared in accordance with international public sector accounting standards (IPSAS) following principles of “accrual accounting” or the “financial reporting under cash basis of accounting” issued by the IPSAS board, while several “fundamental records” were unaccounted for in the statements.

He noted that earnings from the magistrate court amounting to almost Rf4.9 million (US$318,000) were not recorded as income in the financial statement, while the funds remained in court safes and bank accounts. Similarly, Rf6.9 million (US$448,000) dispersed in advance to magistrate courts were recorded as an expenditure in the financial statement, while the auditors found that the funds remain “unspent” by the courts.

In an issue highlighted in previous audit reports of state institutions for 2010, the AG noted that between October 2008 and December 2011, Supreme Court judges had paid their phone bills amounting to Rf281,519 from the state budget, despite the fact that parliament had not allocated any phone allowances to the judges.

Therefore he recommended the amount be reimbursed and that the granting of phone allowances be determined as per parliament’s decision.

Meanwhile, Rf117, 832 (US$7640) was found to have been overspent on wages and allowances to the driver of a judge’s car.

DJA’s reponse: “loophole in the system”

The Director of the Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Maajid said there is a “loophole in the implementation and enforcement” system that is resulting in millions of rufiya not being collected or distributed after legal decisions have been made.

Maajid explained these findings, arguing that there was currently no governmental authority or body to handle this aspect of the court’s work.

“It is upon the mother to get [the child support]. We have not executive or judicial authority to distribute it. There is a loophole in the system. It is not a case of corruption but a weakness in the system itself,” said Maajid.

“Currently the courts have no authority to give money over to the women. What normally happens is that the men get away without paying,” he continued.

Maajid went on to say that the issue concerned both the collection and the distribution of moneys owed. He argued that a new authoritative body was needed with the responsibility to collect these outstanding fees.

Maajid, however, did not see the problem as insurmountable although he felt it required urgent attention.

“This shortcoming in the system must be patched up very soon in order to fix this loophole,” he said.

Additional reporting by Daniel Bosley.