Editorial

Time for Revamped Child Support Laws?

IWD is typically a day set out to celebrate women – their achievements and progress over the years. It is also one of those days when issues women have faced and still face are swept out from under the rug. One of those relates to the priority given to single mothers and their offspring.

Consider child support legislation in this country. Here in Saint Lucia, the mandated maintenance sum fathers are required to put towards the needs of a child ranges between $125 and $200 monthly per child. This apparently depends on circumstance, and failure to pay on time can lead to imprisonment. This requirement typically ends when the child is 18 but may be adjusted by the courts before then.

There are quite a few ways to look at this. First off, as prices for everything increase, gas, groceries, education – one would think by now a government past or present would have made it a priority to modify this legislation, as the current requirements are not only archaic, but place an additional burden on women in particular. Childcare alone starts at around $200 a month and that isn’t even considering the basic needs of a child. One could also argue that this $200 per child figure almost encourages the ‘baby mama’ mentality, but quite obviously, a man cannot have a baby on his own. The woman also, doing her due diligence, gets to decide whether or not she thinks the person she is dealing with is responsible enough to be the father of her child. This points to a glaring reality – when it comes to issues parents face which lead them to the courts, more often than not, irresponsibility on both sides is what takes them there.

Another perspective begins with the realisation that it is not possible to make a sweeping generalisation in this case as many fathers take active interest in their children. Some of them find themselves dealing with vindictive mothers who do not allow them to see their children even when they provide regular financial contributions. What can these fathers do without having to drag the mother of their child through the courts to be able to see their children regularly?

Some in the legal profession have described this as a problem without solution – while on one hand there are those men who either can’t afford to, or are not interested in taking responsibility for their children, will throwing them in jail for not paying up be of any benefit to the innocent children involved? They can neither work nor spend time with their children behind bars.

That brings up another relevant point – if the state can put into law provisions that make it mandatory for fathers (or mothers) to contribute to their children’s upbringing, it is not also possible, where relevant, to require that these same individuals spend a set amount of time every week assisting the other parent, and bonding with their child/children? Perhaps this is something worth considering…

This conversation is incomplete without focusing more intently on fathers who step up to the plate. Some are left alone to raise children because the mothers in these scenarios are plain and simple not interested or unable to be present for varied reasons. These fathers also need support. Parents in general need to go above and beyond any minimal fees required to raise their children, and the laws in our country should reflect the priority of giving children the attention and resources they deserve.

A healthy family is the foundation of a healthy society. The resources we allocate to supporting our children and our families (whether parents are in a romantic relationship or not), will pave the path to our successes in the future.

We invite readers to give their feedback on this issue, particularly as it relates to how this law might be improved to benefit both men and women of our society. Email editor@thevoiceslu.com to share your thoughts.

1 Comment

  1. I applaud this piece and would like to insist that in the upgrade of the laws, mothers should be made to provide tangible evidence of the amounts spent on the care of their child.

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