The 1992 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the upbringing and development of children and a standard of living adequate for the children’s development is a common responsibility of both parents and is a fundamental human right for children. It is the child’s parents’ primary responsibility to provide such for their children.
It is common for one parent to sue the other for child support. The gist of such a suit is to ask the court to compel a parent who is not providing for the child’s needs to provide. This usually follows the end of a marriage or a relationship where a child was born, and sometimes, no relationship, no marriage existed between the parents of the child.
Child support is usually in the form of money and other benefits such as health and education insurance. The person compelled by court to provide child support is called the obligor, while the other is called the obligee. In most cases, the obligee is the parent with physical custody of the child.
Child maintenance is paid directly or indirectly by an obligor to an obligee for the care and support of children of a relationship that has been terminated, or in some cases never existed. Often the obligor is a non-custodial parent. The obligee is typically a custodial parent, a caregiver, a guardian, or the state. Where parents have joint custody of the child, then the parent with more income is required to pay the other parent.
It should be remembered that parental responsibility is joint and equal. It follows therefore that every parent has the duty to support their child. Child support includes the following: physical care, emotional and psychological care, intellectual support, spiritual support, among others.
When paying child support, the obligor is not released from the responsibility of meeting costs associated with the child in their home during their right of visitation. Most times, support orders also stipulate the exact costs which the obligor should meet. They may be: education, health, food, shelter, clothing, toys, etc.
Child support paid by a non-custodial parent or obligor, does not absolve the obligor of the responsibility for costs associated with their child staying with the obligor in their home during visitation. For example, if an obligor pays child support to an obligee, this does not mean that the obligee is responsible for food, shelter, furniture, toiletries, clothes, toys or games, or any of the other child expenses directly associated with the child staying with the non-custodial parent or obligor.
In such cases where child support is clearly stipulated in the court order, the obligor may pay those costs directly at the point where the child needs the support. For example, school fees may be payed directly to the school, etc.
Some other court orders may state the percentage of child support to be paid by either parent.
Obtaining child support
It should be noted at this point that child support can be obtained through alternative dispute resolution means.
However, the family and children’s court is also available for those who would prefer to litigate.
Where a party chooses to litigate, he/she in person or through a duly authorised agent must file, at the court house near them, an application asking for custody. In the application, the spouse who seeks child support must demonstrate to the court that the other parent has refused, and or failed to meet the child’s needs.
If the paternity of the child is disputed, then a paternity test must be done.
Determining the amount to pay as child support.
Several factors must be considered by court before determining the amount to be paid by the obligor as child support. Such factors include the income of the parents, the basic expenses needed to take care of the child, the number and age of the child/children for whom child support is sought, the number and age of other children living in the home, whether the child has special needs, and many others.
After the above have been considered, then a child support order, stating how much the obligor should provide is issued.
Ordinarily, the child support order stays the same over time. But if there is change in the above circumstances, then the order may be reviewed.
A support order is valid for the period that the court dictates. It may be specific or conditional upon something, say, the attainment of a certain age.
It may also be terminated in the event of death, the child’s marriage or when the child attains the age of majority.
Where the obligor fails to comply with the court order, the obligee may approach the court again for orders against the obligor for contempt of court.
If you are having issues with child support, please get in touch with us for appropriate advice. Remember, the law is most relevant when applied to a given set of facts.
This article appears in our law newsletter Vol 12 Issue 1 of December 1st, 2017. To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE