SIS calls for federal child maintenance agency

SIS says attention must be paid to the issue of fathers not paying for child maintenance.

PETALING JAYA: Sisters in Islam has called for the development of a federal child maintenance agency to quantify, collect and pay out child maintenance payments on behalf of separated and divorced parents.

SIS said the idea had been previously explored through various study visits to countries that had an existing agency, stressing that the establishment of such a body would guarantee that children would get their maintenance in a timely manner – thus preventing further “procedural or bureaucratic fuss” that mothers normally have to go through under the present systems.

“The aim is to get more money to more children by making it an automatic and seamless payment to the child and without having to apply to court for an enforcement order every time the father fails to pay,” said SIS in its 2019 Telenisa Statistics and Findings report released today.

“Perhaps the time has come for the relevant ministries and agencies in Malaysia to take this up seriously and clearly demonstrate the nation’s commitment to the lives and futures of children in Malaysia and what is rightly theirs to begin with,” said SIS.

Although Section 72(1) of the Islamic Family Law Federal Territories Act 1984 (IFLA) states that children’s accommodation, food, medical attention and education are to be provided for by the father, non-compliance is a pressing concern.

SIS said while Section 73 (2) of the Selangor Islamic Family Law Enactment might order any “person liable under Hukum Syarak” (grandfather, uncles or successors on the father’s side) to pay maintenance to his children if the father is unable to, it is a provision not commonly known to women.

“In the years to come, to what extent would such provisions remain relevant when state agencies and mechanisms hold the key in ensuring and assuring that children would get the maintenance that is rightly theirs?” asked SIS.

SIS, an NGO working towards advancing the rights of women in Malaysia, equips thousands of women with the awareness and access they need to claim their rights under Muslim family laws through its free Telenisa Legal Clinic.

Its 2019 Telenisa Statistics and Findings report released today found that the top two issues regarding child maintenance are fathers not paying adequate maintenance (52%) and unemployed fathers not providing maintenance (31%).

SIS said child maintenance complaints were one of the most alarming issues that Telenisa faced. Of the 307 cases Telenisa received concerning children last year, 95 cases involved child maintenance and 33 cases involved arrears on child maintenance payments.

The percentage of cases involving child maintenance over the years has not significantly changed and remains at around 31% to 33%.

However, the percentage of arrears in payment of child maintenance has increased four-fold from 2016 to 2018, from 5% in 2016 to 20% in 2018.

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