Set up a Child Support Agency to ensure children’s maintenance

Sisters in Islam calls on the Government to set up a Child Support Agency (CSA) in Malaysia, to manage a more effective children’s maintenance system. (NST, 9 November 2005, front page)

Parents who do not live with their children usually do not pay for child support on a regular basis. This is a universal problem. The majority of parents do no even get court orders for child support. Of those who get court orders, compliance rate is very low.

Research shows that in countries where a government Child Support Agency has been set up, the majority of children of divorced parents receive regular and adequate child support from their non-custodial parent.

A government Child Support system removes child maintenance from a judicial to an administrative process. Such an agency assesses the amount to be paid by the parent who is not living with the children, collects arrears in payment, and disburses the child support to the parent or guardian with custody of the children. It also traces absent parents to notify them of assessments made and arrange for a suitable payment method.

A CSA also has the power to enforce payment. The agency can instruct employers to deduct maintenance money from the parents’ wages. If self-employed, court action is taken to ensure compliance. This may include securing court orders against property or deposit accounts or sending in bailiffs to take possession of properties up to the value of the debt incurred.  Other penalties include denial of use of passports, loss of drivers and professional licences, including medical, legal or contractor’s licences.

In Australia, over 70 percent of parents pay regularly for child support compared to 25 percent when it was under the court’s jurisdiction. The Australian Child Support Agency is also able to collect about 90 percent of arrears due. Assessments made by the CSA are found to be more realistic than the low amounts usually ordered by the courts.  Social welfare payments also decreased as custodial parents did not have to go to the government for income support to bridge the gap in their children’s maintenance.

Sisters in Islam urges the Government to conduct a comprehensive study of various child support systems already implemented in several countries to work out the best system for the Malaysian context. Errant parents should not be allowed to go on evading their responsibilities without any punitive action taken for the damage done to their children.

Sisters in Islam
9 November 2005

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