Dead­beat dads have to pay what they owe

Irish Daily Mail - - News -

THE en­force­ment of main­te­nance or­ders in this coun­try is at best hap­haz­ard and of­ten non-ex­is­tent. There can be few among us who do not know of a lone par­ent, usu­ally the mother, hav­ing to beg for what she was awarded by a court to pay for her chil­dren’s food, cloth­ing and ed­u­ca­tion – or, in many cases, sim­ply get­ting no money at all.

Feck­less fa­thers get away with this, of­ten favour­ing their sec­ond fam­i­lies to the detri­ment of their first.

In this year’s di­vi­sive ref­er­en­dum on abor­tion, we heard a lot about how preg­nant women should be en­cour­aged and sup­ported to have their ba­bies, but lit­tle in the way of prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions about how they might be fi­nan­cially sup­ported in or­der to do so.

One ob­vi­ous way would be to com­pel these dead­beat dads to pay what they owe. And, if the ex­am­ple of Judge Pa­trick Dur­can in En­nis Dis­trict Court was fol­lowed else­where, this might be eas­ier than we think.

Yesterday, he told a man who owed €5,350 in main­te­nance for his daugh­ter that if he did not im­me­di­ately sell a car he bought for €10,000 with the pro­ceeds of a per­son­al­in­jury award, he would be jailed.

Blunt and to the point, this is the sort of get-tough at­ti­tude we need to see more of. This man was not asked to con­trib­ute a huge amount, be­cause €50 a week does not go far. That he could not even pay that sim­ply added to the stress and bur­den placed on his for­mer partner. While she strug­gled, the man blew €18,000 be­tween April and June of this year.

Too of­ten, men see main­te­nance or­ders as some sort of guide­line for vol­un­tary as­sis­tance. The sooner they re­alise they are legally re­quired to con­trib­ute, and could be jailed if they do not, the bet­ter for all. We salute Judge Dur­can for his straight talk­ing, and for de­fend­ing the right of women and chil­dren to be fi­nan­cially sup­ported by these men.

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