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Child support is a legal affair, not an emotional one


Having a child is the dream of most couples. The child is what completes the union and makes a couple whole. The moment of child birth is usually met with jubilation and gratitude. But what if this couple break up or are not legally married? What if raising this child involves running up and down court corridors to seek child. On the 5th of every month, she patiently waits for her late daughter's upkeep from the child's father. She gives her ordeal of how she has to follow the child's father so that her four year old grand daughter can be well taken care of." The father sends 3000 shillings but sometimes, he declines. He laments that we want to milk him dry. He goes further to ask if we are establishing a shop with his money if we ask for the child's monthly needs.

She is bitter that the father is a police officer with a decent salary but distances himself from his child. He does not go out of his way to ensure his child has health care and a well secured education future. Many times, he promises to pay for the child's medical cover but he doesn't. “I take care of all medical emergencies," Mary says.

Diana, a 29 year old mother of one, is also in and out of the children's office department over child support. The father is a business man but refuses to pay child support because he doesn't have custody of the child. "I pay the child's school fees, buy food, clothes, cater to the  child’s shelter and even entertainment," she says. After filing for child support at the children's department, the father was called. He insisted on being given custody of the child. He lamented of how he was not allowed to see his child or had any information on his school progress. He was granted partial custody and had to pay for the child's education. Diana provides for other needs since she was also working.

While some women decide to seek legal redress on child support, others decide to ignore the matter.

Gladys Wanjiru is such a mother. "I decided to raise my child alone since his father had threatened to kill me. My business is also doing well and I can't risk a legal battle with him," she says. Gladys left her husband when her son was five years old. Her husband used to hit her and one time, he wanted to stab her over a domestic squabble. "My neighbours rescued me. He would strangle me at times till I lost my breath. I had to move to another town with my son for our safety," she says.

Kevin Ondari, a lawyer based in Nairobi, says things can always be sort out in courts of law. "What a mother needs is to pay legal fees and identify a good lawyer. After filing a case, she needs to attend all court proceedings. This process can take a period of six months to a year," He says. He further explains that in case the father denies paternity then the mother will have to pay for a paternity test. If the results are positive, she needs to seek compensation. The court will then access the father's income, the child's current status will be looked into as well as the father's business interests and other responsibilities. Sometimes, Courts decide on as little as 5000 shillings for child support to as much as thousands of shillings. "The court looks at the best interests of the child and settles for an amount that will be sustainable," Kevin explains. "This payment can be directly deducted from the father’s salary. The mother will also be required to carter for other needs like shelter, food or clothing."

Kevin concludes that women should know that they are also supposed to contribute to child support. He advises mothers to play their part and shouldn't shy from courts if disgruntled.

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