Events & Programmes

Roundtable on the Maintenance

We conducted a survey on alimony from July to October 2016; 185 divorced women responded to the survey. The survey found that more than 60% of respondents found it difficult to collect alimony payments, generally due to the payments being in arrears. More than four-tenths of respondents (86%) stated that if government were to receive alimony payment on their behalf and issue it to them, then they would apply for alimony. This number is several times the fewer than one-fifth (16.9%) of divorcees (i.e. those who would apply for or plan to apply for alimony in such a case) as indicated in government statistics and is the indication that intermediaries have a big role to play in collecting alimony.

 

Amongst respondents who experienced difficulties collecting alimony, more than nine-tenths (92%) stated that payments were in arrears, followed by those who had been "scolded or humiliated" during collection (44%), and "ex-husband went missing" (21%). Some respondents even reported cases of violence, intimidation, or violence against children in the course of alimony collection.

 

For those respondents whose alimony payments were in arrears, more than four-fifths reported that payments were "neither punctual nor adequate" (81%), and more than nine-tenths (91%) reported that they experienced financial troubles due to payments in arrears. The most popular solution for such respondents were to "find a job" (37%), followed by "scrimping and saving" (21%), and "applying for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA)".

 

For the 44 respondents who were owed alimony, 75% reported having attempted to recover missed payments, whilst 25% stated that they had not made attempts to recover alimony. Amongst the respondents who had not made attempts to recover alimony, 82% stated that they did not make an attempt because "the filing process was too complicated" and "I didn't have faith in the recovery process", while 64% stated that "the payor will not pay alimony" and "the payor is unable to pay alimony".

 

Based on the findings of our survey and our work, we can realise that women face stumbling blocks when applying for and recovering alimony. The payor bears the responsibility to make alimony payments in full, yet the current system fails to effectively protect the recipient from receiving their prescribed alimony in full, and can be said to be troublesome, puzzling, or even resulting in economic hardship for recipients. We hold that the current procedure for enforcing alimony payments be simplified to address in response to the present failures to execute alimony rulings and the troubles recipients experience during recover. Doing so would help avoid recipient spouses and supported children falling into dire straits financially as well as avoid the long, tedious judicial current recovery processes. We propose that an intermediary agency to collect and distribute alimony be established to simplify the process and relieve recipients from having to do so themselves, running between the court and Social Welfare Department to stave off financial troubles.