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Divorced women's plight in collecting maintenance payments

The number of divorce cases has risen from 2,062 in 1981 to 20,019 in 2014. According to the data of the Census and Statistics Department in 2010, nearly half of the maintenance payees failed to collect all the maintenance payments, while more women faced insult or even violence in seeking it. Ways of collecting maintenance include attachment of income order, judgment summons and bailiff but these measures obviously were not effective enough. In 2016, there were up to 13,900 cases of defaulting maintenance. Yet there were only 844 judgement summonses in that year, and only 78 attachment of income orders between 2012 and 2016. Collecting maintenance requires creditors to actively collect and adduce evidence, as well as the co-operation of the debtors, plus the complex legal procedures and the lack of pertinent and deterrent measures. Hence it is a great disturbance to both the creditors and their children mentally and economically.

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Setting up an intermediary body to handle maintenance issues

We suggest establishing an intermediary body to collect and pay maintenance, instead of having the debtors to collect the maintenance payments themselves. It can simplify the process and the maintenance payees do not have to rush back and forth between the court and the welfare department in case of a default. The body should at least possess the following four functions:

 

  • Collecting maintenance: to be vested with the right to collect maintenance payments and trace the whereabouts of the payers under the request of the payees in the event of a default.
  • Collecting maintenance on behalf of the payees: even if there is not yet any default, the payees can still request the body to collect the payments.
  • Education: educate the public about the responsibilities of the maintenance payers, the rights of the maintenance payees, the consequences of disobeying court orders, and the services the payees can seek when they fail to collect the payments.
  • Coordination with different departments: currently the payees need to rush between different departments to collect maintenance and seek financial supports in the event of a default. We suggest that the payees do not have to prove the default to different departments. Instead, the body can notify relevant departments such as Social Welfare Department so that corresponding administrative support measures can be taken such as postponing reducing comprehensive social security assistance. As for the structure of the body, such kind of organization is usually under a government department in foreign countries, such as Tax Bureau or Social Protection Department.

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