About 70% of parents in the Republika Srpska never pay alimony for their children. A survey by “Ponos” (Pride), the Banja Luka association of single parents, showed that only 6.9% pay their financial obligations regularly. At the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports proposal, a draft Law on the Alimony Fund has been prepared, which should regulate this issue.
Written by: Vanja Stokić; Photo & Video: Ajdin Kamber
Representatives of single-parent families point out that they have fought for a better position for 20 years now. Failing to pay alimony poses many problems, primarily financial ones. To compensate for the alimony money, parents are often forced to have two jobs, having very little time for their children.
“The position of a parent who cannot be with their family because of having to do the second job is not envious. Then other problems come. Leaving children. When does this parent have time for parenthood, to raise their child?”, asks Snežana Stojanović of the “Iskra” (Spark), the association of single-parent families from East Sarajevo.
The situation is particularly difficult for families with several children.
“They say it takes more than BAM 2000 a month for a decent living for one family. Does that mean we who have less than BAM 2000 a month are all indecent or poor? We all are trying to help by donating clothes, books or anything. All that is insufficient, just a drop in the ocean. Nevertheless, the Alimony Fund will be a solid basis for those parents to devote more time to their children. By not having to do part-time jobs. They will be safe. They will be able to pay the bills. Things will be better in many ways”, Snežana Stojanović hopes.
To establish the Alimony Fund, the Law on Alimony Fund has to be adopted first, and then it takes about a million BAM for the Fund to start working. A draft law has been made so far, for which the associations “Ponos” and “Iskra” say it does not offer the best solutions for the position of single-parent families. Nevertheless, they welcome this initiative because they have been waiting for the Fund to be formed for 20 years.
These are the first steps, and I believe this law will be subsequently amended because we do not have experience in this matter. In other countries, alimony funds jump in as soon as the alimony-paying parent fails to pay the alimony. The funds pay in the money and urge the other parent automatically, plus interest rates and penalties for not paying. According to the latest version of the law, the non-paying parent has a three-month deadline to pay. But the child has their needs. Not during those three months but during three days. So, I believe the law will be amended when practical problems occur”, Dijana Miljatović points out.
One of the previous requests of the association from the institutions is redefining the term “single parent” because there is a discrepancy between theory and practice.
“The problem is that the parent who provides for the child alone while the other parent is alive is not considered a single parent. Unfortunately, our situation is that only one parent has full custody over the child – financial and moral. And there is the other parent who has nothing to do with the child, does not pay the alimony or participate in the child’s life and does nothing to raise the child. However, such a parent is not considered a single parent”, Dijana Miljatović reminds.
They consider the penalties prescribed by the present draft Law inadequate. Like confiscation of the passport of the parent who does not pay the alimony.
“Passport confiscation is a minimum measure. Most people can gain dual citizenship. And that is just an interim measure. Some managed to exercise certain rights based on this, but most have not”, she warns.
However, it is better to have any law than no law at all”, Snežana Stojanović of the association “Iskra” points out. Particularly, it is because it took 20 years even to discuss this issue.
“Certainly, the institutions will collect the claim faster and easier than the parent. We used to have a good Family Law, with final judgements imposing payment of alimonies, and yet, paying alimony was avoided. Likewise, nobody had ever been punished for that. In those 20 years, nobody had been punished for avoiding paying the alimony. On the other hand, if you do not pay the electricity bill, the electricity will be cut off next month”, she says.
She adds that single parents have twice more to worry about. Some even three or four times more, depending on how many children they have. On the other hand, they get the same amount of love.
“Those families function differently. They have more solidarity, they are very modest, and the children from such families mature earlier. So, we have support, and we draw our strength from it. I can say that such mothers and fathers are very brave. It is easier to give it all up, ignore all your obligations and forget about your child. That is incomprehensible to the parent who takes care of their child. We cannot understand that. If we could, we would be the same as them”, Snežana Stojanović says.
Dijana Miljatović points out that the association “Ponos” has been requesting the institutions to amend the legislation for years, as well as adopting new laws to improve the position of single-parent families. What they found in the institutions was shifting responsibilities and competencies from one to another.
“So, it has always been just a vicious circle. It’s not us, it’s them. It’s not us, it’s them”, she remembers.
The same happened to the eTrafika team while working on this article. Instead of receiving a response from the institutions, we got a bunch of excuses for why they could not discuss this topic with us.