Avoiding paying alimony after a divorce or breakup has gone so far that some parents are ready to sue their own children to reduce the amount! At the same time, they hide assets by transferring them to relatives and friends, hide salaries and open double bank accounts.
Written by: Andrijana Pisarević; Cover photo: Pixabay
This practice has been working very well for decades, showing complete helplessness and apathy, and in some cases corruption of institutions, both judicial and those in charge of social protection. Parents successfully do not pay alimony without major problems, delay proceedings, fill the courts with appeals, objections and lawsuits, and settle accounts with ex-partners, while their children grow up in the shadow of conflict, forgotten by the system and very often deprived of basic life needs.
In an interview with eTrafika, several parents gave examples of the absurd situations they encounter in the struggle to collect support for their children, and all their statements are confirmed by extensive documentation that is in our portal’s possession. This is how one mother from Banjaluka described the situation in which her ex-husband decided to sue their children.
“First he sued me, and when the judge explained that I am not the beneficiary of maintenance, but the children, then he asked to change the claim to the name of our children. Although I did not agree to it, that procedure is still being conducted. He asked that the amount of alimony of 350 KM per child, which he himself had previously determined he would pay – and he did not pay, be reduced to 15 per cent of his salary in the company he owns and which he knowingly pushed into bankruptcy”, says our interlocutor.
She adds that her husband then opened another company, which is operating positively, and transferred all contracts to it.
“The only difference is that now the owner of the new company is his mother, not him. He set himself up as a director, so he doesn’t have to pay himself a salary. And that’s just one of the ways he avoids paying child support. The system is so hollow, there are 1,000 legal ways to force someone to pay alimony and 1,001 to avoid it”, she said.
She says that now more than ever she is aware of the extent to which the system we live in does not work and that its biggest victims are children who are by no means in focus and under protection.
“The ex-husband now already owes over 21,000 marks for child support, and due to the inefficiency of the system and omissions, the children had a number of problems and inconveniences. He does not attend the hearings of the lawsuit he filed, and when the court summons him, he is always on the road. He flies abroad every week. He never submits proof of impunity, which he should, and no one arrests him because he avoids trials”, our interlocutor points out.
It is about a man who has money, she says, but who does not want to support his children, believing that he is punishing their mother for the divorce.
“Since he did not respond to court summonses, the judge issued an arrest warrant, and the police came to look for him at my door, even though both the lawyer and I repeated several times that he does not live there. They came three times, and once the daughter was alone in the apartment. She was so scared, when she saw the policeman asking for her dad to take him to prison, I barely explained to her that this wouldn’t happen. We initiated two executions on his accounts, but by the time the order arrived from the court to the bank, he had already cleaned up the accounts”, says our interlocutor.
She adds that 18 marks remained on one of the accounts and that the mentioned amount was confiscated in January 2021.
“That money is still in the court’s account. We checked in APIF how many accounts he has, because we are blocking his accounts today, but he already opened up new ones in two days. The bank has information that they have blocked someone’s accounts and will open new ones in two days. How is that possible? We blocked those too, the court took away his travel documents, but he travels normally because he has a Serbian passport. In order to take away that passport too, I would have to initiate proceedings in Serbia, which takes a very long time and who knows how much it costs”, she explains.
Lawyer Njegoš Petrović says that in practice he persistently encounters all the flaws of the judiciary and the social protection system. This is a very sensitive matter, he says, and mostly children who are with their mothers are at risk, but there are also cases where the person who takes care of the children is the father, who suffers the same pain. When asked why the court, when a request or suit for divorce is filed, does not immediately determine a temporary measure for child support to a parent who does not have children, Petrović says that something like that could perhaps be done through a temporary measure, but that he has not encountered it in practice so far.
“Our justice system is so poorly made that it has no results. It allows the maintenance obligation to be avoided in all possible ways. There is complete apathy and disinterest in the entire society. It’s as if everyone is somehow fed up with both the subject and their work, they show less and less empathy for these cases, for children, for anything”, says our interlocutor.
Nobody, he adds, treats these cases as urgent, even though the papers say they should.
“They have no feeling, there is complete disinterest, not only among male judges but also among women, who should be a little more sensitive. I watched with my own eyes the parents’ argument in front of the court, so that the judge would call the child in front of them and interrogate him, make him cry and insist on the questioning and to decide with whom he wants to live. I have objected to it a hundred times, it is never done that way. The most heinous possible situation where the judge was creating an obstacle”, says Petrović.
In another example, cited by our interlocutor, after the divorce, the child stays with the mother, and the father hides his assets and income in every possible way. There is a problem with a child who has severe emotional outbursts because he is suffering from his father who ignores him, and his mother is suffering from cancer. In that case, the judge immediately ruled that he had to pay alimony and shortened the procedure, but there was still no successful collection of child support.
In practice, he also had a case in which the father allowed the mother to move abroad with her new partner and child for work only if she released him from paying alimony and debts he had from before, because he did not pay them.
When asked whether amendments to the Family Law could bring about changes and establish more correct mechanisms for the protection of children, Petrović says that “he sincerely doubts it”.
“I’m afraid that nothing will be changed in particular. There are women who are capable and educated and can cope in this system without the help of their ex-husband for maintenance, but do you know how many there are who cannot? In addition to all that, a new sequence of events is established. First, they stop paying alimony, and then they completely cut off contact with the children, which is terrible”, Petrović tells eTrafika.
The Ombudsman for Children of Republika Srpska, Gordana Rajić, says that children’s right to support is being violated on several grounds. First of all, the Family Law currently distinguishes between married and illegitimate children, so that maintenance for the former is determined before the court, and for the latter in centres for social work.
“The second problem is the length of time and inefficiency of those procedures, which is why the Law on Temporary Maintenance is being prepared so that the children would settle as soon as they receive the decision, and the so-called Alimony Fund would collect the claim. As a special problem, I would single out the ‘international element’, when one parent is abroad or is a foreign citizen, where it is even more difficult to find a way to collect and determine the amount of income”, says our interlocutor.
Otherwise, she adds, alimony was not arranged as a priority before, nor was its amount adjusted to needs.
“That’s why the adoption of a new law, as well as the establishment of an alimony fund, is a priority for us, so that child support measures can be adopted before the divorce proceedings are completed. Then there will be no more enforcement and determination of where the father is, whether he has income and whether and how it can be collected”, says Rajićka and adds that “even until now we did not have bad mechanisms, but they were poorly used”.
The law on temporary child support is in the process of being adopted (a draft has been adopted), and it is a kind of systemic support for children whose parents avoid the legal obligation to support their minor children.
According to the Family Law of the RS, the guardianship body, that is, the Center for Social Work, keeps records on the support of children and parents, according to the instructions prescribed by the head of the administrative body for social protection affairs, however, in practice, keeping these records is most often absent. Although one of the recommendations of the UN Committee is the establishment of a single database within which various records of children would be kept, including the number of children who do not exercise the right to support, we still do not have unified data.
The Ministry of Health and Social Protection points out that in 2020, 850 court processes related to child support were conducted. Although 814 parents were required by court decisions or agreements to pay alimony regularly, only 326 of them complied with the full amount.