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Nonprofit to enforce child support payment estabslished in Liberia

Ms. Johnetta P. Arthur

WEST AFRICA – A young Liberian communications professional, Johnetta Arthur, is on a mission to ensure that Liberian children born unto parents who are not married or have separated or divorced are fully supported and protected by both parents, and in cases where there is one absentee parent, a legal or biding obligation for child support should be established.

One of the kid assisted by the organization in ensuring her father supports her

Over the past few months, Ms. Arthur has been working to assist dozens of single Liberian mothers in communities across the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to ensure that they obtain support payments from their absentee children fathers.

With encouraging success, Ms. Arthur feels the need to institutionalize her work. She would call a deadbeat dad along with the mother of his child or children and inquire why is it that he is not paying support for the upkeep of his son or daughter.

“I will just pick up my phone and with the mother with me and the child, I will them I need to speak with them,” she said.

Adding, “it is a new thing for them (men in Liberia) because no one has ever asked them, and our system does not tell them to do so. But we are seeing some cooperation and some men are trying to do something.”

Ms. Arthur is now in the process of setting up or making legal her organization, “Child Support and Protection, Inc.”

She said she would be happy if she can have pro bono legal assistance from any law group or law firm. She plans on reaching out to the country’s female lawyer group.

Some of children assisted by Ms. Arthur’s new organization

According to Ms. Arthur, she was inspired to do what she has started after reading about Mr. Jones Nhinson Williams’ advocacy, making the case on social media for the establishment of child support court in Liberia., especially since many African men abandoned their children while living abroad in the United States, Canada and Europe.  With the establishment of the organization, these men will be forced to support their children.

Child support is money a parent pays for at least some of a child’s living expenses. Judges in Western nations can order child support whenever parents live apart, whether they are separated, divorced, or never married. Typically, the parent who does not live with the child, called the non-custodial parent, pays child support to the parent caring for the child on a day-to-day basis.

Both parents are responsible for their child’s needs, whether they live together or not. The court gets involved when the child is living with only one parent. Often, the parent who pays child support is the father. However, mothers who do not live with their children can also be ordered to pay child support.

Child support payments are supposed to pay for at least part of the child’s food, clothing, childcare, housing, and education. The child support order may also include obligations to pay for health insurance and medical care, or even for lessons and other activities.

There are no national or international standards for setting child support. In the United States, for example, each state has its own formula for figuring out the amount of child support. Most states use a formula that looks at both parents’ incomes. A parent’s income may include salary, overtime pay, income from a business, benefits from Social Security and Workers’ Compensation, rents received, inheritances, gifts, and lottery winnings.

A few states, including Texas and New York, set the amount as a percentage of the paying parent’s income. Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana use a more complicated system that takes the parents’ living expenses and incomes into account.

Child support orders set both an amount and a due date for payments. Typically, you can pay by check, money order, or payroll deduction. Most states have registries that accept your payment and send it out to the other parent. Registries keep track of the payments so both parents know what has been paid. If the paying parent gets behind on child support, the state can help the other parent collect what’s due.

Unless the child has special needs, child support usually stops when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. The order may be changed from time to time as the child gets older, or as the parents’ incomes increase or decrease. Child support and visitation are separate issues. You can’t stop paying child support just because your ex makes visiting with your children difficult.

With support from Mr. Williams, Ms. Arthur wants to use her organization to lobby the Liberian national legislature and judiciary to establish a Family Court for child support payment as well as a division within the Ministry of Gender to address issues relating to child support.

The main function of Ms. Arthur’s organization is providing advocacy and support single parents obtain their rights to child support for their children.  As executive director of the organization, Ms. Arthur hopes to recruit and hire case managers in the various counties when she acquires the needed resources.  She also plans on networking and partnering with UNICEF-Liberia in her work.  Ms. Arthur has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from United Methodist University (UMU)  in Liberia.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.
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