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23 Jun, 2008 00:36

Clampdown targets fathers cheating on child support

The Russian government has launched a crackdown on divorced fathers who are avoiding making payments for child support. It has been prompted by statistics which show that one in five divorced men are shortchanging their children by either underpaying 

The new measures include a plan to create a state maintenance fund that would pay the money to mothers direct, and chase the money from the fathers themselves.

Also proposed is linking up with the employment service to ensure every father owing cash can earn a wage to pay the maintenance.

Errant fathers could also be prevented from leaving the country if they had not paid the amount owed.

Child support costs are compulsory under Russian law if a couple separates or gets divorced but currently the threat of legal action doesn't seem to be doing much good.

Lawyer Marina Kashchenko said: “Nowadays, there’s a criminal responsibility for evading child maintenance, but it’s extremely difficult to prosecute a person due to a very complicated procedure. And if he’s finally charged, the punishment will not be tough – it can be either a suspended sentence or a fine which is hard to claim.”

The actual sum to be paid by the father is set by the courts, based on his official annual wage, but many submit documents which show just a fraction of what they earn in reality, with the rest bypassing the books. The suffering party is the child whose monthly allowance is greatly reduced.

One young mother, Olga Berlyukova, believes the system must be improved. She looks after her ten-year-old daughter Masha as best she can. She works, and relies on her parents too – all to ensure Masha receives extra singing and English lessons.

“We try not to despair,” she says, adding everything is relative. “Some women live in conditions which are far worse than mine. We live in Moscow, with so many opportunities to find a job.”

Olga says her ex-husband doesn't believe the money would be spent on Masha.

Fathers also often say they refuse to support their children because their former partners do not allow them to see their children.

One man in this situation said: “I am not confident that if I give her the money, she will let me love and play with the baby. If the bailiffs force me to pay the money, they’ll have to force my wife to let me meet with my child, and raise the baby.”