Why are there so many absent fathers?

I recently had a chat with a single mother of two who was telling me how tough life is from a financial point of view. So I asked her the obvious question ‘Are you not getting any child support from the father?’ According to this mum she has been trying to get maintenance payment from the children’s father for the past three years, she has appeared in court several times, sometimes twice in a month and each time there is either a postponement or the father is asked to bring documentation to prove he cannot afford the maintenance.

This mum also tells me the father lies about his income and expenses as he drives a fancy car and is often seen ‘eating out’. He fails to bring the proper documents which cause the case to constantly be postponed. What is even more frustrating is that he gets away with it in terms of the law as the court officials are nowhere near as tough with him as they should be. This same dad not only refuses to support his children financially, but he is also not present emotionally as he has not seen his children for the past few years. The mum has now had no choice but to let the matter go as she had been taking too much time off work  over the years to attend court and is fearful of losing her job, seeing that she is the only bread winner for her children.

This mum’s story made feel sad, not only for her, but for all the single mum’s out there trying to get child support from ‘these absent fathers’. This also made me recall an interesting research paper by the South African Institute of Race Relations titled ‘First steps to Healing the South African Family’. According to this paper, in 2009, there were 48% of children with absent but living fathers in South Africa. This is a huge percentage and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is amongst the highest in the world.

Research also points to the numerous disadvantages for children who grow up without a father, such as experiencing emotional disturbances, self esteem issues and struggling to cope in school. Considering the huge effect an absent father has on the well being of their child it becomes important for the country to enforce the maintenance law by holding fathers more accountable. The legal system should also be more supportive of mothers claiming maintenance and not have the process dragged out for years.

Can absent fathers be avoided through enforcement of the law? Is it possible that fathers who pay maintenance are more likely to maintain contact with their children versus fathers who are not involved financially? If so, should the law be tougher on dads who are not supporting their kids financially?

It makes me wonder if the law is allowing fathers to get away with their irresponsibility towards their children. What do you think?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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