In Summary
  • Her children are aged nine and five. Nkatha says it is not just about the money, but about manning up and being the father the child needs.
  • No one tells you whether the men honour the ruling or reveals what it really takes emotionally to go through the unending see-saw.

Thinking of taking your deadbeat to court? Good. That's the easy part. The hard part is in making him comply with the ruling after years of emotional turmoil.

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"I regret going to court" is how 37-year-old Abigail Oketch sums up her experience suing her ex-boyfriend for child support.

The mother of one admits that in the beginning, it was anger that sent her to the courts.

She was working in a bank when she fell pregnant after dating for two years. That relationship ended in a sour break-up soon after.

The man was no show all through pregnancy and birth. "When my son was three years old, I heard that he had got another woman pregnant and was looking after her child but not mine. So, I sued him at the children's court," she says.

She made that decision five years ago. She describes the whole process as tedious and expensive.

She had consulted before and she was sort of prepared for the time and money it would take to get justice for her child.

PARENTING

What she hadn't seen coming was the litigation process that had her and her ex tearing at each other.

Eventually, she was awarded child maintenance which he pays. "It was like going to war. We both used everything we had against each other and I think this destroyed any chance we had of effectively co-parenting. He is pretty much a paycheck, not a father," she says.

In retrospect, she feels that the whole process puts too much emphasis on finances and not enough on their involvement in their children's lives.

She hopes that her child will prove to be as resilient as they claim children to be. "Only time will tell," she says.

You have seen the stories. Woman sues deadbeat man and she walks out with a hefty cheque. But that's just half of the story.

No one tells you whether the men honour the ruling or reveals what it really takes emotionally to go through the unending see-saw.

LEGAL OPTIONS

In August 2014, Sunday Nation carried a story based on research by Canadian researchers which claimed that by the age of 45, at least six out of 10 Kenyan women will be raising a child by themselves.

If these findings are anything to go by, these numbers can only have gone higher.

Over two per cent of all legal marriages have ended in legal divorce while more than twice this number had been separated but not legally divorced, says the 2009 Census report.

Children of these unions are entitled to material support by both parents.

Unlike yesteryears when men readily walked away from their spouses, today's woman has options and much more support in the form of organisations like with the federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) and Centre for Rights And Education (CREAW).

The rise in the publicity of high-profile cases where errant men in the limelight are ordered to pay up has also increased the number of women willing to brave the process.

On August 22, 2013, former Cabinet minister Fred Gumo was sued for the upkeep of a child that was born in 2012.

COMPLIANCE

The child's mother sought Sh150,000 as monthly upkeep. Similarly, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula was on August 20, 2013 ordered by a children's court to pay monthly upkeep of Sh270,000.

So, is suing for child support as easy as taking a deadbeat father to court and having him pay up? "I wish it was," says Nancy Kariuki.

Four years after a court ruling ordered her son's father to pay Sh40,000 monthly for his school fees and upkeep, they are back to the lawyers every other month.

"He has my house helps and relatives spying on me. The minute he hears that a man visited my house or was seen driving my car he refuses to pay. The back and forth is very draining.

"It's just that I lost my job last year. Otherwise, I would walk away from all of it; let him pay when he wants to," she shares.

Corine Wamaitha, 39, a PR practitioner, sued her children's father for child support eight years ago and is still conflicted about that decision.

The court ordered that he pays school fees and she caters for the maintenance. He paid only once.

"It was a lot of drama after that. I had to change lawyers three times. Some incidents involved the police after he stole the children and also attempted to change their schools without my knowledge. I told the lawyer to drop the case. I decided to hassle for them for my peace of mind.

"Surprisingly, he called me about a year ago and said he was ready to pay the fees. I let him. We are fine, for now," she says.

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