Support for Parents Going Through The Child Maintenance System
CMDSA is an acronym for Child Maintenance Difficulties in South Africa, a Facebook group founded by Felicity Guest in July 2014. She started the group to offer support to people going through the maintenance system as a result of her own traumatic experience with a fraudulent divorce. Felicity went to the Pretoria High Court for assistance with laying criminal charges after being turned away by the Pretoria Central Police Station and ended up having coffee with the Deputy Judge President of the High Court after threatening to chain herself to the building. He admitted that there was a syndicate selling fraudulent divorces online and he was aware that they were going through his court. When asked why he had not done anything about it, he said he needed a person to lay criminal charges so that they could investigate. When Felicity asked him why nobody else had attempted to lay charges, his reply astonished her. He said: “Women do not have the financial resources, they do not know what to do, they might be scared and potentially putting the father of their children in jail.” That day Felicity made a promise to the Deputy Judge President that she would become the voice for the voiceless and in spite of having no financial resources herself she would fight for justice for the voiceless.
The Facebook group currently has over 67 000 members and is growing daily. The vision is to inspire and empower parents seeking to enforce their child’s rights to financial support as contained in the Constitution. The admins and moderators are dedicated to cultivating hope and helping parents understand and navigate the maintenance courts. They support, educate, inspire and mentor parents to change the normalization of mothers having to bear the bulk of the responsibility of raising children, so that their children are able to attain their full potential.
With her personal insight of the impact of maintenance challenges, Felicity has become an activist for human rights, social justice, gender equality, financial abuse and social change, with a particular interest in the rights of children and the parent who is the primary caregiver. She says: “The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of 2013 to alleviate poverty will never be achieved while women and children are economically marginalised and trapped in poverty by having to raise children on their own without financial support from the fathers of their children.”
She recently created another Facebook group, Financial Abuse Advocacy & Awareness and describes it as follows: “Financial abuse referred to as economic abuse is pervasive and has a severe impact but is mostly overlooked by society and authorities. The victims of financial abuse live and work among us and the perpetrators of financial abuse, they too live and work among us largely unknown and unpunished. Significant progress has been made in the statute books to improve the legal protection for victims of all kinds of abuse, yet financially abusive behaviour continues to go under the radar.”
Felicity’s passion is advocacy and awareness; she has arranged protests at the courts, lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, written an open letter to the President of South Africa and lobbied government for intervention in the Maintenance Courts which are dysfunctional due to a shortage of staff and lack of commitment to enforce the Maintenance Act. She has engaged the media via radio, print and television to create awareness of the dire situation women face daily in the pursuit of financial support for their children. Felicity works tirelessly assisting her members who reach out to her for help and the reward is women who become empowered and find their voice to speak up for injustice and in turn uplift other women. Her most recent project is a large-scale national research initiative for which considerable funding is still sought.
Written by Sinta Ebersohn (Founder of www.fairdivorce.co.za), Stellenbosch, South Africa
Category: Children, Conflict Resolution, Costs of Divorce, Economic Abuse, Financial, Health, Litigational Abuse, Maintenance, Nutrition, Parents, Perspectives, Physical, Practical, Single Parenting, Stress, Support Network, Technical