Arrest bid for those who miss alimony hearings

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am

The government has proposed handing new powers to the courts to ensure divorced spouses show up at their alimony hearings.

The courts would be able to issue an arrest warrant if a person failed to appear, or if there was a reasonable suspicion they intended not to appear.

The courts would also be able to stop a person from leaving the city.

The change, outlined in a paper submitted to Legislative Council by the Social Welfare Department, is aimed at cracking down on people who try to delay or evade a hearing.

'At present, every judgment summons shall be served on the maintenance payer personally. It's not uncommon for the maintenance payers to take advantage of the service difficulties in order to evade their responsibilities,' the paper said.

But the government paper rejects a suggestion to establish a body for the collection and enforcement of maintenance payment.

It said there were circumstances where an ex-spouse did not have the ability to pay, so a maintenance body would not necessarily be a solution to ensuring the payments were made.

'We do not consider it appropriate for the government to proactively interfere by setting up an intermediary body to deal with the collection and payment of maintenance debts,' it said.

The paper also proposes that, at the administrative level, the Social Welfare Department require people who apply to receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to file claims for maintenance, if they are divorcees.

Currently, the department will continue to pay a CSSA recipient the same amount until they have successfully recovered the alimony.

The government has also informed non-governmental organisations and legal professional bodies that if a maintenance payer fails to notify the payee of a change in address, they could report to the case to the police.

The paper also pointed out that the government sponsored non-governmental organisations to carry out projects in the community to bolster public awareness about the rights and services available to people owed alimony. It had also set up a hotline and held seminars.

The Legislative Council's home affairs panel will discuss the issue on Friday.