Kenya: A Judge rules that after a divorce, parents have equal responsibilities towards their children!
Divorces are always painful and they become more so if custody issues also exist in it. Most of the time it is seen that fathers suffer the most in this financial responsibility sharing of children. Fathers are overburdened with the finances and have to pay more. This inequality is observed even in divorces in the West. It was a relief when a Judge from Kenya outlined the fact that parental responsibilities towards their children is equal after divorce.
Kenya and the ruling of a Judge on divorce
Sometimes, the most progressive legal decisions come from a country you least expect. Yes, this happened in the case of a child-support dispute between two former lovers in Kenya High Court. The couple had separated and they were fighting about child support in the High Court of Milimani in Nairobi.
It was a landmark ruling in which Justice Abida Ali Aroni stated that a separated couple has to shoulder equal responsibilities towards their children. None of them has a superior or inferior burden. Both need to contribute towards it. Justice Abida ruled that the responsibility of both the parents is equal and joint. None of them can say no and compel the other ex-partner to shell out all the finances for the child support.
Section 24 of the Children Act
Justice Abida quoted Section 24 of the Children Act. It reads:
“where a child’s father and mother were married to each other at the time of his birth, they shall have parental responsibility for the child and neither the father nor the mother of the child shall have a superior right or claim against the other in exercise of such parental responsibility.”
The case in dispute was that of a couple who shared a three-year-old child. The parents had separated and a lower court had decided that the father had to bear a higher proportion of the financial burden to maintain their child. The father was unhappy with this decision of the lower court. Therefore, he approached the High Court and did get justice in his favor there.
Earlier, the lower court had asked the father to shell out Sh97k as school fees and school-related expenses, and Sh20k for the child’s food per month. Additionally, the mother was to offer the baby shelter, clothing, and pay for the child’s nanny. Both were to pay for the health cover of the child and the father had visitation rights over weekends.
Father and his appeal in High Court
The father applied for a change of the legal order of the lower court. He said that what he was asked to bear for the child was excessive and beyond his capacity. Judge Abida observed that both parties were earning and therefore decided that they should bear equal responsibilities of their child.
“Both parties are in salaried employment and earn substantial income so that none of them should be hard-pressed to take up a higher responsibility than the other. Both should realize that it is not the same since their divorce and they should as of necessity build consensus on which school they will both be comfortable to pay.”