Local governments should be more active in collecting child maintenance for children under their guardianship

Toomas Mattson | 6/1/2016 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 1 June 2016 – The majority of local governments who act as guardians for children deprived of parental care have failed to collect child maintenance for them: only 7 of 84 local governments had used every option offered by law to collect the money whilst 36 local governments had done nothing at all.

The law stipulates that maintenance must be collected from the child’s mother or father if they are alive and known, or from the grandparents if the parents fail to perform their obligations. Among local governments with a larger number of wards, Kohtla-Järve had not demanded maintenance from any of the obligated persons in the case of 34 out of 35 children, in Tallinn this had not been done in the case of 56 out of 87 children, and in Narva in the case of 13 out of 27 children. This inactivity is often justified with the economic difficulties of the obligated person. In several cases, passivity was justified with the claim that the local government does not have enough resources to deal with this.

In general, monthly maintenance should be at least half of the minimum monthly wage (215 euros at present), but the court may consider the person’s economic status and require them to pay a smaller amount. There are examples where this is ca 10 times smaller. The principle is that any amount is important. Maintenance can be claimed retroactively for one year only in court. The data collected in the audit revealed that agreements made in court hold better. Also, only rulings made by court can be referred to bailiffs for enforcement proceedings.

The National Audit Office is of the opinion that local governments often go to court too late. In approximately one-third of cases, the matter has been referred to court only in the second year after the guardianship was established or at the time when part of the possible maintenance claim can no longer be retroactively collected. If necessary, the court can issue precepts to the guardian requiring the latter to look out for the ward’s interests better.

It is positive that the state is planning increase its support to giving maintenance to children. This will also concern children under the guardianship of local governments, but only if the local government has actively sought to collect maintenance for these children. This is why the National Audit Office advises the minister of social protection to analyse the possibility to use this money also for financing the substitute home service on certain conditions and to develop the necessary rules. At present, the maintenance received from the parents of children in substitute homes has usually not been used to cover the children’s expenses, because the substitute home’s costs are covered by the state.

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager
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  • Posted: 6/1/2016 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 6/2/2016 11:44 AM
  • Last Review: 6/2/2016 11:44 AM

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