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Here’s Why We Need More Effective Child Support Laws in Nigeria

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It takes a male’s sperm and a female’s ovum to form a zygote. That is basic biology. Society, however, expects that the male and the female come to an agreement before engaging in activity or process that would lead to the formation of the zygote…but it is not always so. There have been situations where the male and the female agree, and they try… but there is not zygote and they can’t  have a baby; and there have been situations where they both agree and a zygote if formed, but when the baby comes, the man decides he is no longer good with the agreement and denies responsibility of being father to the baby.

Usually the man denies paternity for a number of reasons: a conviction that his sperm was not the one that fertilized the ovum, a fear of the responsibility that comes with the baby, distrust or fresh hatred for the woman, psychological trauma, cultural demands or even for religious reasons.

Here is a thing though, when a man denies a child, the woman is left alone, and often blame herself for the pregnancy. If the denial happened while she is still pregnant, her first thoughts may be to terminate the pregnancy. If she already has the baby, she may feel rejected and become stressed over how she is going to raise the child alone and how her family will react to her predicament. Not only the woman, paternity denial also affects the child in the long run. The mother may deny the child the opportunity to know who his/her father is and that may create a gap in the child’s life and lead to resentment towards the father, or the child may suffer the depression and psychological damage that stems from being rejected by a parent.

Luckily there are some laws that regulate these issues with paternity denial. Under common law, a child is presumed to be the child of the man by virtue of a “presumption of paternity” or presumption of legitimacy if the man is legally married to the woman. Though, these presumptions may be invalidated by evidence to the contrary, for instance, in disputed child custody and child support cases during divorce, annulment or legal separation. Unlike decades ago when most children were born into the “traditional” family where the biological mother and father were married, there are a variety of different familial scenarios into which a child may be born in today’s society…and this further complicates things.

The Nigerian law, however, does not adequately account for these number of potential situations. Sure, if the man in question denies that he is the father of a child, and the mother can request DNA testing to help establish fatherhood and the law should help with this, but most time you find that with these cases, the affected are most times asked sort it out themselves,  on their own. The man can also refuse to take the paternity test or prolong it for eternity, without the judge necessarily find the man in civil contempt of court.

As a result of this, we see  cases of children being neglected by their biological parents. There are also cases of paternity fraud where the woman (in order to save herself from shame) pins the pregnancy on another man.

In all, the psychological trauma that comes with paternity denial and paternity fraud does not only ruin so many marriages and homes, it has adverse consequences on the society at large. Apart from the psychological damage on the child, denying the child of the rights to determine his/her biological father denies them of certain entitlements including: financial support from both parents (A court cannot order an alleged father to pay child support until paternity has been established); medical history to know if they have inheritable health problems; and more. There a need for more stringent child support laws for this kind of cases. For instance, before a man can deny paternity, he should be made to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury -this means you could be charged with a crime if you lie on the form.

Can you think of other possible laws the Nigerian government could consider implementing for cases like this?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Nkem Ndem is an energetic and highly accomplished Media Consultant who loves to help small businesses, especially women-led, grow their online presence using the right digital strategy or transition from traditional organizational boundaries. With years of experience in Copywriting and Editing, Content Branding and Strategy, Social media, and Digital Marketing, she is clearly obsessed with Digital Communications. She is the Head of Content and Lead Consultant at Black Ink Media - an Ideation and Content Agency that excels in providing fresh, creative digital services to content-centric businesses. Find out more about her at www.blackinkm.com or send her an e-mail at [email protected] Also follow her on IG: @nkemndemv, Twitter: @ndemv.

7 Comments

  1. omo ajorosun

    September 21, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    There are laws in place for childcare. Most courts have special divisions for childcare under the family court. Nigerians, however, won’t seek legal counsel when they ought to. I will use Lagos state as an example; you can get whip a deadbeat father in line by simply contacting the ministry of justice, and without even going to court. Those people perform “wonders”. It is not the fault of the government or the courts that parents are being deadbeats. And until you have tried to enforce your rights using legal process and you have failed, you cannot really say the law does not work.

    • Tosne

      September 21, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Thank you, I was just about to respond when I saw your reply to the article. I especially copied this portion to comment on:
      “Sure, if the man in question denies that he is the father of a child, and the mother can request DNA testing to help establish fatherhood and the law should help with this, but most time you find that with these cases, the affected are most times asked sort it out themselves, on their own”
      I can say with utmost certainty that this is not true. If individuals go to a Nigerian Court on the basis of a contest to paternity, no Court will tell them that they should go and sort it out themselves. A DNA test will be ordered to confirm or disprove paternity. Even some other government institutions/agencies like the National Human Rights Commission do order DNA tests to confirm paternity, talk less of a Court. The only thing is that either a lot of people do not want to go to the Courts or agencies that can help or do not know of their rights especially when they read uninformed articles like what you have written. Please let us endeavour to conduct real research (including primary and secondary sources of information) before writing articles and not just rely on presumptions and hearsay as our sources of information before writing. A lot of people who could otherwise be well informed and take actions are prevented from getting the much needed help when they read these articles.

    • Engoz

      September 21, 2018 at 5:21 pm

      “Most courts have special divisions for childcare under the family court.”

      Absolutely. This is 2018. You had better educate yourself on the laws in Nigeria when it comes to family laws and child care. No more pity party. Lagos state is quite efficient on issues like this.

  2. ninja

    September 21, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    someone needs to take wizkid in for questioning to explain why he molested his child! yes molested. by exposing him to women’s butts and breast to prove he is not gay!.. my God. thinking about this makes me sick…
    There are lots of lawyers in Nigeria so why are laws not obeyed ? do people pay child support and spousal support ? sigh

    • Henriee

      September 22, 2018 at 12:58 am

      You say WHAAA? He did what? OMG! That kid is not okay at all.

    • Anon

      September 22, 2018 at 7:39 am

      @ninja, abegi believing everything an embittered babymama posts on social media…smh

  3. Nwokeabia

    October 13, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    Who will pay for the pre pregnancy paternity test.
    Assume the man paid it initially abd the result came out negative, not his child in the womb.

    Will the pregnant mother’s family shoulder the cost. What if they are so poor, will ‘he’ sue for payment with any viable property of the pregnant mothers’.

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