Let me start by simply saying that it is the responsibility of every parents to provide financial security for their children, and this responsibility continues even till death, as a deceased parent is expected to make provision for their children while making their will. See section 2 of the Wills Law of Lagos, 2004.
However, for one reason or the other, some parents have often failed in this solemn responsibility to make adequate financial provision for their children, and have been woeful derelict in this sacred and solemn responsibility, hence the need to resort to court or other Law enforcement agency for enforcement of the maintenance order by a child or his guardian.
The object of a maintenance order is to protect and safeguard the welfare and well being of the children of the marriage or children born outside wedlock. It is to ensure that a child should have the necessary financial security and protection.
Maintenance, sometimes is also referred to as child support in other clime, is generally seen as the amount of money which the court may grant a party to the marriage to take care of the basic need of that party.
Child maintenance is paid directly or indirectly by an obligor to an obligee for the care and support of children of a relationship that has been terminated or in some cases never existed. Often the obligor is a non-custodial parent. The obligee is typically a custodian parent, a guardian or the state.
The different scenarios where a child can seek for maintenance order will b discussed below.
MAINTENANCE OF CHILDREN BORN UNDER THE ACT
This refers primarily to children whose parent contracted their marriage under matrimonial causes Act Chapter 7. Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, colloquially referred to as court marriage. Children born under this type of marriages are protected under the Act. Ordinarily, there will be no need for maintenance order while the both parent of the children are living together in matrimony, because they would ordinarily take care of their children and provide for their financial security, however when the parents are divorced or there is a pending proceeding for divorce, the court would suo moto or on application by either of the party make an order for maintenance of children of the marriage pursuant to section 70 of the Act. By virtue of section 70(2) and 73 (1) (a) and (b) of the matrimonial causes Act, the court may, in proceeding for an order for the maintenance of a party to a marriage pending the disposal of the proceedings, make such order as it thinks proper having regard to the means, earning capacity and conduct of the parties to the marriage and all other relevant circumstances. The court can therefore in exercising its power under the Act may do the following:
Order that a lump sum of weekly, monthly, yearly, or other periodic sum be paid – see Hayes V Hayes (2000) 3 NWLR (PT 648) 276 Damulak V Damulak (2004) 8 NWLR (PT 874) 155.
It should be pointed out that a child which is above the age of 21 is not entitled to maintenance – By virtues of section 70 (4) of the Act, the power of the court to make an order for maintenance of the children of the marriage should not be exercise for the benefit of a child who has attained the age of twenty one years, unless the court is of the opinion that there are special circumstance justifying the making of an order in that direction
Maintenance of Child Born Under Customary Law
This refers to children whose parents contract their marriage under the dictate and tenet of their respective customs and traditions without getting married under the Act. Here the parents merely celebrate their marriage in a place that is not a license place of worship.
The children of the marriage are usually well taken care of while the marriage is intact, but in the event that the Parents are separated, by an order of a customary court, the court will usually make an order for maintenance of the child taking into cognizance the respective earning of the parents
Maintenance of Child Born Outside Wedlock
Children born outside wedlock are usually on the wrung ladder of the society in terms of maintenance. They are usually faced with denial and in some cases outright abandonment by one or both of the parent. They are most often denied the necessary financial maintenance required by either of their parents. Section 14 (2) of the child right Act provide that every child has a right to maintenance by his parents or guardian, in accordance with extent of their means and the child has the right in appropriate circumstance to enforce this right in the family court.
Thus any child who is deprived of such financial provision and the necessary maintenance is entitled to apply to the welfare department of any state which will in turn apply to the family court, for an order for maintenance. In Lagos state, the criminal code Law of Lagos, makes it a crime for a parent or guardian to fail to provide for maintenance. By the combine provision of section 204 and 205 of the criminal code law of Lagos, which state that it is the duty of every person who as a head of family, or has charge of a child, being member of his household, to provide the necessaries of Life for such child, and he is held to have caused any consequences which result to the life or health or of any person by reason of any omission to perform that duty.
Thus a child who is denied the necessary maintenance can make a formal report to the relevant Law agency to enforce his right. For instance, there are instances where single mother will be unable to get financial assistance from the father of her child, it is usually advisable that a single mother who has found herself in such quagmiretic situation, should take full advantage of the aforementioned section and seek help at the gender section of the police command Ikeja, Lagos, for immediate prosecution
INSTANCES WHERE PARENT CANNOT PROVIDE FOR CHILD
There are situations where the parent of a child will be unable to take care of their child owing to dire financial difficulties, and other varied factors, the court will pursuant to section 51 of the child Right Act 2003, make a corrective order in respect of the child or the children to be placed for a specified period, not exceeding three years, under supervision of an appropriate supervising child development officer or of some other person appointed for the purpose by court.