By Gordon Deegan
A judge has jailed a father over €3,465 arrears in maintenance payments for his daughter.
Taking a hardline stance against fathers falling behind in their family maintenance payments, Judge Patrick Durcan also told another father to bring his ‘toothbrush’ the next day to court for a stint in prison if there is not substantial payments made.
Jailed one father for 14 days at the family law court in Ennis, Judge Durcan said that the father was not facing up to his responsibilities.
The man’s former partner applied to the court that he be jailed.
She told the court: “He has never so much put €10 into my account any week over the past year, bar when he is threatened with prison.”
The woman said: “He is working full time and so is his wife.”
In court, the man said that he was ‘bullied’ by his ex-partner into agreeing the maintenance arrangement.
Solicitor for the woman, Stiofán Fitzpatrick said: “My client is receiving no maintenance from this man for their daughter and he only paid over €400 last year when he was on the cusp of going to Limerick prison from here."
He said: “The social protection unit are deducting her €28 a week on the basis that she is getting the maintenance because it is court ordered. They won’t retract from that position because the arrears may be brought up to date."
Mr Fitzpatrick said: “This is going only one way all the time and there is no attempt by this man to bring things up to date”
In reply, the man told the court that he took out a loan of €1,000 from the bank to pay some of the past arrears.
He said: “I looked for another loan and the bank refused it. I am in arrears with my loan payments."
The man said that because he was being brought to court so much over the arrears “I felt as if I was going to lose my job because I was being brought down to Ennis every couple of weeks. There was a fear of losing my job.”
The man said that he has children from his marriage to provide for as well.
Mr Fitzpatrick interjected to say that “this man is choosing to ignore his other dependent”.
In reply the man asked that his maintenance payments be reduced. He said: “We should reduce it and I would make a payment every week. We can adjourn it or come to an agreement over my financial status here. There is a deal in there.”
The man will be released from custody if he pays over €2,505.
In another arrears case and on hearing that a young father was €1,580 in arrears, Judge Durcan asked the father: “Did you see the last man being led away by Gardai? Well, he is a man if you saw once you wouldn’t forget him and I have just imposed a 14 day prison sentence.”
Judge Durcan accused the young dad of two of playing “pooky" over his €1,580 arrears.
The man is currently on the dole living at home with his parents.
The mother told the court: “At Christmas I was made nearly homeless because of financial difficulty."
She said: “I contacted him and his parents. I asked them for help and I pleaded with them not to allow me and my children out on the road because we were in a homeless shelter before and I didn’t want that and his response was ‘that is not my problem’’.
In court, the man denied saying that.
The woman said that she had no choice but to get a €1,000 bank loan to pay for two parties back to back for the two children and to clear off arrears.
She said that the parties cost €150 each and her ex-partner told the court that if he knew when they were on he would have contributed.
The woman told the court that she told her ex of her money predicament two weeks ago. She said: “He has not contacted me or made any effort to pay me at all. Even if he only gave me €20, it is something to help me.”
Solicitor for the woman, Shíofra Hassett said that the man “is living at home, there is no reason why he can’t pay this maintenance order”.
She said: “Nothing is being paid and he is not taking up any access for his child bar every so often when my client is contacted by him."
Ms Hassett said: “The last payment received was last November. This situation is going on since last June and my client’s financial situation is only getting worse. She is in very dire financial circumstances.”
Addressing the man, Judge Durcan said that he would adjourn the case to May 16. He said “I want performance from you and if there isn’t performance…you will be seeing inside the cell at Limerick person”.
Judge Durcan said: “I want a reasonable amount of money be made to the mother of your child. You need to grow very quickly because if not on May 16, if there isn’t substantial monies paid on that date you would want to bring a toothbrush with you because you will be using it elsewhere. I am not going to tolerate this anymore.”