Paulina Quintao – National Member of Parliament, MP Maria Barreto said in the Civil Law Code, Part IV about the family, it is clearly written that parents who decide to divorce, especially the father has the obligation to provide alimony to his children and former wife, but that this does not happen in Timor-Leste in most cases.
She also said according to Constitution, on Article 18 on Child Protection, the State ratified the convention on the rights of the child and it guarantees their right to get protection from the family and that this means that a divorce must not impact on a child's wellbeing.
"A husband who leaves his wife and children, should be responsible for abandoning them, but the implementation is not adequate yet," she said at the National Parliament, in Dili.
She added the Public Ministry and the Public Service Commission has a diploma to address this issue and that warns any public servants who leaves his family, will have half of his wages automatically deducted each month to support the wife and their children.
She also added she will urge the government, especially the Ministry of Justice and the Secretariat of State for Equality and Inclusion (SEII) to organize socialization to the communities, and especially to women about the law, because many women are not aware of it.
Meanwhile, the Director of Legal Aid for Women and Children Organization (ALFeLa), Antonio Marques said the law does not only force the father, but both mother and father, have an obligation to look after their children despite being divorced.
He said after a divorce, a man has an obligation to provide alimony to his children until they turn 17 years old, and to continue to look after them until they complete their university studies.
"They have obligations and responsibilities to look after the children. It is their right to separate, because our civil law says that a wedding is a contract between a man and a woman to live together, even though the Church says that a marriage is for life," he said.
He also said in some cases, husbands break the decision from the courts to provide alimony to their children and their former wives so the victims ask for legal assistance from ALFeLa.
He added from 2018 until June 2019, ALFeLa provided legal assistance to 71 civil cases on paternal obligations. From these, five (5) cases have received a final decision by the court forcing the husbands to pay alimony to the former wife and children, 9 cases are still in the courts, 29 cases have been registered with the Public Ministry, and 28 new cases are still being processed at ALFeLa for evidence and legal documentation.