26.05.2017

Two men sentenced for failure to pay alimony

THE CRIMINAL COURT OF SAINT-MARTIN SENTENCED TWO MEN TO TWO MONTHS OF PRISON AND A ONE MONTH SUSPENDED SENTENCE, RESPECTIVELY, FOR FAMILY ABANDONMENT.

Two men were judged on Thursday, May 5 for family abandonment by the criminal court of Saint-Martin.

The first, Mr. T., did not pay alimony to his ex-wife between June 1, 2015, and November 15, 2016. However, he needed to pay €150 per month for their child Z. Summoned by registered letter, which he received on January 23, the man, who had left Saint-Barthélemy and returned to live in Belgium "to rebuild the mental and financial health of his family" following their separation, did not appear at the hearing. He did, however, write a letter addressed to the presiding judge in which he explained that he had only found a stable living situation in October 2016, and had trouble finding the means to pay his rent and cover his debts.

E.W., the ex-wife and mother of Z., explained to the bar: "the problem is that I never heard from him for two years. I called his family and sent registered letters to say that our child was registered in the Gustavia School, but he never gave or requested any news." And added that the last judgment required not €150/month in alimony, but rather €300. She brought a civil action and requested €3,000 in damages and interest.

According to Deputy Prosecutor Yves Paillard, all conditions were met to sentence Mr. T.: "He never made the smallest payment. If it had been necessary to wait for his payment in order to feed her child, the child would never have eaten. He never even made a symbolic payment and does not appear interested in his son." The presiding judge, Gérard Egron-Reverseau, declared the defendant guilty and sentenced him to two months in prison as well as €2,000 in damages and interest. "Burying one’s head in the sand turns against the ostrich," he concluded. And hoped that: "the sentence will push him to act."

The second, Mr. P, who lives in Cameroon according to the latest news, was summoned for not having paid the €360 euros per month in alimony to his ex-wife for their two children aged 6 and 13, between June 10, 2014 and January 9, 2017. He does not give any news to his ex-wife, but communicates nearly every month with his children. "He began to pay in September, since he was summoned to the gendarmerie when he returned to France on vacation," noted his ex-wife at the bar, although he did not appear at the hearing. "No matter what people say," commented the presiding judge, "our system is long but formidable." She brought a civil action and requested €3,000 in damages and interest, while worrying that her ex-husband might be sentenced to prison. In his indictment, the Deputy Prosecutor reassured her: "the court uses all legal means to put pressure on the defendants, particularly when it comes to alimony. Mr. P began to pay again. But to put pressure on him, he needed to hear the word 'prison.'" He therefore requested a two month suspended prison sentence "to encourage him to pay, as well as his debts," and a fine of €300. The court declared the defendant guilty and sentences him to a one month suspended sentence as well as a €300 fine and €2,000 in damages and interest.

The crime of family abandonment is subject to up to two years of imprisonment and a €15,000 fine. (Art. 227- 3 of the Criminal Code). This infraction occurs when an individual does not carry out their obligation to pay alimony for over two months following a legal decision or a legally approved agreement.

Estelle Gasnet

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