Kendari Religious Court Decision No. 225 of 2015: Child Maintenance Application Against Estranged Biological Father

The plaintiff submitted a claim for child maintenance from the defendant (her biological father), who was previously married to her biological mother from 1995-2001. Since September 2000, four months before her parents divorced, until the time of the proceeding, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had not provided her with any financial support, either via her biological mother or directly. The plaintiff submitted that, from the age of 4-19 years, the defendant had neglected his financial obligations to the plaintiff, which the plaintiff quantified at IDR 1.5 million per month, or IDR 264 million in total for the past 14 years and eight months. The plaintiff also submitted that the defendant was obligated to provide her with IDR 2 million per month in financial support until she reached 21 years of age, and that as a university lecturer with a PhD, he earned sufficient income to afford these payments.

The defendant submitted an objection to the plaintiff's case on the grounds that the plaintiff's biological mother had unilaterally changed the plaintiff's name and altered her birth certificate, the new certificate having been issued on 11 January 2007. Meanwhile, the birth certificate the defendant had in his possession was a copy of the original (dated 8 February 1996). The defendant submitted that the effect of this alteration was that it was no longer clear who the plaintiff's actual biological father was.

As part of the defendant's primary defence, he submitted that, following his divorce from the plaintiff's mother, he had finalised all financial issues through deliberatons with the plaintiff's great-aunt (now deceased), as well as the matter of the custody of the plaintiff. At the time, the defendant had abided by the plaintiff's mother's wishes and allowed the plaintiff to remain in her mother's care until she was of an age where she could knowingly choose which parent she wished to follow.

The defendant also suggested to the court that it was more likely that the plaintiff's mother had instigated the claim, given that there had been no tension in the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant, as well as the fact that the parties had only recently reunited in September 2014 after more than 13 years apart. Moreover, the defendant's relationship with the plaintiff's mother had been fractured at best, meaning that the defendant had not known of the plaintiff's specific whereabouts, other than that she had been living with her mother and grandmother in Makassar. In short, the lack of communication between the defendant and the plaintiff's mother made providing the plaintiff with financial assistance logistically unfeasible. Indeed, when the plaintiff visited the defendant with her aunt at his residence for the first time in 13 years, the defendant happily provided the plaintiff with IDR 1 million, while the defendant's father (the plaintiff's grandfather) gave her IDR 500,000. The defendant informed the court that the plaintiff later requested IDR 8 million from the defendant to cover certain educational costs. As the defendant had only recently returned from completing postgraduate study in Yogyakarta at the time of the request, however, the defendant and his wife could only afford to provide the plaintiff with IDR 4 million, which the plaintiff had refused.

The court dismissed the defendant's objection on the grounds that the plaintiff's original birth certificate had never been declared null and void by the authorised agency, and, therefore, its legal authority remained intact.

In regards to the plaintiff's claim, the court noted the conflicting laws as to the legal age of an adult: while art 47(1) of Law No. 1 of 1974 on Marriage, as well as art 47(1) of Law No. 7 of 1989 on the Religious Judiciary, define an adult as someone who is 18 years of age, art 98 of the Compilation of Islamic Laws defines an adult as a person of 21 years of age. Meanwhile, customary law (hukum adat) stipulates 15 as the relevant age. In choosing to follow that legislation that defined the legal age as 18, the court thereby found that the plaintiff was already an adult as she was 19 years of age. In reaching its decision, the court considered that the plaintiff and defendant had been separated for 13 years, that the defendant and defendant's father had offered the plaintiff IDR 1.5 million collectively on their first meeting in 13 years, and that the plaintiff had refused to accept IDR 4 million from the defendant to cover educational costs. The court also cited Indonesian Supreme Court Decision No. 608 K/AG/203 (23 March 2005), where the Supreme Court declared that the obligations of a father to provide financially for his child were Lil Intifa rather than Lil Tamlik, that is, the obligation to meet a child's needs is shared by the child's parents, and therefore, does not rest solely on the father (art 77(3) of the Compilation of Islamic Laws; art 45(2) of Law No. 1 of 1974 on Marriage). Accordingly, back payments were not necessary as the child's past needs were assumed to have already been met. Pursuant to the defendant's concession that he was happy to provide the plaintiff with financial assistance, provided it was within his own means, as well as surat Al Baqarah verse 233, the court ordered the defendant to pay to the defendant IDR 2 million per month until she reaches 21 years of age.

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