A mother from San Ignacio Town, Cayo District, has reported to our news centre that her payments from Family Court have not been forthcoming for the last four months. Merlene Villanueva explained that she has been given the run-around in trying to collect child maintenance already paid via the court system. She has even gone on record to say that one of the persons she reached out to, alleged that the family court monies were being used in the ICJ campaign.
Merlene Villanueva – Victim of a Failed Court System: “I have been trying to locate the whereabouts of my maintenance that normally goes to the Magistrate Court in Belmopan and is therefore then sent to Belize City for payment. I have been calling the Belmopan office to speak to someone and when I did speak to, if I can call her name that is in charge of Belmopan. She told me that they had already sent the paperwork to Belize City. When I spoke to Belize City, Belize City said ma’m Belmopan is lying because we have not gotten anything from January pertaining to you. I tried back again in Belmopan, when I tried back again they put me on hold for ten minutes and I couldn’t speak to anyone so I hung up and called back again. When I called back again it was the same person that told me Ms. Villanueva due to the ICJ we have a lot of shortage probably or probably the money is being used up for whatever purposes pertaining to the Government. So far I have not gotten any results from Belize City and from Belmopan as to where this money is. It is for child maintenance, what happens is the process, what it does because of the location of where this person works it is in Belmopan that it goes to the Magistrate Court and then Belmopan, therefore, prepare I guess who so ever all receive maintenance then they send it to Belize City and then it is put on the system. This system was created for smooth sailing of people getting their money in time and it is not happening, it is getting worse. The phone doesn’t even ring at times, you are calling Belize City, it’s 227-4114. It doesn’t even ring and when you do speak to someone it is like ma’m nothing is here Belmopan is lying so I said what should I do?”
Johnelle Mckenzie – Reporter: “Before six months you were getting your money regularly?”
Merlene Villanueva – Victim of a Failed Court System: “Yes I was getting it but it always was a month or two months behind time, it is never up to date.”
Johnelle Mckenzie – Reporter: “Do you know if the person is making payments on his end?”
Merlene Villanueva – Victim of a Failed Court System: “Yes they are because I have contacted his workplace and he said even sometimes the money is being paid normally a week or so before government payroll because they are like a semi-government. Well, my next move I will probably need to start from Belmopan to see if my name is actually documented on whatever paperwork that they are claiming that they sent already to Belize City.”
Villanueva is not the only mother being affected. In March of this year, over a dozen women took to social media complaining about the delays at Family Court in collecting their child maintenance payments. Our newsroom has been making calls to the Family Court offices but our attempts to get a response on these complaints have proven fruitless.