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Waiting to be jailed

Jobless father could not afford to appeal maintenance ruling

David Muscat says he could not afford to pay maintenance after losing his job. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

David Muscat says he could not afford to pay maintenance after losing his job. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

David Muscat expects a policeman to knock on his door at any minute to take him to serve a month in jail for not paying his ex-wife maintenance while he was temporarily unemployed.

If a person does not find the money to appeal against such a decision, will he have to live with that for the rest of his life?

“My bags are packed. I’m waiting for someone to come and get me,” the 52-year-old told The Sunday Times, claiming he did not have enough money to appeal against the decision.

Mr Muscat said he could not understand in the first place how the Civil Court fixed the monthly maintenance to his ex-wife and their three children at €1,000 – which included €300 per child and €100 for his wife – when a court-appointed legal procurator recommended it should be €580.

An appeal court later reduced the maintenance to €400 per month – €200 for two of the children as one had become an adult and no maintenance for the wife – but by that time he had lost his job.

This meant he failed to make payments for four months, as his only income was €380 per month in social benefits.

Last Wednesday, Magistrate Anthony Vella sentenced Mr Muscat to a month’s imprisonment for failing to make the required maintenance payments.

He had a week to appeal but claimed he could not afford to pay the court and legal fees.

While not getting into the details of the separation case, Mr Muscat feels he was the victim of the Civil Court decision in October last year that set maintenance at a rate he could not afford – even while he was employed at a restaurant.

The Sunday Times saw a document issued by the Employment and Training Corporation showing that he and another three employees were made redundant in October 2011.

His wife filed a report when he failed to pay maintenance between December 2011 and March 2012, which is when criminal proceedings were issued against him.

Mr Muscat said he found a job in March and started earning just under €800 a month.

He borrowed money to appeal against the Civil Court decision and, last June, the appeal court reduced the maintenance to €400.

However, the latest development has upset Mr Muscat.

“If a person does not find the money to appeal against such a decision, will he have to live with that for the rest of his life? Even at the cost of living in poverty?

“How can I get reimbursed for all the money and time wasted?”

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