It really is a sad state of affairs when fathers have to be tracked down and sometimes even forced by the courts to pay maintenance for their children.
Sadly, the system and processes are very flawed, often leaving the mother and the children with the short end of the stick.
Here are some maintenance FAQs answered by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Who can apply for maintenance?
- The parent/person who is in custody of the child/children may claim maintenance from the other parent who is responsible or liable to pay maintenance.
- Or in an instance where one spouse would like to apply for support from the other where applicable.
- Maintenance can be claimed from the biological grandparent if the parents cannot pay maintenance.
Documents needed to lodge a maintenance claim?
- The identity document, birth certificate of the child, bank statements of both the parents, list of the expenses of the child, list of expenses of both the parents, proof of applicant’s income and expenditure, name and surname of parent/person responsible for the payment of maintenance money, physical/work address of the parent/person responsible for the payment of maintenance money if available, copy of bank statement, proof of residence/affidavit,
- The maintenance clerk will assist you in completing the forms.
- The maintenance clerk will refer your application to the maintenance officer for ﬁnal assessment of your documents.
- After assessment, the registration of application and reference number will be issued.
- The maintenance officer will issue a directive calling upon the parties to meet, for the purposes of conducting an investigation into the alleged complaint. The maintenance officer will then conduct an investigation into the alleged complaint, or conduct mediation with both parties present.
- The maintenance officer will conduct mediation with both parties to reach an agreement/settlement
- Where the parties reach an agreement/settlement, the agreement will be made an order of the court. The maintenance officer may request both parties to sign a written consent and have that made an order of the court.
- The court then makes an order for payment of maintenance in accordance with the agreement between the two parties.
- Where parties do not reach an agreement, the matter is then referred to court for formal enquiry.
- On the day of the court appearance, an enquiry will be held to determine the needs of the applicant and the means available to provide maintenance from both parties.
- After consideration, the magistrate will make a maintenance order indicating the amount to be paid.
The court may order the respondent to make payments by means of:
- An electronic funds transfer (EFT) to the beneﬁciaries bank account.
- A deduct of the maintenance money from the respondents’ salary, (Garnishee order)
- Direct deposit to the beneficiaries bank account
Can I claim maintenance from grandparents?
- Yes, maintenance can be claimed from the biological grandparent if the parents cannot pay maintenance.
Why must you pay maintenance?
- You must pay maintenance for proper living and upbringing of the child, and includes the provision of food, clothing, accommodation, medical care and education.
Is it compulsory to pay maintenance?
- Yes, it is compulsory to pay maintenance.
Where are you supposed to lodge a complaint for maintenance?
- In any local magistrate court where the applicant and/or the child resides.
Can I go to any magistrate court in the country to lodge maintenance?
- Yes, you can go to any local magistrate court where you and/or the child resides.
How often should maintenance be paid?
- The maintenance money should be paid every month on the dates agreed upon by both the parties and granted by the court.
How much money should be paid for maintenance?
- The amount payable for maintenance will be determined by the needs of the child and the financial means of the parents.
At what age should you stop paying maintenance?
- The maintenance should be paid until the child is self – supporting.
What happens if the child reaches the age of 18 and she/he is still not self- supporting?
- The payment of maintenance will continue until the child is self-supporting. However, the maintenance payment should be deposited directly to the child’s banking account.
Can I change the maintenance amount after the order has been granted?
- Yes, you can request decrease/increase of the amounts.
What documents do I need to lodge a maintenance claim?
- The identity document, birth certificate of the child, bank statements of both the parents, list of the expenses of the child, list of expenses of both the parents, etc.
Can I claim maintenance while living together with the father/mother of the child?
- Yes, you can claim maintenance if the other parent does not take responsibility of maintaining the child.
Procedure in cases where a respondent does not pay”
- If the respondent fails to pay within the speciﬁed times, you should report the matter to the maintenance offices.
The court will offer two options:
1.Civil Enforcement of Maintenance, through the Magistrate may order one of the following: Emolument attachment, attachment of debt and/or, execution of movable/immovable property.
2.Criminal Prosecution: A warrant of arrest can be issued as the respondent failed to comply with an order of court.
Unfortunately, it is rarely as easy as this.
I wish all mothers following this process strength and perseverance.
As for the fathers who can afford to pay but don’t, remember the old saying “die wiel draai”.