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Child Maintenance: An Overview – Family Law



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The relationship between a parent, and their child creates
rights, duties and responsibilities that are enforceable by
law.

As a parent, you are responsible for your child, and it is your
duty to nurture and take care of that child.

In saying that, however, If one of the parents feels like they
are taking on more responsibility than the other parent, they have
the right to approach a court and apply for child maintenance
against the defaulting parent. If that application is successful,
the court will order the defaulting parent to fulfil their
responsibility toward their child.

The obligation for child maintenance flows naturally from the
relationship between child and parent.

How To Apply For Child Maintenance?

Only natural parents of a child, legal guardians or adoptive
parents may apply for child maintenance. The claimant will have to
make a claim via an application to court- specifically, the
maintenance court.

The claimant will be directed to complete the relevant forms and
submit proof of the claimant’s income and expenses and the
specific expenses related to the child. A maintenance officer will
be allocated to the matter once all formalities related to the
required documents have been completed.

With due regard to the submitted documents, the maintenance
officer will assess the documents and forms and write a report
which the judge will use to inform its final decision. The
non-claiming parent will also be required to supply the court with
documents evidencing his/her financial position.

A hearing will then be held where both parties will be called
upon to appear before the judge to explain the basis of the claim
and/or the basis for wanting to pay or receive a higher or lower
amount.

How Does A Court Decide On The Appropriate Amount For Child
Maintenance?

The court will consider the reasonable needs of the child. In
other words, the court will consider how much money is required to
pay for the child’s, food, education, clothes, and medical
aid needs (basic needs). Depending on the standard of living of
that child, a court may also make provisions for luxury needs as
well

The court will consider the financial position of both parents
as evidenced by the documents supplied. If you are a well-off
parent, you’re likely to pay a higher maintenance fee. On the
other hand, if you don’t earn well, the court will not issue
an order you cannot pay.

What Are The Implications Of An Order To Pay Child
Maintenance?

A maintenance order is an order of court. This means that you
are legally bound to that order, and should you not adhere to it,
you will be in contempt of court. Therefore, if the defaulting
parent fails to pay child maintenance, s/he should be reported to
the maintenance officer. The maintenance office may then request
that the defaulting parent’s property be attached or his/her
salary be attached, amongst others and may even request criminal
prosecution.

Conclusion

Parents may settle maintenance disputes without intervention by
the courts. They may conclude a settlement agreement and have this
endorsed by the court or may employ a mediator to assist with
negotiations.

However, should parents be unable to agree, it would be in the
best interests of the minor to seek assistance from the courts in
order to ensure that the minor’s needs are catered for.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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