What is child maintenance?
Maintenance means a monetary or other contribution, made toward the necessary expenses of a child for the maintaining of the needs of the child. Such needs may include, but are not limited to, food, housing, education and so on.
In South African law, a child is entitled to maintenance from both biological parents taking into consideration the needs of the child and the means of each parent.
How do I go about getting maintenance from the child’s other parent?
Maintenance can only be obtained by court order against the other parent should they not pay sufficient maintenance out of their own accord.
Such a court order may be obtained:
- from the High Court during a divorce settlement and be contained in such settlement;
- from the Regional Magistrate’s Court during a divorce settlement and contained in such settlement;
- from a Maintenance Court, who will make a court order after hearing evidence from both parties and contained in such a Court Order by the Maintenance Court.
Besides the biological parents, does anyone else have an obligation toward maintenance?
It is accepted in our law that if neither parent can support or maintain the child, the duty passes on to the grandparents from both parents’ side. In circumstances where a parent does not pay maintenance to their child, the parent holding primary care of the child may lodge an application against the either grandparents of the child.
If neither the child’s parents nor grandparents are in a position to provide support, then that duty will pass to the child’s siblings, according to their respective means.
A step-parent is not by law obliged to maintain his/her stepchild.
What if a parent does not pay maintenance in terms of a court order?
When a parent fails to comply with the terms of the maintenance order, and the order remains unsatisfied for a period of 10 days, the parent which brought the application may apply to the maintenance court where the former is resident for:
- authorisation to issue a warrant of execution;
- an order for the attachment of emoluments (garnishee order); or
- an order for the attachment of debt.
Not paying maintenance is a criminal offence and the court may impose a fine or imprisonment for up to a year, or both.
Should you seek assistance with obtaining maintenance for your child(ren), please contact us and we will assist you throughout the court process. Du Toit’s Attorneys is a specialist family law firm and are extremely well versed in maintenance matters.