CHILD MAINTENANCE IN SOUTH AFRICA
WHAT IS CHILD MAINTENANCE?
Child maintenance or child support is a compulsory payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a minor child/children following the end of a marriage or other relationship. All parents, whether married or not, living together, separated, or divorced and parents of adopted children, are required to support the financial needs of their children. The child maintenance system ensures that the parent who does not have primary care of the minor child honours their duty to to maintain their child. Maintenance includes the reasonable provision towards the minor child for clothing, housing, dental and medical care, and education. Both parents have a duty to maintain the child according to their respective means and the circumstances and needs of the minor child. If the child’s parents are unable to contribute to maintenance towards the minor child, the biological grandparents may need to pay maintenance.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL REQUIREMENT FOR CHILD MAINTENANCE?
A parent has a financial duty towards a child and is therefore expected to pay child maintenance and/or to provide financial support for the child until such time a child is self-supporting, which is usually when they reach majority, however just because the child reaches majority (18 years of age) does not necessarily mean that maintenance is terminated. Should the child not be self-supporting or wants to further their education, the child can apply for maintenance from their retrospective parents. Maintenance payments are not automatically suspended when the child turn 18 year of age.
Payment of child maintenance is viewed by the legal system as a very serious responsibility due to the fact that a child’s well-being is threatened if there is not sufficient money to support the child. It is extremely important that you have the support of an experienced family law attorney who has a passion for children and will ensure the best interests of the children is paramount at all times. Burger Huyser Attorneys will assist you in this very important process.
After launching a full financial enquiry into both parties’ financial position, the court will determine what amount constitutes reasonable maintenance. The parents’ income and expenditure and the child’s expenses will be taken into account.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PARTY FAILS TO PAY CHILD MAINTENANCE?
If a party fails to pay maintenance, it is in the court’s power to order a deduction from a parent’s salary or their savings/investment account for the outstanding maintenance money. This is done by way of an emolument attachment order. The court can furthermore auction their property to collect the outstanding money by way of a Warrant of Execution.
An order of maintenance made by the court is binding and that means that the child maintenance payment may not be withheld. The fact that a party is in another relationship, moves away or remarries does not suspend an obligation to contribute to maintenance. Should a party, for whatever reason, withhold a parent’s contact from the minor child, the parent cannot withhold maintenance payments. A separate application needs to be launched in order to restore contact with the minor child.
INSIST ON DEALING WITH TOP CHILD MAINTENANCE FAMILY ATTORNEYS WHEN CLAIMING CHILD SUPPORT
Maintenance may need to be adjusted regularly, depending on the changing needs of the child or the financial position of the parents. You can increase the maintenance order or you can decrease the order if you are unable to afford the maintenance that has been ordered by the Court. You will need to proof your case to the Court should you wish to do either of the above options. If you want to increase the maintenance you will need to show the court why you require such increase and if you want to decrease the maintenance you will need to proof to the court why you cannot afford the maintenance any longer. The court can set aside an existing maintenance order, make a new maintenance order, decrease a current order; increase a current order or amend a current order.
The important aspect when deciding to claim for child maintenance is the fact that you must feel comfortable with the family law attorney you decide on. You must trust, respect and be aware of the experience the chosen attorney has to take your case to the child maintenance court.