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.
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.