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Everything you need to know about applying for child maintenance

Mom and baby hand
Picture: Pexels

By Poelano Malema

Being a parent comes with responsibilities. Children need to be taken care of and their needs need to be provided for by their parents.

Sadly, some parents neglect their duties, leading to one parent having to carry the load of raising a child alone.

Fortunately, the government has laws that deal with parents who neglect to maintain their children.

According to the Department of Justice, a child must be supported or maintained by:

– His or her parents, whether married, living together, separated or divorced, including parents who have adopted the child; and/or

– His or her grandparents, whether or not the child’s parents were married to each other. However, this varies from one case to another.

The duty to support a family member is not limited to supporting a child. Any family member, irrespective of his or her age, can ask any family member to support or maintain him or her, provided that the following two conditions are met:

– The family member who claims support is unable to maintain himself or herself.

– The family member from whom maintenance is claimed is able to afford the maintenance that is claimed.

– The main requirement of the means test is that the person who is liable to pay maintenance must have MEANS and the maintenance claimed must be REASONABLE.

READ: Halle Berry not happy with paying R240k child support – “it’s extortion”

What maintenance covers

The maintenance will cover the minor with housing, food, clothing, education, and medical care. According to the Department of Justice, the court may also order the father to contribute to the payment of laying-in expenses and maintenance from the date of the child’s birth up to the date on which the maintenance order is granted.

Documents required 

Identity Document

Birth certificate of the child/children

Proof of residence

Proof of income and expenses

Three-months bank statement

Details of the parent required to pay maintenance ( name, surname physical and work address).

READ: Co-parenting: The challenges of raising kids together

Where to apply

A parent or guardian of a child requiring child maintenance needs to apply at the magistrate’s court in the district where they live.

Steps to follow when applying

The Department of Justice outlines the following steps:

– Go to the relevant court and complete and submit Form A: Application for a maintenance order (J101).

In addition to the completed form, submit proof of your monthly income and expenses, such as receipts for food purchases, electricity and/or rent bill payments. The court will set a date on which you and the respondent (the person whom you wish to pay maintenance) must go to the court.

– A maintenance officer and an investigator will investigate your claim and look into your circumstances.

The court will serve a summons (a letter instructing a person to come to court) on the respondent (the person against whom the claim is brought) to appear in court on a specific date to discuss the matter.

– The respondent then has a choice between agreeing to pay the maintenance as claimed, or contesting the matter in court. If the respondent agrees to pay the maintenance as claimed, a magistrate will review the relevant documentation. He or she will then make an order, and may decide to do so without requiring the parties to appear in court. If the person who is allegedly liable to pay maintenance does not consent to the issuance of an order, he or she must appear in court, where evidence from both parties and their witnesses will be heard. If the court finds the person liable for paying maintenance, it will make an order for the amount of maintenance to be paid. 

– The court will also determine when and how maintenance payments must be made.

Where will the money be paid?

According to the Department of Justice, the court can order maintenance money to be paid in one of the following ways:

– At the local magistrate’s office or any other government office designated for this purpose

– Into the bank or building society account designated by the person concerned

– Directly to the person who is entitled to the money

– By means of an order that directs the employer of the person who is liable for paying maintenance to deduct the maintenance payment directly from the employee’s salary, in accordance with the new Maintenance Act, 1998.

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