Biological parents as well as the legal guardian of a child have a legal obligation to pay maintenance, in other words to support the child financially. This obligation includes contributions towards paying for food, clothing, accommodation, medical care and education.
Maintenance must be paid to ensure the proper living and upbringing of the child. It is compulsory to pay maintenance and the amount of maintenance will be determined in proportion to each parent’s income. Regardless of whether or not the child is born in or out of wedlock, both parents are responsible for the maintenance of that child.
You can approach a Maintenance Court in the following circumstances:
- Whenever any person legally liable to maintain any other person fails to maintain the latter person; or
- Whenever good cause exists to vary or discharge a maintenance order.
One should always approach the Maintenance Court within the area in which the child or person in whose care the child is (custodian or parent), resides. The Maintenance Court is generally located in the building of the local Magistrates Court.
What is the process to submit a claim for maintenance?
- You should start by contacting your local Magistrates Court or attorney to find out which is the correct court that will be able to assist you to claim maintenance.
- That Maintenance Court can then be contacted telephonically to confirm with the Maintenance Court clerks, what documents you will need to take with you to the Maintenance Court in order to apply for maintenance.
- Now you can proceed to the relevant Maintenance Court and complete the relevant application form which you can obtain at the court.
- After completing the application form the Maintenance Court clerk will provide you with a date on which you will need to go back to the Maintenance Court. The respondent (the other parent) will also be informed of the date by the Maintenance Court by way of a subpoena.
What documents will you need to take with to the Maintenance Court?
- Your Identity document and the birth certificate of the child.
- The Identity number and photo of the parent/person from whom you are intending to claim maintenance from.
- Your bank statements (only if you have a bank account) for the past 3-6 months.
- A list of the child’s expenses and a list of your expenses together together with documents to prove these expenses, eg. water and electricity bill, grocery till slips.
- Your current pay slip (if employed).
- Physical, residential and work address of the person who needs to pay maintenance.
- Physical, residential and work address of a family member or next of kin.
- Maintenance Court order (only if already granted in the past).
- Settlement agreement (in the case of a divorce).
- A date on which you would want to receive payment from the other party.
The time period for the entire process of applying for maintenance up to receipt of the first maintenance payment will all depend on the co-operation of both parties. Should the parties reach an agreement, the first payment may be fairly quick and the date for payment will be specified by the court order. However, should the parties involved not reach an agreement themselves the matter will be referred by the Maintenance Court for a financial enquiry. Such a referral could take a few months to be completed. On the return date, the Maintenance Court will listen to both parties and after looking into the financial situation of both parties as well as the needs of the child, the Maintenance Court will determine the maintenance amount to be paid.
Maintenance money can be collected in the following manner:
- Garnishee order - the employer takes the money directly from the responsible persons salary and pays it over to the Courts’ bank account. You can then collect the money over the counter at your local Court.
- Cash payment - you can collect the money over the counter at your local Court.
- Direct payment - the respondent pays the money directly into your bank account.
What steps should you take if you do not receive payment of the maintenance?
- Proceed to your bank and request a detailed statement of your account.
- Take the detailed statement together with your Identity book to your local Maintenance Court.
- The Maintenance Court can then issue summons to institute criminal charges against the person responsible for payment.
Maintenance should be paid until such time as the child is self-supporting. This means that even if the child reaches the age of 18 and he or she is not self-supporting, the maintenance may continue until the child is self-supporting. In the event that the person responsible for paying maintenance dies, the maintenance should be paid out of the deceased’s estate to ensure future maintenance.
After you have received a maintenance order, one can always apply to the Maintenance Court to have the amount increased or decreased especially if the financial circumstances relating to the care of the child have changed.