If you have been through a divorce and have children, you will need to understand the legal Child Maintenance Act of South Africa thoroughly. Child maintenance involves the “ongoing obligation to make periodic payments to sustain a child or children”. Normally maintenance only becomes an issue after a divorce, but parents are also liable to pay financial support for children even if they were never married.
In South Africa, maintenance is governed by the South African courts, and the specific amount that you are required to pay takes into account what both parents earn. In order to be entitled to claim maintenance from an estranged spouse, you are required to obtain a maintenance order from the court, which then discharges this.
In entering into legal proceedings to obtain a maintenance order, you need to be prepared for how this all works. Maintenance courts are part of criminal courts, which means you will be in the same building as hardened criminals when you go to court. The better prepared you are for this, the easier you will find it.
In determining what amount is fair to claim for maintenance, you need to work out how much you actually need to pay for your children each month. If you only have custody of your children once a month, you cannot in fairness claim for their full monthly expenses. If you come into maintenance court asking for a reasonable amount as opposed to an outrageous sum of money, the courts are likely to look more favourable on you.
It is a sad fact that most maintenance claims are made by women to their ex-husbands. Women are granted custody of children far more often than men are, due to their motherly instincts. The problem comes in when many of these mothers have been stay-at-home moms until the divorce, and suddenly find themselves in a position where they are unable to earn a living, and hence have to rely heavily on their ex-husbands income to support themselves and their children.
When claiming for maintenance, you also need to be cognisant of what you used to pay for your children, and ensure this does not suddenly escalate to unrealistic levels. For instance, if your child did not have private piano, swimming and violin lessons before the divorce, it would be unreasonable to suddenly demand that the maintenance amount covers all of this as well.
Battling maintenance with an ex-spouse can be a difficult and unpleasant part of divorce proceedings. Bear in mind, however, that despite the difficulties between you and your estranged partner, your children should still come first, and you need to minimise the negative effects of the divorce on them as much as possible.
Make sure you are familiar with the legal Child Maintenance Act of South Africa before you need to fight for maintenance for your child or children. The more familiar you and your ex-partner are with the ins and outs of the legalities around this, the smoother this process should be for all involved, including your children.