Maintenance for children is a very important and often sensitive area. Every child has the right to basic necessities such as housing, food, clothing and medical and education expenses. Parents or relatives have a duty to support children, and, in all cases where children live with one of the parents, the other parent has a duty to contribute maintenance for the children.
Fighting with an ex-partner for money to support children is a harsh reality for many Women in South Africa. However, since 1999 the administrative system for obtaining and enforcing maintenance orders has become more user-friendly and effective.
Who Must Pay?
Both parents, whether they were married or not, have a duty to support their children. This also applies to parents who have adopted a child. If parents cannot maintain their children, grandparents can also be ordered to pay maintenance. Step-parents have no legal duty to maintain their stepchildren.
Maintenance is a legal duty, and you cannot draw up an agreement dismissing your liability to pay. Even if you and your ex-spouse remarry or begin a new relationship, you must still pay.
The parents’ duty to support children also continues even if they have other children later on – although this may affect the amount of maintenance that they will be able to afford. When parents get divorced, the Divorce Court will not grant a divorce unless it is convinced that adequate provision has been made for the maintenance of children born out of the marriage. The Divorce Court will postpone the case and refuse to make a final order until it is satisfied that the children are properly cared for.
A parent is required by law to pay even if they never get to see the children. Maintenance is not dependant on access, a parent is guilty of a crime if they refuse to pay maintenance for children because they have no access.