TRACEY has a child with her ex-husband, who has not been sending money for the little one since the couple’s divorce.
Tracey has had to remove the child from the private school she was attending – before the divorce, as she could not afford the fees on her own.
She’s tried all she could to get him to maintain their child, and she now feels her ex should not be allowed to see their daughter because he refuses to maintain her.
In Mzansi, the law governing the maintenance of children is set out in the Children’s Act and in the Maintenance Act.
The Children’s Act states that both parents have rights and responsibilities regarding the child, and these are: to care for the child, maintain contact with the child, act as a guardian of the child, and to contribute to the maintenance of the child.
TV shows like, No Excuse, Pay Your Papgeld, show the issue of maintenance is a huge problem in this country.
As a result, a new Act was signed into law in 2015: the Maintenance Amendment Act.
Many parents still struggle to get maintenance from the other parent, although the law provides assistance with this.
Maintenance is claimed through the magistrates court and, once the matter is complete, a maintenance order is granted in terms of which the maintenance is to be paid.
To claim for maintenance, the parent staying with the child can approach a magistrates court with the following:
) The child’s birth certificate.
) Parent’s identity document.
) A breakdown of the monthly expenses and, where possible, proof of the living costs.
ON receipt of the above, the maintenance officer will issue summons, calling both parents to appear in court on a specified date.
If there’s consent between the parents on the court date, regarding how much is to be paid, the court will sign a maintenance order.
If there’s disagreement among the parents, then there will have to be subsequent court appearances, at which the parents will have to provide proof of their standpoints on the matter.
The Maintenance Amendment Act referred to above aims to deal with parents who default on maintenance payments more strictly than before.
The Act now provides for:
) The personal information of the defaulting parent to be sent to credit bureaus, and this affects the person’s ability to access credit in the future.
) The courts can order mobile network providers to share the contact details of the defaulting parent, where the maintenance officer has not been able to trace him.
) Cost order can be granted against the defaulting parent.
) The court can impose a three-year imprisonment sentence without the option of a fine, if the defaulting parent continues to default on the payments.
Tracey should therefore approach her nearest magistrates court in order to be assisted.
But she, unfortunately, can’t refuse the father access to the child because the Children’s Act sets out that it’s the child’s right to have contact with both her parents.
Refusing this could end up with Tracey’s ex taking legal action against her.
So, it’s best that when parent split up, a parenting plan be drawn up with the help of social workers.
It will set out who the child is to live with, the amount of time the child should spend with each parent, maintenance and how the two parents will make major decisions affecting the child.
As parents, we should always remember the best interests of the child need to come first.