By Uzair Adams.
In law, parenthood gives rise to parental rights, but more importantly, parental responsibilities in respect of children. One such responsibility in particular is the maintenance of children.
Contrary to popular belief, maintenance is not shared equally between parents. It is in fact payable by parents proportionately according to their respective means. Disagreements often arise where one parent fails to abide by their maintenance commitment, or only adheres to it sporadically. Ultimately it is the children who suffer as a result. For this reason, maintenance courts seriously consider the best interests of the child under the circumstances when making an order.
There are many parents who are able to reach an informal agreement in respect of their maintenance contribution. If parents are able to reach an amicable solution in this way, all the better. This however was not the case for one of our clients, Ms A, a single, unemployed mother who has been the primary caregiver of her two children since their father remarried in October 2016. After numerous requests, the father failed to provide the Maintenance Officer at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court with a breakdown of his monthly income and expenditure. Ms. A had submitted an application for pro bono assistance to the Cape Law Society, which was approved. However, the Cape Law Society was unable to secure legal representation for her at her next court date and Ms. A approached ProBono.Org for further assistance.
We referred the matter to Ms. Rukia Allie Da Costa, an Attorney from Riley Incorporated who accepted the pro bono instruction, and the court granted an order that the father pay R5,500.00 per month for the maintenance of the children.
There is a widespread habit of parents seeking to evade their maintenance responsibilities, resulting in huge magistrates’ court backlogs with such matters. We welcome the Child Support Bill that took effect in January 2018 which states that parents who default on child maintenance will be blacklisted and blocked from receiving credit if their maintenance payments are in arrears.
We are hopeful that the new legislation will transform the attitude towards payment of maintenance.