Child Maintenance

The amount of maintenance payable by either party with regard to an obligation of each parent towards a minor or dependant child in any divorce is always a potentially explosive topic of the proceedings, which can easily turn an amicable divorce into a lengthy and unnecessary battle between parties.

This is largely due to the fact that the maintenance obligation by each parent is not defined by allocating specific amounts of maintenance for a child, and quite simply because each and every maintenance matter is unique, and depends on a variety of factors such as the income of the respective parties and the specific needs of the child concerned.

According to the Maintenance Act, 1998 (Act No. 99 of 1998) both parents have a legal duty and obligation to maintain the minor (minor means a child under 18) biological child born of their marriage. The maintenance obligation of each parent is calculated in accordance to the respective income of each party and the need of the specific child.

In any divorce where children are involved it is advisable to calculate the specific needs of a child by making a list of expenses for and on behalf of the child. These expenses would typically include, rent, electricity, medical, schooling, clothes, transport, groceries aftercare fees, domestic workers, extramural activities, and any other day-to-day expenses.

Any party in a divorce action or biological parent can bring a maintenance application to the lower Maintenance Court in order to obtain a maintenance order against the biological father or mother of the child. The Maintenance court can be approached at any time by either party thereto, even after a maintenance order was granted to vary that specific order, provided that there has been some change in circumstances of the respective parties. The maintenance obligation in our law continues up until a child becomes self sufficient, and not necessarily when a child reaches the age of eighteen as is the common misconception by many.

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