Category Archives: Maintenance

How can an unmarried father obtain parental rights and responsibilities?

Under the old dispensation, where parties were divorced, one parent (usually the mother) would usually be awarded custody of a minor child and the other parent (usually the father) would be entitled to visitation rights.

The custodian parent would be vested with making all of the day-to-day decisions of the minor child including which school the child would attend, what religion the child would practice, where the child would reside and so on.

The parents now have joint parental responsibilities and rights, and all major decisions relating to the minor child need to be taken by the parties jointly, which is a far healthier situation for the child.

  • If the unmarried father only wants to apply for care and/or contact, he can do so in the Children’s Court.
  • If the unmarried father wants to apply for guardianship, an application must be made in the High Court.
  • If the unmarried father wants to apply for care, contact and guardianship, he must bring the application in the High Court.

An unmarried biological father may ask a court of law to grant him full parental responsibilities if he:

  • at the time of the child’s birth, is living with the mother in a permanent life partnership, or
  • consents to be identified as the child’s father, or
  • successfully applies to be identified as the child’s father, or
  • pays damages in terms of Customary Law, or
  • contributes or has tried to contribute to the child’s maintenance and upbringing for a reasonable period.

What factors will the court take into account when considering an application for parental rights and responsibilities?

  • The best interests of the child.
  • The relationship between the unmarried father and the child.
  • The relationship between any other person and the child, such as the mother.
  • The degree of commitment the unmarried father has shown towards the child.
  • Whether the unmarried father has contributed or attempted to contribute to the maintenance of the child.
  • Any other factor the court considers to be relevant, such as:
    • whether the unmarried father has a history of violence towards children;
    • the effect of separating the child from his/her mother; or
    • the child’s attitude towards the relief sought in the application.

 

Reference

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

An ex-spouse refusing to pay maintenance?

a4bIf a couple has gotten divorced and they have a child, then it’s the responsibility of both parents to support the child. The duty to pay maintenance cannot be avoided, regardless of either parents’ situation. If one parent refuses to pay maintenance, then the other parent can go to a court and make a claim. Being a single parent doesn’t mean being the only one to contribute to maintenance.

What should I do about it?

To deal with a spouse who refuses to pay maintenance you would first need to inform the maintenance officer. The maintenance officer can apply to the court for:

1. A warrant of execution;
2. An attachment order against the defaulter’s salary;
3. An order to attach any debts; and
4. A criminal prosecution.

Does the non-paying parent have a defence?

The only defence that a parent could have for not paying maintenance is having a lack of income. However, if the parent is unwilling to work, such as laziness, then this will not count as a defence. Failure to pay maintenance is taken very serious, guilty parents won’t get much sympathy from the court or others. If the parent is capable of working, then they will be expected to pay maintenance.

But I can’t find my ex-spouse?

Non-paying parents may think that they’re being clever by changing their address and not notifying the court. This is considered a criminal offence, and will result in punishment. Fortunately, it’s not the responsibility of the single parent to find anyone. A maintenance investigator will track down and find a non-paying parent.

How to claim maintenance

If you want someone to pay maintenance or believe that they are not paying the proper amount, then you can follow these steps at your local magistrate’s court. Remember to go the court in the district where you live.

1. Go to the court and complete the form “Application for a maintenance order (J101)”.
2. Also submit proof of your monthly income and expenses.
3. A date will be set on which you and the respondent (the person whom you wish to pay maintenance) must go to the court.
4. A maintenance officer and an investigator will investigate your claim and look into your circumstances.
5. The court will serve a summons on the respondent.
6. The respondent then has to either agree to pay the maintenance, or challenge the matter in court.

If found liable to pay maintenance

If the court finds someone liable for paying maintenance, it will make an order for the amount of maintenance to be paid. The court will also determine when and how the payments must be made. There are several ways the payments could be made. The court can order that the maintenance be paid at the local magistrate’s office or that the amount to be paid into the bank account chosen by the person claiming. The payments could also just be made directing to them. According to the new Maintenance Act (1998), an employer can deduct payments from an employee’s salary, if they’re liable for paying maintenance.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)