Month: November 2014

Protection order

A4blIn this article we will deal with the manner in which to obtain a protection order, the possible reasons for obtaining such an order, and the consequences of disobeying the order.

A protection order is described as being a form of court order that requires a party to do, or to refrain from doing, certain acts.

These orders flow from the court’s injunction power to grant equitable remedies, and can deal with the following:

• That someone should not commit any act of domestic abuse.
• That someone should pay you rent, mortgage, or other monies, such as child support.
• That someone should hand over firearms or dangerous weapons to the police.

If you feel that you need to protect yourself by applying for a protection order, you must apply at a court which has jurisdiction over the area where you are residing. It is also important to first phone a court and make sure on which days you can apply for a protection order, since many courts only have certain days on which they deal with the application for protection orders, unless the protection order is a matter of urgency and you feel that your life might be at risk.

Before obtaining a final protection order, you need to apply for an interim protection order. To do this, you need to apply to the court. The interim order specifies the date on which the final order will be considered. Once the final order is made, it is permanent and can only be changed by making an application to do so at the court at which it was granted. Once an interim order is granted a copy of the order must be served on the Defendant by either the police or a sheriff of the court. The Defendant then has the opportunity to defend the matter on the return date and the Magistrate has the discretion to either make it a final protection order or not.

Requesting a protection order does not mean that you are laying a charge against your abuser. You do not need to lay a criminal charge in order to obtain a protection order. However, if you are a victim of a type of domestic abuse that is also a crime, you can apply for a protection order, lay a criminal charge, or both. Some examples of abuse that are also crimes include common assault, rape, incest, attempted murder and the abuse of animals.

If your abuser breaches or breaks the conditions of the protective order, he has committed a crime, being in contempt of court. This applies even if the breach is not an actual crime, such as controlling behaviour. If the breach itself involves a crime, such as assault, then the abuser can be charged with both contempt of court and assault. If your abuser, or the person that you have the protection order against, breaches the terms of the order you should phone the police as a matter of urgency. The police will then proceed to arrest him/her.

It is important to take note that as soon as a Magistrate grants an interim protection order, the docket number will be placed in your identity document to ensure that the police are aware of this, if matters turn for the worse. It is also important that you go back to court on the return date, because if you don’t, the Magistrate will remove the interim order and the matter will be struck off the roll.

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.

Maintenance

A1blWhat can you do to enforce a maintenance order against a person who is responsible for paying maintenance, but fails to do so or is paying too little?

When someone fails to pay maintenance in terms of a maintenance order you have the option of lodging a complaint against them with the Maintenance officer, stating that the person is legally liable to maintain, for example, yourself or your minor child(ren) and is not doing so. The Maintenance officer must investigate the complaint and may then institute an enquiry in a maintenance court. The Maintenance officer, not the complainant, decides whether to institute an enquiry.[1] In investigating a complaint about maintenance, the Maintenance officer may obtain statements or any relevant information pertaining to the payment of maintenance.  An enquiry under the Maintenance Act is a procedure which empowers people to enforce their rights and those of their child(ren) at the State’s expense. During the course of a maintenance enquiry the parties usually come to an agreement and seek to withdraw the proceedings, or have the terms of the agreement made an order of court, which cannot be disregarded by the magistrate.[2] If the parties cannot come to an agreement the matter will be referred to the maintenance court.

Whenever a person against whom a maintenance order has been issued under the Act fails to make any payment in accordance with that order, the order is enforceable in respect of any amount that person has failed to pay, together with any interest:

  • by execution against property;
  • by the attachment of emoluments; or
  • by the attachment of debt.

If a maintenance order made under the Act remains unsatisfied for a period of ten days from the day on which the amount became payable or the order was made, the person in whose favour the order was made may apply to the maintenance court in which the order was made: 1) for authorisation of the issue of a warrant of execution, 2) for an order for the attachment of emoluments or 3) for an order for the attachment of debt. The application must be accompanied by a copy of the maintenance order or other order in question and a statement under oath stating the amount that the person against whom the order was made has failed to pay.[3]

Subject to the defence that failure to make a payment in terms of a maintenance order is due to a lack of means, a person who fails to make a particular payment in accordance with a maintenance order is guilty of an offence and liable to conviction with a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or to imprisonment without the option of a fine.[4]

On the application of the public prosecutor and in addition to or instead of imposing a penalty, a court convicting any person of the offence of failing to make a payment in accordance with a maintenance order may grant an order for recovery from that person of the amount he or she has failed to pay, together with any interest.[5]

Your best option would be to approach the Maintenance officer in order to reconcile the outstanding amounts. Thereafter, if the person still fails to effect payment, you can approach an attorney to either proceed with execution of the order, if the person has sufficient movable or immovable property, or obtain an emolument order which will be served upon the employer of the person (ordering the employer to pay the maintenance), or you may approach the maintenance court for an order for the attachment of any debt accruing, then or in the future, to the person responsible 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.

[1] The Maintenance Act 99 of 1998.

[2] Young v Young 1985(1) SA 782 (C).

[3] The Maintenance Act 99 of 1998.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

Rights and responsibilities of unmarried fathers

A2blThe rights and responsibilities of biological fathers who were not married to the child’s mother at the time of conception or birth can be uncertain. In this article we will discuss when a biological father obtains rights and responsibilities towards their child(ren).

Alissa has a 7-year-old son called Jessie. Alissa had been living with her boyfriend, Mike, for 2 years when Jessie was born. Alissa and Mike were never married and Mike left their common home when Jessie was only 1 year old. Mike makes contact with Jessie and contributes some small amounts towards his maintenance every few months. Alissa would like to know what rights and responsibilities Mike has towards Jessie.

Section 20 of the Children’s Act (“the Act”) confers parental responsibilities and rights on married fathers if they are married to the child’s mother or if they were married at either the time of the child’s conception, birth or any time between conception and birth.

The biological father of a child who does not have parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child in terms of Section 20 of the Act can acquire these responsibilities and rights if one of the following conditions are fulfilled:

  • at the time of the child’s birth he is living with the mother in a permanent life partnership; or
  • if he consents to be identified; or
  • he successfully applies in terms of Section 26 of the Act to be identified as the father; or
  • he pays damages in terms of customary law; or
  • if he contributes or has attempted in good faith to contribute to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period; or
  • if he has contributed or attempted in good faith to contribute towards expenses in connection with the maintenance of the child for a reasonable period.[1]

It may be difficult to determine whether two persons are in a permanent life partnership or not. This term lacks a precise definition and has been described as “a stable monogamous relationship where a couple who do not wish to (or are not permitted to) marry, live together and share an intimate relationship” that is akin to marriage. The Constitutional Court has given limited recognition to the relationships labelled as “life partnerships” or “permanent life partnerships”, but no specific meaning has been attached to these terms.[2]

It is important to note that this section applies regardless of whether the child was born before or after the commencement of this Act, and that it does not affect the duty of a father to contribute towards the maintenance of the child.[3]

If there is a dispute between the biological father and the biological mother of a child with regard to the fulfillment by that father of the conditions set out above, the matter must be referred for mediation to a family advocate, social worker, social service professional or other suitably qualified person. Any party to the mediation may have the outcome of the mediation reviewed by a court.[4]

From this article we can see that the only clear responsibility of Mike is that of paying maintenance to support Jessie. Due to the fact that the definition of a permanent life partnership is so vague, Mike and Alissa should refer this matter to one of the abovementioned mediators to obtain certainty about Mike’s rights and responsibilities towards Jessie.

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.

References:

  • The Children’s Act 38 of 2005
  • Du Bois F, Willie’s Principle of South African Law (2007), 9th

[1] Section 21 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.

[2] Du Bois F, Willie’s Principle of South African Law (2007), 9th ed., p363.

[3] Section 21(2) of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.

[4] Section 21(3) of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.

Can somebody take the law into his/her own hands?

A3blThe mandament van spolie is a summary remedy, usually issued upon urgent application, aimed at restoring control of property to the applicant from whom it was taken through unlawful self-help, without investigating the merits of the parties’ rights to control.

From the definition above it is evident that this remedy is unique, because it is not used to protect rights at all. The mandament van spolie is a unique remedy aimed at undoing the results of the taking of property by means of self-help. The idea is that people should enforce and protect their property rights by legal means and procedure, and not by self-help and force, because self-help eventually results in chaos and anarchy. For this reason it is usually said that this remedy is based upon the principle that nobody is allowed to take the law into his/her own hands. Due to its aim of restoring peace and order and discouraging self-help, the spoliation remedy does not investigate the merits of any of the parties’ interest in the property and neither of the parties is allowed to raise the question of rights. The court is simply concerned with the factual investigation, namely whether there is proof of existing control and proof of unlawful spoliation of that control. If there was in fact existing control and unlawful spoliation the court will order the spoliator to restore the spoliated control to the applicant immediately, regardless of whether that control was in fact unlawful or even legal.

The spoliation remedy is aimed at preserving peace and order in the community. People cannot be permitted to circumvent the remedy by contract. Parties to a contract cannot agree that one of them will be permitted to take property from the other without proper legal procedure. The requirements for this remedy were set out in two classic decisions that are still the most important authorities in this regard, namely Nino Bonino v De Lange 1906(T) and Yeko v Qana 1973(A).

  1. Proof that the applicant was in peaceful and undisturbed control of the property. The first requirement means that the applicant had control over the property in question. For purposes of the spoliation remedy this control must have existed “peacefully and undisturbed” for a period long enough, and in a manner stable enough, to qualify any unlawful disturbance of the peace. The requirement that the control must have been peaceful and undisturbed does not refer to its legal merits, but simply to the fact that it must have been relatively stable and enduring. If not, there can hardly be a question of disturbance of the situation.
  1. Proof that the respondent took or destroyed that control by means of unlawful self-help or spoliation. The second requirement for the spoliation remedy is that the existing peaceful and undisturbed control must have been unlawfully spoliated by the respondent.

One can, therefore, safely say that possession is 90% of the law. The reason for this is that spoliation is not permitted in our law. The person must use the legal processes at his disposal and cannot take the law into his own hands.

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.

References:

A J van der Walt & G J Pienaar: Introduction to property law, 5th edition, pg 218-223.

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑