Child Maintenance

Legally, both parents have an obligation and responsibility to support their children. This financial responsibility includes both direct and indirect costs such as education, medical, food, transport, clothing and accommodation.

Child maintenance is then calculated bearing in mind the parents’ financial situations as well as the realistic needs of the child.

The Maintenance Act creates a platform for one parent to apply for a maintenance order against the other parent to allow the first mentioned parent to contribute appropriately towards their child’s expenses when the parents’ earnings are not equal.

So why are so many parents fighting and even defaulting on their responsibility towards their children? What must we understand from such a behaviour? Though not every parent thought about all these financial implications when choosing to have children, it is general knowledge that having children is costly and a very long-term commitment at that. So, what changes when parents separate? Is it possible that their anger towards their ex loses them into forgetting about their parental role and responsibilities?

If this is so, it is of utmost urgency to regain back that responsibility.

The perception that parents must cough up thousands in child maintenance because of divorce is a very skewed perception. Parents are already paying, every day, towards their children’s needs and spoils. Before a divorce happened, you were paying for your children to eat, to be clothed, to go to school, have a roof over their head, to be spoiled with going to the movies, get their video games, be equipped for their favourite sports … the list goes on. Where does it say that this is going to be any different after a divorce? When do parents think it is going to be any different after a divorce?

A divorce is certainly costly, especially if you go the litigation route i.e you engage in this process with a mentality to fight to win … but to win what exactly? More money? Unless you are divorcing from a celebrity or a business mogul, it is likely that you are a normal working family where your pay check will pay the bills and have a bit left for this and that. Yes, a divorce will incur extra costs as parents need now to plan each for their own accommodation, but the children financial needs before, during and after a divorce remain the same, so what suddenly motivates certain parents to contest their children financial needs?

While some amounts paid over to the other parent may be contested because it is claimed to not be spent towards the children, when a parent stops paying school fees, medical aids or any direct costs that are meant for the children, it is a deliberate disregard to their responsibility towards their children’s financial needs.

In this perception of maintenance, it is most likely that fear plays an important role. Splitting a family comes with its challenges and the unknown of moving forward can be very daunting. The financial strain that will be felt with high attorneys’ fees is real and will impact your immediate budget which needs to be carefully allocated.

To this I say:

Seek Mediation to keep costs down and to engage in a process that will be mindful of everyone’s needs while supporting everyone’s emotional state. In finding that your fears can dissipate because Mediation offers a platform where you can safely, carefully and responsibly address your fears and needs, you regain back control over your situation and most importantly you can embrace that you are, in fact, not building a case around how much you need to pay for your children, but instead how you can best manage 100% of your responsibilities when your children are now sharing 2 homes.



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