Divorce is hard. Most families going through a divorce end up in major conflicts, at some point, over the children and/or money. When it comes to children, it makes sense to believe that commitment and love ought to be unconditional. Unfortunately, while most parents are concerned about the impact their divorce has on the children, many will not respect their legal and financial responsibility towards their children.
When divorcing/separating, it is a legal obligation for both parents/legal guardians of the child to pay maintenance and to maintain the needs of the children as intact as possible, as they were when their family was together.
Becoming a parent means you are responsible for a person who is dependant on you for their life. Parents are responsible for the overall upbringing and well-being of their child and it includes the provision of food, clothing, accommodation, medical care and education. This does not change when parents separate/divorce and parents are required to pay maintenance until their child is self supporting.
Child Maintenance Application process
Step 1 …Gather necessary documentations
- Have 3 months bank statements
- Proof of income. If you are not working for an employer, you should get hold of proof that you earn a certain amount of money per month. If you are unemployed, that is in order.
- Proof of all expenses. This information is required when filling in the maintenance application form that is dealt with in Step 2 below.
- Rent; groceries; clothes; entertainment; etc.
- Details of the person from whom you are requesting maintenance from
- his/her home
- work address
- identity number.
- Your ID
- Birth certificate of the children
Step 2 …Go to the Maintenance Court
Go to the Maintenance Court closest to your area and obtain an “Application for Maintenance Order Form” also referred to as “Form A”.
Use the information you have gathered in Step 1 and fill in the form. The form is in the form of an affidavit and you therefore have to swear to the correctness of the information under oath and sign. Therefore do not hide any information for the Court.
Caution: If your information is not 100 % correct, you may be cross-examined on such correctness in Court and if it is found that you were not totally honest, this would not be in your favour. If you require any assistance in filling in the form, the maintenance officer would be happy to assist you. Once you have filled in the Application for Maintenance Order Form, return it to the maintenance officer who will process it for you. If the maintenance officer can provide you with a reference/case number there and then, request it. The Maintenance Court will send you and the person you are claiming maintenance from a letter or subpoena to appear at the Maintenance Court for an inquiry with the maintenance officer. Diarise the date immediately and make arrangements with your work and a babysitter as soon as possible. If you miss the date, it can take months to get another.
From the time you left the office of the maintenance officer and even from the time you decided to claim maintenance, keep all receipts you received for any items bought for you and your child. Therefore, if you buy nappies for your child or even a toy, keep that receipt as if it is gold. This is due to you having to prove to the court that you really do spend money on the child and you have the receipts to prove it.
You will soon hear from the Maintenance Court where they will be giving you a date to appear back at the Maintenance Court for an inquiry. They would either inform you by post or by a subpoena. On that date both you and the person from whom maintenance is claimed would have to appear. If you are planning on making use of a legal representative, inform him/her early about the date so that he/she can be available to assist you at Court.
In the notice to appear for the maintenance enquiry it is requested that you bring proof of all expenses and income for you and your child. This is why it is so very important for you to keep all proof of expenditure in a safe place.
Hint: If you can afford to, bring original proof of expenditure and income and a photocopy thereof. The original you would then be able to take back home and bring it back when requested and the copy will stay in the Court file.
Step 4 …
This step deals with the maintenance enquiry where you and the person from whom you are claiming maintenance from will appear before a maintenance officer. The maintenance officer will speak to each of the parties and look at the documents provided. Each party will get a chance to explain why he/she requires maintenance and also why he/she can’t afford the maintenance requested. The maintenance officer will as far as possible try to resolve the matter there and then without it having to go to court. If the parties can agree to an amount, this amount can be made an order of court. If however an agreement cannot be reached at this stage, the matter, depending on the Court will either be referred to a prosecutor or for trial.
For your convenience, here is a Maintenance Calculator