Maintaining your child: Whose responsibility is it?

So many parents are faced with the struggle of ensuring that their children are properly cared for financially. The benefit of understanding each of your obligations is a step in the right direction towards a co-operative relationship with each other that can only be in the best interests of your child.

There are many examples of circumstances where a parent does not take financial responsibility for their child and the other parent is left covering all the expenses, without considering what their position is with regard to recourse in terms of the laws of South Africa. These include:

  • In the process of a separation or divorce and need financial assistance to sustain the children’s needs while this process is taking place;
  • An unmarried parent who has no idea what their financial responsibility is towards their unborn or newborn child; or
  • Currently a single parent post the divorce order, unable to cope with the lack of payment or insufficient amount awarded.

In South Africa, the financial responsibility towards a child is termed as ‘maintenance’ and is covered in many legislated Acts pertaining to Family Law. Maintenance is a wide concept and covers the provisions of food, housing, clothing, medical care and the education of a child, generally until the child reaches the age of 18 years. Each maintenance claim is looked at on its own merits. A court will determine what will be ‘reasonable maintenance’ when it looks at the needs of each child, such as the position of the family and the child’s health. With regard to education and training, the court will look at the child’s aptitude and how well the child performs academically to understand fully the needs of that child and the extent of each parent’s obligation to pay for these necessities.
Both parents are responsible
This obligation, in accordance with common law, rests proportionally on both parents and is based on the standard of living, incomes and means of the person/s obligated to pay. It would be contrary to public policy to expect just the father of the child to be solely responsible for the financial obligations toward his child if the mother is financially capable of contributing towards the maintenance of her child too.

Read more about maintaining your child in our April 2014 issue. Subscribe here!

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