Child maintenance – An overview

child maintenance
16 Sep 2022

The relationship between parents and their children creates rights, duties and responsibilities that are enforceable by law.

As a parent, you are responsible for your child, and it is your duty to nurture and take care of that child.

However, if one parent is taking on more responsibility than the other parent, he/she will have the right to approach a court and apply for child maintenance against the defaulting parent. If that application is successful, the court will order the defaulting parent to fulfil his/her responsibility towards the child.

The obligation for child maintenance flows naturally from the relationship between child and parent.

How to apply for child maintenance

Only natural parents, legal guardians or adoptive parents of a child may apply for child maintenance. The claimant will have to make a claim via an application to court, specifically the maintenance court.

The claimant will be directed to complete the relevant forms and submit proof of the claimant’s income and expenses and the specific expenses related to the child. A maintenance officer will be allocated to the matter once all formalities relating to the required documents have been completed.

With due regard to the submitted documents, the maintenance officer will assess the documents and forms and write a report which the judge will use to make its final decision. The non-claiming parent will also be required to supply the court with documents evidencing his/her financial position.

A hearing will then be held where both parties will be called upon to appear before the judge to explain the basis of the claim and/or the basis for wanting to pay or receive a higher or lower amount.

How does a court decide on the appropriate amount of child maintenance?

The court will consider the reasonable needs of the child. In other words, the court will consider how much money is required to pay for the child’s food, education, clothes and medical needs (basic needs). Depending on the standard of living of that child, a court may also make provisions for luxury needs as well.

The court will consider the financial position of both parents as evidenced by the documents supplied. If you are a well-off parent, you’re likely to pay a higher maintenance fee. On the other hand, if you don’t earn well, the court will not issue an order you cannot pay.

What are the implications of an order to pay child maintenance?

A maintenance order is an order of court. This means that you are legally bound to that order and, should you not adhere to it, you will be in contempt of court. Therefore, if the defaulting parent fails to pay child maintenance, he/she should be reported to the maintenance officer. The maintenance officer may then request that the defaulting parent’s property be attached or his/her salary be attached, amongst others and may even request criminal prosecution.


Parents may settle maintenance disputes without intervention by the courts. They can conclude a settlement agreement and have this endorsed by the court or they can employ a mediator to assist with negotiations.

However, should parents be unable to agree, it would be in the best interests of the child to seek assistance from the courts in order to ensure that the child’s needs are catered for.

Contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw Inc for your family law needs.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Raeesa Ebrahim Atkinson

Raeesa Ebrahim Atkinson obtained her Batchelors of Law (LLB) degree from the University of the Western Cape in 2015. While at University she was a member of the Top 40... Read more about Raeesa Ebrahim Atkinson


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