What to do when you can’t provide for your child financially

By Drum Digital
07 July 2014

A reader on Facebook asked: “Does it make me a bad mother because I’ve decided to allow my five-year-old to live with her father because I can’t provide for her financially?” We chat to an expert and offer advice on maintenance for your child.

A reader on Facebook asked: “Does it make me a bad mother because I’ve decided to allow my five-year-old to live with her father because I can’t provide for her financially?”

Should you do what will be best for your child in the long term? Or do you put your own needs before those of your child? Many parents have been confronted with this question. How do you know you’ve made the right decision?

Pretoria educational psychologist Elise Fourie gives the following advice: “Only a brave and loving parent can do what’s best for their child, and put the child’s interests before her own. Even if you can’t be there to look after the child’s everyday needs, you must never underestimate how important it is you are in his or her life.”

She also advises you spend as much time as possible with your child. Speak to their father and come to an arrangement that’s practical and applicable to the child’s age.  You can phone regularly and even use Skype if possible. “You can continue to read them bedtime stories – even if it is just once or twice a week on the telephone,” Fourie says.

She also advises you arrange special activities for when your child visits. “They don’t have to be extravagant – you can bake, read, do something artistic or even garden.” Try not to win their affection with gifts and toys. “Remember: you are the best gift they can get,” Fourie says.

“Build up the child’s self-confidence when you’re together and help them to talk about their needs. Regularly tell them you love them and give them plenty of hugs.”

Are you struggling to pay maintenance for your child?

In South Africa, parents are legally obliged to care for their children. The parent who’s the primary carer has the right to apply to the maintenance court for an official demand the other parent pay maintenance.

Once there’s a court order demanding a parent pay maintenance, it’s a criminal offence not to pay.

Getting a court order:

  • Apply for maintenance at the magistrate’s court in the district in which you live.
  • Go to the relevant court and complete Form A: Application for a Maintenance Order.
  • Provide proof of your monthly income and expenses, such as receipts for food purchases, electricity and/or rent.
  • The court will issue a subpoena (a letter summoning a person to court) against the respondent (the person against whom the claim is made) to appear in court on a specific date to discuss the case.
  • If the respondent agrees to pay maintenance, a magistrate will review the necessary documentation. The magistrate will then issue an order, and can decide to do this without the parties appearing in court.
  • If the person alleged to be responsible for paying maintenance doesn’t agree to the issuing of a court order, they’ll have to appear in court, where evidence from both parties and their witnesses will be heard. If the court finds one of the parties is responsible, he or she must pay maintenance.

Get help here

If you need help from a family attorney, go to www.doj.gov.za for a list of them.

-Suzaan Hauman

Extra sources: women24.com, www.westerncape.gov.za

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