Deadbeat daddies, cough up or else ...

2014-11-16 06:01

Baby daddies who fail to pay maintenance may soon face a raft of new legislation aimed at getting them to cough up.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice is currently considering an amendment to the Maintenance Act that provides for maintenance defaulters:

» To be traced using information provided by their cellular service provider, such as MTN or Vodacom;

» Making it compulsory for a person who defaulted on maintenance obligations to be blacklisted as soon as a complaint about them is made;

» Increasing the maximum penalty for failure to pay from one year’s imprisonment to three years’ imprisonment.

According to a presentation made by the department of justice to the portfolio committee on Thursday, the bill also gives a court the discretion to grant an interim order to pay maintenance when a maintenance case has to be postponed.

“This amendment will address the problem of persons who, when they have an obligation to maintain another person, do everything in their power to avoid paying maintenance, thus causing those who are entitled to be maintained, who are mostly vulnerable, undue hardship,” says the department’s presentation.

In addition, the amendment bill also expands the instances under which the salary of a maintenance defaulter may be attached after hearing from the employer of the defaulter, akin to a so-called garnishee order.

The presentation sparked a lively discussion in the portfolio committee.

Stanford Maila, an ANC-MP, raised the imprisonment of a maintenance defaulter as a possible problem.

“If you imprison somebody, who is going to provide for the child because the person who must pay has gone to prison?” he asked.

In response, deputy justice minister John Jeffery pointed out that the three years imprisonment was a maximum penalty but that it would hopefully “scare the father into paying”.

Mathole Motshekga, ANC MP and chairperson of the portfolio committee, also said the problems around the maintenance of children sometimes come “from the woman”.

“People get into marriage and they don’t disclose they have children,” he said.

Jeffery told City Press after the portfolio committee meeting that the bill was an interim measure designed to address issues related to the Maintenance Act, which is currently in the process of a major overhaul.

According to a 2011 study by the Institute for Race Relations, millions of children grow up in single-parent households, the vast majority of them headed by a mother.

The bill has been published for public comment.

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