It is not easy raising children on your own. And if you are a divorced parent caring for a child with disabilities, it comes with significant challenges. A teacher of Sea Point High School, who does not want to be named, is one of many single parents fighting for justice for the child she is raising. The 51-year-old says after seven years of court appearances, she is still struggling to get the department of justice to hear her plea. The distraught mother cares for her severely disabled son who could end up in an intensive care unit every second month. “I have been divorced for seven years, and the father of my disabled son has almost nothing to do with him. He is thousands and thousands of rands in arrears, which is still outstanding despite appearing in court on numerous occasions,” she explains. “He has recently put in an application for a reduction and the maintenance court has given this priority over dealing with the arrears, which is not standard practice.”She says her family lives off a basic teacher’s salary with her entire life revolving around the school and her home. “There are many challenges as a single parent; therefore it is important to have a good support structure,” she says. “My ex-husband has only taken in my youngest son, but not our disabled son who was last in his care in 2011. And when he visits it’s only for an hour. “I was forced to get a lawyer, spending almost R10 000 of money that I don’t even have. It’s been a constant battle, especially with the maintenance.”The department of justice must look at the current system being used, she pleads. “They must also provide training to all staff members on the new maintenance laws. Women are being treated as second-class citizens, which is a perfect illustration of patriarchal society. I have been looked at and treated like a criminal; this is not good at all. There are many mothers battling for maintenance assistance and this is draining us by the day.”Advocate Muhammad Abduroaf, a legal attorney from Abduraof Incorporated, says there are many reasons why mothers do not get the required maintenance. “One simple reason is that the father just cannot afford to pay. You can’t get water out of a stone. However, if the father can afford to pay, then in my experience the maintenance courts are efficient. “But then there is also the flip side. You have fathers who just do not want to pay,” he says.“You cannot force a parent to love his or her child and to make an effort. In such a case, the court can only deal with the situation as it is. If the father lies and does not disclose the income the mother says he has, what can the court do?” explains Abduraof. “We cannot say that the system is really failing this mother, but if it is, then I suggest the mother would have to see someone higher. But they cannot put money into the father’s pocket to pay her.”A lawyer could speed up the case by helping to track down the father, taking a summons to the sheriff and do some investigations, he says. “Sometimes a lawyer is very busy, and he will only be available many months later, but the lawyer will know the law, the court processes and would advise you on your case,” he says.For more information call advocate Muhammed Abduroaf on 083 731 9876 or visit www.ourlawyer.co.za.