Many women raise children single handedly without emotional nor financial support from the child’s father. This can have a negative impact on both the mother and the child. If many conversations about him assisting you to raise your child have led nowhere, then you are left with no choice but to claim for maintenance for your child through the maintenance court.
RAISING A CHILD ALONE
Life coach, Amanda Ndiki, says navigating the future for your child alone can be shattering. It becomes a burden to carry the load that is typically carried by two, so feelings of guilt will always crop up. “The guilt of not being able to fully provide financially for the needs of your child, while the other parent chooses not to participate, can lead to stress and anxiety and the financial pressure of making solo decisions can lead to depression,” she says.
In addition, Amanda says being everything to your child can exhaust you both emotionally and financially, and that often you may want to give excessively without boundaries to try to cover up the void of an absent parent.
Often parents get into debt as they fear saying ‘no’ to the needs of their child. “Sometimes, as a single parent, you may feel envious when you see a structured family actively doing things together; this can lead you to pursue unhealthy relationships just to paint that picture-perfect family, even if you or your child are unhappy,” says Amanda.
CLAIMING FOR CHILD MAINTENANCE
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development provides information you would need to claim for maintenance on their website. According to the department, it is a legal obligation for the biological parents, grandparents or legal guardian of the child to pay maintenance.
A parent or guardian who is in custody of a child may claim for maintenance from the other parent who is liable for maintenance. If the other parent cannot afford to pay maintenance, you can claim maintenance from their parents, who are the child’s grandparents. In order to lodge a maintenance claim you will need; the child’s birth certificate, bank statements of both the parents, a list of expenses incurred for the child, a list of expenses of both parents, physical or work address of the parent responsible for the payment of maintenance and proof of residence or affidavit.
Attorney Refilwe Lechaba says if you do not have the other parent’s bank statements and ID documents do not worry.
“The maintenance investigator will send a subpoena to all the banks and get the bank statements, provided that you have his full names and his date of birth or ID number.” Refilwe also emphasises that you do not need legal representation to approach the maintenance court to claim for maintenance. A maintenance officer will conduct mediation with you and the father of your child to reach an agreement.
REACHING A SETTLEMENT
Once both of you, with the help of the maintenance officer, have reached a settlement, the agreement will be made and both of you may be required to sign a written consent. Should you not come to an agreement, the matter may be referred to court for a formal enquiry. Payment may be done through an electronic funds transfer (EFT) or a deduction can be made straight from their salary. “Many people think that a parent is only liable to pay child support until the child is 18-years-old.
This is inaccurate,” says Refilwe. “A parent has to pay child maintenance until a child can support themselves.” You can claim for maintenance from the father of your child, even if you live together. Should the financial circumstances change for either your child and the parent paying maintenance, the child support amount can be increased or decreased accordingly. In the case that the parent who is paying maintenance dies, the maintenance money should be paid out from his estate for future maintenance.
In the event that you and the father of your child or his parents reach an agreement, but they do not stick to the agreement you can go back to the maintenance office to report the matter. The court will either make an attachment of debt or execution of moveable or immovable property. They can also issue a warrant of arrest for failing to comply with a court order.
IMPACT OF ABSENT FATHERS
According to Wilma Calvert, a counsellor at The Family Life Centre, initially mothers are the primary care givers in the homes, especially when the children are still young. She further adds that both a boy and a girl child need a father figure role in their lives and the absence of a father may raise the question of, ‘does my father love me,’ in a child.
“A boy needs a male role model so that they have a positive male figure for guidance. A boy child who grows up without a father can also grow to neglect his children in the future or become the complete opposite and truly love and care for his children. He can also become more responsible and work hard to make better choices. Similarly, girl children also need a father figure, so they know what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable by men.
Wilma also says if a girl does not have the positive impact of a father, where they see what love and respect is, they do not have a reference point to refer to. They can become vulnerable and easily manipulated, especially by other men.”
Amanda advocates for co-parenting even if the parents are no longer together. She says, “Co-parenting is the way to go. It is not an easy transition as it requires patience and open communication. The sole focus should be raising a well-rounded and confident child together, irrespective of the marital challenges at hand.” There should be consistency so that the child sees a sense of routine and unity. Agree on personal boundaries and none of the parents should overstep that line no matter the emotions.
Lastly, adds Amanda, it might be emotionally challenging to talk about finances, but it is necessary in this setup. “It is important to keep each other informed about every little financial expectation and financial changes. Draw up a monthly plan of who does what and commit to it,” she says.