Maintenance issues plague many local families, so we're answering parents pressing questions on the topic, with help from local experts and legal professionals.
Here, attorney Alexandra Shardlow of Di Siena Attorneys explains how - exactly - a parent must go about claiming maintenance money.
"The Children’s Act, 2005 is a strong proponent of mediation in any matters which relate to minor children," Shardlow told Parent24. "As such, it is always preferable to attempt to negotiate a settlement in respect of matters in dispute which effect minor children, inclusive of maintenance."
In other words, make sure all parties involved, usually the mother and the father, are in agreement on issues which effect the kids.
However, when it comes to money people are often times loath and reluctant to negotiate a settlement, Shardlow admits, and as such it becomes necessary for the party requiring such maintenance to seek an order from the Maintenance Court to make an order enforcing and compelling the other parent to contribute to the maintenance of the minor child.
So, when the parties involved can't agree, the Maintenance Court will settle the issues.
The parent making such application, called the Applicant, may visit the nearest Magistrate’s Court to apply for child maintenance and shall be required to complete the forms provided to them for an application for a maintenance order.
Shardlow advises that the Applicant ensure that they have the following documents with them when they make the application:
- Birth certificate of your child/ren;
- The Applicant’s Identity Document;
- Proof of residence;
- A copy of the divorce order and settlement agreement (if applicable);
- Proof of the Applicant and child/children’s monthly expenses and the Applicant’s income;
- Copy of the Applicant’s bank statements for the preceding three month period.
In addition, personal details of the parent required to pay maintenance shall be required, including their Identity Number or birth date together with physical and/or work address.
"When making an application, a clerk of the maintenance court may assist the Applicant in completing the relevant forms and will thereafter submit the forms to the Maintenance Officer for review", Shardlow explains.
Should the Maintenance Officer be satisfied with the application, she says, the maintenance application shall then be issued and the Applicant given a case number. The Court will then serve the summons on the other party responsible to contribute to maintenance requesting and directing that they appear in court on a specific date to discuss the matter.
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The parties shall then appear at Court on the designated date and to the extent that they are able to agree on an amount of maintenance payable, such agreement shall be reflected in a court order by consent by both parties.
In the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement as to their respective maintenance obligations and contributions, the matter will be referred to an enquiry before a Magistrate who shall then, after listening to the relevant evidence of both parties, issue a maintenance order.
Once the maintenance order has been granted, the person against whom the order is obligated to pay must make the payments in accordance with the time frames contained in the order.
Failing to do so shall constitute a criminal offence.
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