How much maintenance money must a parent pay?

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The first question that needs to be considered is that of the “reasonable needs” of the minor child on a monthly basis.
The first question that needs to be considered is that of the “reasonable needs” of the minor child on a monthly basis.

The topic of child maintenance is one that is often highly charged, and who pays for what, and how much, can cause plenty of problems for separated or estranged families. 

Parent24 spoke to legal professionals and experts to help outline the law and provide some insight into this contentious issue. Follow the #maintenancematters series here. 

On the topic of how much the non-custodial caregiver must pay towards their offspring's costs, attorney Alexandra Shardlow of Di Siena Attorneys explained that when determining the appropriate amount of maintenance which may be claimed in respect of a minor child, the first question that needs to be considered is that of the “reasonable needs” of the minor child on a monthly basis.

Calculating the exact amounts

"The accepted formula for determining the portion of the families monthly budget to be allocated to the minor child’s reasonable needs," she says, "is by allocating one part per child, and two parts per adult, taking into account all of the individuals residing in the household."

As an example, if there is one adult in the home, and two children, 50% of the monthly budget shall be allocated to the children.

"Once a child’s reasonable monthly needs have been determined," she explained, "one is then able to establish the respective contribution that each parent is required to meet those needs."

The formula applied in practice to determine this contribution is as follows :

(Parent’s gross income)                              (child’s needs)

___________________                      X          _____________

Total gross income of both parents                                   1

= one parent’s contribution

Shardlow adds that it is important to note that maintenance does not only comprise the day to day living expenses such as the provision of board and lodging, food and clothing but also comprises the provision of medical care and schooling in respect of the minor children.

Free Maintenance Calculator now available 

The formula can be tricky for some parents to use, so Barry Greyvenstein, Co-Founder of the Mediation Academy, has developed an app that automatically calculates how much of each parent's income is eligible for maintenance, what the maintenance payments should be and also reveals if the budget is going to be sustainable.

"Up to 85% of parents miss a payment, or pay short within the first year after a maintenance order is issued by Court, Greyvenstein reveals. "The key ingredient in avoiding this is the involvement of both parents in the decision-making process."

"When parents work together, we find better relationships between children and (both) parents, and maintenance tends to get paid on time," he says, adding that "when children are raised with enough economic resources and the involvement of both parents, they can become active participants in the economy and help grow our GDP."

The Zero-Math Maintenance Calculator is available free to the SA public, but working with a professional who has had legal training in child maintenance ensures a resolution that works for everyone. The costs associated with mediating a maintenance order are considerably lower than litigation, with each parent typically contributing R750 to R1,250.

If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will make a final decision and order the non-custodial parent to pay an amount that the court settles on, based on each parent's income and the child's needs. 

Follow our #maintenancematters series here

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Read more:

OPINION: Teen suing mom for maintenance money? We have a lot of questions. Number one: How dare you?

'Can I recoup the maintenance money my father never paid my mother?' A legal expert responds

'That's what we as men are expected to do': Reader's defend teen boy suing mom for maintenance money

A grown son asks if he can legally be made to support his mother financially – a legal expert responds

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