How much maintenance money must a parent pay?

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

Chat back:

Share your story with us, and we could publish your mail. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Sign up for Parent24's newsletters.

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

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 1615 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
53% - 8584 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 5471 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 522 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.