The following question is part of Groundup's Answers to your questions series and comes from a reader who has been struggling with maintenance concerns.
My ex-husband has stopped paying maintenance and now I'm blacklisted. What can I do?
The short answer
You must approach your local maintenance or magistrates court
The whole question
I am a divorcee, with four children with my former partner. The court granted that the children should stay with me, but my ex-husband took three of the children without my permission two-and-half years ago. I live with the youngest. My ex-husband threatens me and sends people to stalk me.
I took over the bills for the children; school fees, transport, maintenance, medical aid and so on. I also buy food for the three children that stay with him.
Recently, he stopped paying for two the children's school fees. Now the school has blacklisted us both at credit bureau. My salary can't cover more debt.
What should I do?
The long answer
Thank you for your email asking what to do about your ex-husband who has stopped paying for two of your four children’s school fees leading to you and him being blacklisted by the credit bureau.
Obviously your ex-husband had no right to take three of the children to live with him after the divorce court gave custody to you. He also has no right to threaten and stalk you. This is abuse and should also be reported to the maintenance court.
Section 18 of the Children’s Act of 2005 says that both parents have to support their children according to their means and the needs of the children.
It’s not clear from your email if there was a court order for a specific amount of maintenance to be paid, but whether you are lodging a claim for maintenance or a complaint about non-payment, you need to approach your local magistrate’s court or maintenance court.
There you fill in forms which the maintenance clerk will submit to the maintenance office for review and registration.
You must take your ID, the birth certificates of the children, proof of your monthly income and expenses like receipts for food bought and electricity / rent bills. Theses must be submitted with the completed forms. You will then receive a reference number.
The magistrate will look at all the documents and decide what maintenance payment must be made.
The magistrate may make an order without requiring you and your husband to appear in court. If your husband doesn’t agree to accept the order, the court will serve a summons on him.
This is a letter instructing him to come to court on a particular date to discuss the matter with you.
If there was a maintenance order and your ex-husband has ignored it, you can lay a formal complaint at the maintenance office. You need to take records of payment and non-payment to show how much is owed.
The court will allow your ex-husband to explain why he hasn’t paid, but if there is no good reason, he will have to pay all the outstanding maintenance or go to jail. It’s a criminal offence not to pay. You can also ask the court to get the maintenance directly from your ex-husband’s employer.
Answered on Dec. 12, 2019, 10:33 a.m.
Published originally on GroundUp.
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