'The court can't find my child's father, I need help': How the courts find maintenance defaulters

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How to find a maintenance defaulter?
How to find a maintenance defaulter?

It's a shame that so many fathers neglect their parental responsibilities, leaving the mothers in dire financial straits and leaving a generation of children fatherless.

If this sounds dramatic, consider the statistics: according to research conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the South African Race Relations Institute (SARRI), 60% of South African children have absent fathers, and more than 40% of South African mothers are raising children alone.

Sadly, this local mom is just another number, as she writes to Parent24 to ask for advice in her situation. One in which she is unfortunately not alone. 

"I have a teenage daughter, and for the past eight years, her father has never paid a cent towards her maintenance. 

I have a maintenance order in place at my local court, but they can't assist me because I don't know where he stays. 

For the past eight years, they can't find this guy. I don't understand why do we have investigators to find him? There is a warrant out for him. 

Please, I need help." 

A new investigative protocol 

While South African courts have certain powers which allow them to trace maintenance defaulters, in practice the system is not foolproof. 

In 2018; a provision relating to obtaining personal details of the maintenance defaulters was introduced to the maintenance courts. This provision had limitations as it related to obtaining the details of the maintenance defaulters only from cellular phone network providers. 

Ruska Lee Pedro, a family mediator and founder of Minor Impact in Johannesburg, explained to us that a select few Family/Children's Courts have launched a new investigative protocol. 

By using the help of Cellphone Providers and Internet Service Providers (CIPC) the courts can now track down parents who are evading their parental responsibilities. 

This is currently a piloted rollout that will eventually reach all Regional Courts alike, she says.

The new protocol allows the Department of Justice (DoJ)to use Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) registrations, cellular phone numbers registered with network service providers, information from credit bureau, vehicle registrations, as well as other paper trails to find maintenance defaulters.

The Department's main priority 

As Senior Legal Admin Officer, Ms Josephine Peta, explained in a DoJ release most defaulters conceal their financial records when they appear before the court, but they are business owners and shareholders in various companies. 

She says that with this new system, the Department will be able to link defaulters to their businesses and track their assets, among other things. 

This will assist the court to determine the financial positions of defaulters and oblige them to take care of their children accordingly, Peta says.

The DoJ statement adds that ensuring that children have food on the table is the Department's main priority, and due to that, it has committed itself to attend to cases with 48 hours after they are opened. The Department also has a key performance indicator that commits to finalising every maintenance case within 90 days from the beginning of the process.

A warrant of arrest 

Pedro says that after a warrant of arrest has been issued, "we can only hope that the father of your child is found in good time, otherwise, a follow up with the Children's Court on the progress of your matter is a way forward for now." 

She adds, "Short of hiring your very own Private Investigator to get involved in the search, there is not much that can be done from your end, besides getting in touch with the family or friends on his side to assist in the search." 


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