Can my kids, in their 20's, now claim maintenance from their absent father?

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When is it too late to claim?
When is it too late to claim?

Maintenance is always such a contentious issue, and even years later children can be left feeling short-changed by a parent who didn't contribute. 

This mom of three wrote to ask us if her children, now in their 20's, had any claim to money their father has just come in to.

Read her letter here: 

"Dear Parent24,

The father of my children never paid any maintenance towards their upbringing, I done everything alone.

I once tried to make a maintenance application and he threatened my then 14-year-old with violence, so I did not go ahead with it.

My kids are now aged 28, 24, 20 and 18, and none are in full-time education.

Their father has just sold his house.

Can my children make a court application to have him pay them some money for all the years he failed to provide for them?

Thank you"

Also read: When can a parent finally stop paying maintenance? 

Reasonable provision 

Attorney Deborah Di Siena, of Sandton-based Di Siena Attorneys, explained that in terms of South African law, both parents have the responsibility to contribute to the maintenance of a child.

Maintenance includes the reasonable provision towards a child for clothing, housing, medical care and education, she clarified. 

"A parent’s duty to support their child does not end when the child reaches the age of majority (18 years) but only when the child becomes self-supporting," she said.

Once a child becomes a major, the child is deemed to be old enough to bring an application for maintenance in his or her own name.

A major child can apply for maintenance from a parent depending on their needs.

"The court will consider the parents income as well as their assets in determining maintenance," Di Siena explained, "However he or she cannot claim maintenance for previous years if there was no court order in place." 

Additionally, he or she also cannot claim maintenance if they are self- supporting.  

Also read: Who is eligible to pay child maintenance? 

A reasonable contribution 

Di Siena told Parent24 that once a child reaches the age of 18 years, the onus shifts to the child to prove how much maintenance he or she needs and ultimately the court will decide whether the child has a claim for maintenance.

"The fact that a child is working does not necessarily mean that he or she is self-supporting and maintenance may still be awarded," she said. 

In summary, your children can, if they are not yet self-supporting, apply to court for maintenance from their father.

"The court will consider their monthly expenses, their father's income and his assets, in order to determine a reasonable monthly maintenance contribution," she says.

Find more in our Maintenance Matters series here

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