A dad's maintenance story: ‘Fathers are not always the ones in the wrong’

The other side of the maintenance money story.
The other side of the maintenance money story.

In response to our story, ‘Maintenance money: to some, more divisive than divorce’, as well as our series of readers’ letters that followed, a dad wrote in to share his side of the heartbreaking struggle.

"There are so many dads out there who want to pay maintenance – they want to be there for the kids, even the partner they once loved, but they’re assumed to be in the wrong." 

However, nothing could be further from the truth, he wrote to tell us. 

Read his story below: 

“The once very soft, smiling individual made room for a person who never ever smiled anymore” 

"I got divorced in 2004. Well, that’s when I decided I had enough. The actual divorce lasted another year and was finalised the year after. At the time of initiating the divorce we were living on a farm outside Grabouw. Our two kids were 2 and 4 at the time. The divorce started rather easily. I sat my ex down and explained that the relationship has turned entirely toxic. And continuing it would, in my opinion, not be good for her, me or the kids."  

"I think she suffers from postnatal depression, but she’s refused treatment. The once very soft, smiling individual made room for a person who never ever smiled anymore, but would sneer. Who has hard cold facial features, and rather resentful eyes. I haven’t seen or recognised the face or personality I fell in love with after the birth of our eldest. "

"I think the fact that he suffered from chronic colic for the first 3 months of his life may well have contributed. She was unable to keep him calm in this period, and he would only sleep and relax if we were driving or if he was sleeping on my chest on his tummy. I was forced to move my office to my house for him to sleep on my chest to keep him relaxed.

Also read: Maintenance money: to some, more divisive than divorce

The divorce process

"So when I had the discussion about the divorce with my ex, I invited her to invite her mother down. I moved out of our bedroom for the duration. Two weeks later her mother was with us, and I have also informed my mother of the now developing divorce. Nobody has at this stage issued any proceedings or summons for divorce."  

The anonymous dad goes on to explain how he assured his wife, and her mother, that he would take care of her. 

"I told her I’ll take care of her – she can have anything she wants in the home and I’ll make sure she has a steady income – and of course, I’ll carry any or all expenses of the kids."

"I opted to handle the divorce myself. I did not want it to be a long, legal fight. But after mistakes were made by her attorneys, it became a lot more complicated. They actually ended up putting her in a legal predicament and not me." 

"I opted for a very simplistic legal approach. I offered for them to withdraw all demands and all interim maintenance demands. In return I would not pursue the criminal charges she would’ve faced." 

The back and forth 

"But I then proceeded to apply to the magistrate for an order allowing me to pay maintenance to my ex on behalf of my kids until such time as the court, should she require such, made a permanent order on her providing proof of costs. At this point I paid her around R8000 per month per child, as well as all medical costs and any medications not covered by the medical aid, and any costs associated with extra mural activities."

He explains that he was to see them every two weeks for the weekend and every Wednesday from 4pm to 7pm, but he goes on to describe how his ex wife changed her mind, many times, about this arrangement.

"I gave up my old home and moved to a new town so the kids could stay 3 houses down from the school in the same street. A week after moving in she changed her mind when she learnt that the maintenance provision will fall away as the kids would be living with me."  

"At this point I decided not to oppose the process the kids were now 6 and 4 and a half. I felt the boys, especially the younger one, would still need his mom."  

"A week later the SAPS arrived at my door with a family violence protection order my ex applied for in the interim, claiming I am only allowed to see my children under supervision of a social worker and need to return all toys and clothes of theirs to her via a mutual friend, which I then duly did. I assured the kids were not present and dropped everything off for her to collect at her convenience. "

I was accused of abduction of my own children

"Three days later her now new attorney made contact and said his client now had a change of heart. She no longer wanted the children. I have to collect them on the Wednesday from her home."  

"By the Sunday evening she arrived at my home with the SAPS and the original court order. Accusing me of "forcing her to sign a document saying she does not want the kids". I was accused of abduction of my own children. The letter from her attorney made no impression on her or the police. And my kids were escorted off my premises by the SAPS and extremely traumatised."  

Eventually, this dad had enough and when his ex wife called again to say she didn't want the kids, he had a mutual family attorney friend draw up the new settlement with her as the applicant and signed by her and a witness from her work before he agreed to collect the children.  

"She did it and I went and collected my kids. My ex was totally hysterical. All my children’s belongings were packed in black refuge bags. They just turned 8 and 6."

Also read: "This is the painful truth in our country": One dad's letter about the lack of support men get has resonated with many fathers across SA

The kids are alright 

"My kids are now 20 and 18," he writes, providing us with a happy ending.

"My eldest is a very active sportsman. He played rugby professionally and is now employed in my business. The youngest excels at sport too. He is soon to play in national games.

The optimistic dad thanks his boy's teachers, who he says played a tremendous role in helping them adapt to the traumatic experiences and grow into healthy men. 

"I had to cut back a lot, but it was all done to create a home for the boys – so that they can attend every sport event." 

"My ex never offered any maintenance. And since, I have always maintained I will not apply for a warrant of arrest for the mother of my children in order to force her to adhere to a maintenance order." 

"For prolonged periods of 2 years at a time she would frequently refuse any contact with the kids." 

Also read: "Men in South Africa get no real support": A dad's story about his life as a single parent, fighting for his kids

“Fathers are not always the ones in the wrong” 

"The reality is that society is quick to believe claims by those, like my ex, who love telling the story of how she was bullied out of her children, how she was kept away. And nothing could be further from the truth. She even went as far as telling the children that I used lawyers to threaten her with jail if she did not sign them over."  

"The fathers are not always the ones in the wrong. I never remarried. And devoted my time to my kids and the rest to my work to sustain us."  

"Today I am busy preparing to re-expand my business into the rest of the country as my youngest will be done with school in 6 months or so. I can now slowly regain income I had to let go some 10 years ago."  

"Parenting knows no gender. It is an instinct and an ethic and a promise we make to ourselves and to our kids. It is based on how we see ourselves." 

"And how we choose to act in the interest of the kids."

Chat back

How do you and your ex settle your maintenance responsibilities?

Share your story with us and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you would like to remain anonymous. 

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