Can a grandparent pay child support if they're on state pension?

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In South African law, if neither parent is able to support a child, the duty of care passes to the grandparents, whether on the father or mother’s side.
In South African law, if neither parent is able to support a child, the duty of care passes to the grandparents, whether on the father or mother’s side.

The following question is part of Groundup's Answers to your questions series and comes from a reader asking about the legalities around a grandparent paying child support when a parent is unable to. 


The short answer

It's unlikely that the court would require a grandparent to pay child support from their state pension.

The whole question

Is it possible for a grandparent on state pension as an only source of income, to pay child support for their grandson whose father is currently not working?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking if a grandparent on state pension can be expected to pay child support for his grandson whose father is not working.

In South African law, if neither parent is able to support a child, the duty of care passes to the grandparents, whether on the father or mother’s side.

It is also the case that the parent who is the primary caregiver of the child can go to court to ask for an order compelling the grandparents to pay support, whether on the father or mother’s side.

But the court must take into account the ability of the grandparent/s to pay.

Although many grandparents do support their grandchildren on their pensions, this is mostly where the children’s parents have died or are in prison, and so the grandparent becomes the primary caregiver with whom the children live.

If the parent with whom the child lives (the primary caregiver) becomes unemployed, they can apply for a child support grant (which is R450 a month from April 2020).

Sassa will ask for evidence that the parent has applied for maintenance from the child’s other parent, and has failed to get it.

A person receiving an Older Person’s Grant (state pension) cannot apply for any other social grant, except a Grant-in-Aid, which is for paying a full-time carer to look after the older person when the person cannot look after herself or himself.

As a person receiving a state pension (R1 860 from April 2020) cannot receive an additional grant like the child support grant, it seems unlikely that the court would require a grandparent to pay child support from his state pension. 

You could ask the social worker at the Maintenance Court for more advice. 

Answered on March 11, 2020, 1:04 p.m.

Published originally on GroundUp

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