I can't pay maintenance anymore, what can I do?

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Picture: iStock/  Prostock-Studio
Picture: iStock/ Prostock-Studio

If the Covid-19 lockdown has affected your business or caused you to lose you job, you might be finding yourself faced with the issue of not being able to meet all your financial obligations.

And while this is indeed a difficult time for everyone, it is important to remember that your children still have needs, and even though schools are closed, there are still fees and expenses that must be covered.

If you have realised that you might not be able to keep up your maintenance payments each month, it is important that you speak about it sooner rather than later.

Shando Theron, Head of the Matrimonial Law department at Theron and Theron Attorneys explained that Section 15 of the Maintenance act states that maintenance is a means test; therefore, if your means reduce due to changed circumstances there is a case to be made for a reduction in maintenance.

How to get a reduction

Theron advises anyone needing to reduce or adjust their maintenance amount address a letter to the person to whom the money is paid each month, stating that due to the present reduction in income they are unable to meet the current maintenance requirements.

The payee must also state what, in the interim, they can afford to pay. 

Theron stresses that what is important is that they do not stop payments, but continue paying - even if it is a reduced amount.

Should the request to reduce the payment amount not be unaccepted they should approach a maintenance court for a reduction.

How much to pay?

Barry Greyvenstein, Co-Founder of the Mediation Academy, developed the Zero-Math Maintenance Calculator, an app that automatically calculates how much of each parent's income is eligible for maintenance, what the maintenance payments should be and also reveals if the budget is going to be sustainable.

"Up to 85% of parents miss a payment, or pay short within the first year after a maintenance order is issued by Court, Greyvenstein told Parent24. "The key ingredient in avoiding this is the involvement of both parents in the decision-making process."

If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will make a final decision and order the non-custodial parent to pay an amount that the court settles on, based on each parent's income and the child's needs. 

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