Every parent has a legal responsibility to make sure that their children’s basic needs are adequately provided for. When parents are happily living together with the children, the challenges posed by this obligation are usually relatively minimal. It is when a separation and/or divorce takes place that the payment of maintenance presents itself as a major challenge in that the parent from whom maintenance needs to be received either refuses to pay or insists on paying an amount that may not be sufficient to take care of the child’s reasonable needs.
What are reasonable needs?
These are the costs that are incurred during the day to day care of the child and include, for example, contributions towards the following:
- Medical aid and other medical expenses;
- School or creche’ fees;
- Extra mural activites
- Rental or bond payments;
- Transportation costs.
The above list is not limited to the items that appear there and can be a lot more extensive. Furthermore, the “reasonableness” aspect speaks for the most part to the standard of living that the child was/is normally accustomed to whilst the parents were living together.
Because a maintenance matter in our courts is essentially a financial enquiry, due consideration is also afforded to the extent of each of the parents’ total income and expenses to determine affordability for what is claimed to be the children’s reasonable needs. This is where the court can award either a higher or a lower amount of maintenance to be paid.
Our courts view maintenance as an extremely serious issue and therefore attempt to resolve these as quickly as possible. In this regard, non-payment of maintenance has serious consequences for the defaulting party, some of which are being ordered to pay the arrears, being charged with contempt of court, being arrested and even the possibility of serving time in jail.
We assist you by scrutinising your income and expenditure and supporting documentation very carefully to determine the reasonable needs of the child and to justify their necessity to the court. Likewise, we scrutinise the documentation of the party from whom maintenance is sought to determine if there are any irregularities and to bring these to the court’s attention in support of the maintenance having to be paid.