My child is 22 years old, do I still have a legal obligation to pay child maintenance?

I need to know, when does a parent’s obligation to pay child maintenance end?

advice-child-maintenance-child-custody-divorcePaying child maintenance, or maintaining their child, is the legal obligation of every parent. A parent does not have a choice in this matter. However, the level and standard of contribution are dependent on the means of the parent. In this article, we will look at the aspect of when does child maintenance come to an end. In this regard, we will look at two situations, one where there is a maintenance order in place and the other where there is not. However, before proceeding with those issues, let us first deal with the issue of who should pay child maintenance.

Pay child maintenance according to your means

The law expects a parent to provide child support according to their respective memes. What this entails, is that a parent should only pay what he or she can afford. Therefore, even if a child requires a huge amount of child support, if a parent cannot afford to provide, he or she will not be held responsible. Therefore, the other parent would have to support the child according to his or her means. In applying this principle in practice, it means one parent may have to pay more child support than the other parent.

advice-child-maintenance-child-custody-divorceHowever, various factors will have to be looked at. The law does not only look at your income but also at your expenses. If a father earns a substantial amount of money per month, we also have to look at his expenses in order to earn such an amount. For example, he needs to travel overseas regularly and purchase expensive electronics. Those overseas expenses and gadgets should be factored in when considering his means.

The Maintenance Order – Divorce or Maintenance Court

Many a time, parents approach the Maintenance Court for assistance in obtaining maintenance from the other parent. This process usually ends with the court making a maintenance order. This is sometimes by agreement and other times through formal processes like hearings or trials. The same is true in the case of a divorce. When the court grants a decree of divorce, it will make a maintenance order should there be minor children involved. Usually, the order will stipulate until when maintenance is payable in terms of the order. In terms of our law, a court should not grant a decree of divorce unless it is satisfied that the minor children’s interest is looked after.


What should the maintenance order state?

advice-child-maintenance-child-custody-divorceIt is of vital importance, that when parties agree on a maintenance order, they are as simple and direct as possible. No one wants to argue over a vague maintenance order years down the line when issues arise. Therefore, although you took a day to settle a maintenance matter, you may take weeks to settle a maintenance dispute based on a simple clause. The order should specifically deal with the aspect of how maintenance should be paid, where it should be paid and until when.

The date the maintenance order lapses

If the maintenance orders state that maintenance will come to an end when the children reach the age of eighteen, then, under those circumstances, the court order will fall away when they reach that age. Another age usually stipulated in a maintenance order is the age of twenty-one. Furthermore, it is sometimes stipulated in a maintenance order that maintenance is paid until the children are self-supporting. The latter situation could become problematic as to how is it determined when a child is self-supportive. This we deal with next.

Child becoming self-supportive

Obviously, if the child moves out of the house, gets a job and pay for his or her own expenses, he or she is self-supportive. However, if the child still resides with his or her parents, but is capable of earning a reasonable income, a dispute might arise regarding whether or not the child is self-supportive. Nonetheless, the maintenance order will stand until the conditions stipulated in the order have passed. The parents would, therefore, have a legal obligation to pay the maintenance as stated in the order.

Does a maintenance order fall away when the child turns eighteen?

advice-child-maintenance-child-custody-divorceAs stated above, age does not play a role as to until when child maintenance must be paid. The fundamental issue is that of being self-supportive. Therefore, even if the order says you must pay child maintenance until the child is twenty-one years old, but at the age of eighteen the child earns a much greater salary than his or her parents, and is accordingly self-supportive, then under those circumstances maintenance is not due to the child. In such a case, the parties must agree that maintenance should not be paid. If such an agreement is not forthcoming, then the party who is obliged to pay child support should approach the court to have the order set aside.

To whom should maintenance be paid when the child turns eighteen?

Child maintenance is due to the child and not to the other parent. However many a time, a child of eighteen is still attending school and cared for by a parent. Therefore, although the child is an adult, he or she is not in a position to care for him or herself. Maintenance in terms of the court order should still be paid to the parent caring for the child. Once the child is mature enough, or he or she moved out of the home of the caregiver, he or she may then, under those circumstances, receive the maintenance directly from the relevant parent.

Can a child over the age of eighteen claim maintenance from his or her parents?

If there is no maintenance order in place, when a child turns eighteen, he or she will have to apply for maintenance from his or her parents. As the child is an adult, his or her parents cannot approach the Maintenance Court on his or her behalf. In other words, a parent cannot apply for maintenance on behalf of his or her adult child. This could become problematic, should the child, being an adult, still attend school.


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17 thoughts on “My child is 22 years old, do I still have a legal obligation to pay child maintenance?

  1. Does a child maintenance fall off when the child has committed a crime as though they are not self supportimg as yet?

    1. No, child support remains until the child is self-supporting. You did not provide much information, we suggest you speak to the maintenance court to get a proper answer.

  2. Good day

    I am a 60 years old man and am about to go on pension and my daughter whom am maintaining is 22years old and has a child of her own. Her mother refuses to cancel the maintenance order against me. Will this have any impact on my pension is she obliged to receive any money when my pension money comes.

  3. My court order states that I have to pay maintenance until the age of 21. My ex wife wants to approach the court to request that the order be extended on behalf of my daughter who’s currently studying and has a child of her own. Am i still responsible for maintenance payments even if she (my daughter) has her own dependent?

    1. The court would have to decide what is fair, just and equitable after hearing you and the mother. You need to explain to the court why that is not the care.

    2. I would also like this cause my daughter says she is studying but also has her own dependent , My medical aid paid for the birth the father of the child plus her mother did not contribute one cent. The University refuse to give me info regarding her studies, She is also 22 and I am certain she is working just cant proof it and she is no longer living with her mother, so how is she supporting the family. I want proof of how much her mother is contributing to child support because she sold her car the other day but I am not allowed to even own a car

  4. Good evening I am 21years old turning 22 years old in August. When I was still young my mum claimed maintenance from my father but he stoped paying maintenance when I was about 10years old. So I want to know if it is possible to claim the maintenance from my father again as my mum is still the one supporting me and paying for all my needs. I am also a 2nd year student at university.

    1. Good day
      Yes you may claim. As long as you are not self-supporting, your parents have a duty to support you. The court would however decide what is fair.

  5. Quick question, my boys are 19 and 22 both studying at varsity. My ex husband has paid maintenance to me but now wants to split it and pay into each boys account. Does a letter need to be sent to my attorney’s with changes of payment? Also a problem is I am concerned he stops paying as he is like that if you are not on his case. The boys had an off shore account and he used the money without letting myself or the joys know. Please can you advise.

    1. If there is a court order stating that the money must be paid to you until the children are self-supporting, then that would need to happen. That applies unless you agree otherwise seeing that the children are adults. Also, consider using this link http://www.ourlaweyr.co.za/advice to set up a legal advice consultation for better advice on this issue.

  6. Good day.
    My kids are 19. The order does not state until when I must pay. And only stilpulates that i must pay medical aid and a certain amount.
    No mention of an annual increase and by how much. Although I have been increasing within my means.

    Do i jave to increase it or do i stay with the amount in the cpurt order?
    Does the self sifficiency now take presidence?
    Also what if a child can never be self sufficient because of a mental condition?

  7. Good Day

    My ex husband how has been working overseas for the last few years did only informed me now he is no longer working and will be able to settle the amount due, no warring on the 1of July 2019 after I send an email he replying to inform me he does no he does the money,

    He is living by his mother place

  8. Good day,

    I have a 30 year old daughter, I still pay her maintenance.it is deducted directly from my salary. She lives on her own with her boyfriend, she works as a security guard, she also has a child of her own. She dropped out of high school a long time ago. I want to stop paying maintenance but she refuses to cancell the order. What are my rights, what can I do? Am I supposed to support her forever. Please advise.

    1. Good day

      You should pay until your child is self-supporting. It seems she is. Go to the maintenance court and advise them and hear what they have to say. Ask them to cancel the garnishee order against your salary.

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