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

  1. My divorce settlement states I need to pay child maintenance to the minors. It doesn’t state until what age etc.

    I have been paying the funds to my ex wife both my sons are now 18 and over and she still receive the funds. Do I apply for a discharge of maintenance order? My sons are not self supporting but I need a document stating I should pay my sons into their bank account and not my ex wife.

  2. My soon to be ex husband don’t want me as the mother to get maintenance money, he send his sisters children to buy groceries for us. What can I do

  3. Good day.

    I trust you are well.

    I have been paying maintenance as per my Agreement of Settlement. One of my sons completed school in 2020 and started full time employment in 2021 and 2022. He now lives abroad, he is 20 years old, is fully employed and self-supportive. I continued to pay maintenance for the two years (2021/2022) as gesture of good faith and good will. I increased the maintenance bas per the clause in my Agreement of Settlement by the 8.5% annually. have never faulted in 13 years, never been summoned to court, I have never debated additional expenses (teachers Xma’s gifts, friend’s birthday gifts, sports kit etc.)., i have just paid with no proof of receipts. I come from a family background where my parents fought for years over my sister and i and i swore i would never do that to my children. I understand my obligation to continue to pay for my youngest son, with the 8.5% increase per annum. My question is, do i still need to pay for my eldest?

    Kind Regards,

  4. My daughter of 18 years has left home where she eas cared for and maintained, on her own accord because she is disobedient and wants to rule herself.

    She stays with friends and now wants the maintenance court to force the parents to pay her maintenance. She has in the past misused parents money on drugs and liquor.

    The parents are ready to support her if she cones home. Are they obliged to pay herthe maintenance she claims so that she can support her lifestyle?

  5. Good Day,

    My domestic worker’s husband is about to take early retirement due to ill health.

    They have 3 children together

    He has been paying ‘maintenance’ for 2 additional children, who are now 28 and 31 years of âge, they are both working

    Please advise on how his pension would be apportioned, as there is apparently a maintenance order on his salary every month, for thèse 2 adult children.

    Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

    Yours sincerely

  6. Hi my son is 18years old grade 10 still in school I do pay maintenance every month what I would like to know is where does the money go to can a mother use it for both of them for food smokes personnel use or is the maintence just for my son’s use only like she must buy food for him and him only ECT when he needs it more or can she use it for both of them like she can use sum of the money for herself

  7. Hi there I have been paying maintenance and for past two years my ex wife was ment to pay the school fees and ensure our son finishes his schooling. It has come to my attention that he has not even passed grade 11 and we have been to the Maintenance court 7 times now. My ex lies to the magistrate and keeps on giving excuses about the schooling. We have also found out that my son is working. My ex can not prove what his monthly costs are and the courts just keep on telling her to bring proof and every time there is lies and excuses. No matter how much evidence I bring forward it is never enough.
    I pay R5500.00 per month I have had to let a staff member go as I can’t afford him anymore he also had a familyto support. I just feel the system is very on sided. My ex constantly lies and it is just accepted because “there is a court order ” this is a ticket to manipulate the system.
    I must have some rights. I want my son to get his education but I feel his mother has other things to buy other than get my son to complete his schooling. Can I pay his schooling directly and his medical insurance directly and is cell phone.
    Any advise please
    Thank you

  8. I would like advice my father has never supported me or my brother can I go to maintainance court on our behalf he is a soldier in the defense force I am 20 years old about to go to varsity and my brother is in grade 8 do I still stand a chance of getting maintainable court even though I’m past 18

  9. Good day
    I have a daughter that’s just turned 20 and has given birth to my grandchild and she just finished matric and now the mother is now claiming maintenance that’s I have paid all these years so do I still pay maintenance as she are also a parent now

  10. I’m 22 years old. I live with my paternal grandparents. I was accepted at the North West University but couldn’t enroll, because of nsfas complications. My mom is working and doesn’t support me at all. Can I have her pay for maintenance?

  11. Good day

    I have a child born in 1996 and I ma paying a mantainance orderd by the court. I just want to know when will this be cancelled since the court order is not stipulating at what age or situation will this cancelled.

  12. Good Day

    Which act allows for the caregiving parent to apply for continuation of maintenance for a major child that is at college and resides with the caregiver

  13. I am turning 20 this year and doing my first year in University and I don’t have any financial support from my parents, my mom is not working, my dad used to pay maintenance for me till I was 18. Am I eligible to go for maintenance again on my own ?

  14. Good morning.
    1. My grandchild stays with me and her mother pay maintenance, court order.
    Every second month I must asked for the money.
    Can I go to maintenance court, with my court order, and ask that the money must be deduct
    from her salary? Or is it a whole new process to go through court?
    2. I am divorce and there was a court order for maintenance, until my grandchild is finished
    with school to help caring for her. Now is it 2 years that he paid nothing. Can I go to
    maintenance court ?

  15. Hi my husband and I live with his dad we have 3 kids which we collect grant for my husbands earning is R9000 due to supporting his parents regardless of weather he has kids to support he then fell into debt by credit cards and loans which he could not end up affordinv to pay on time and is now all handed over which is still paying for pays for full lights and water which sometimes comes to R5000 to R7000 there are his 2 other brothers that also live here we buy what we can when we have enough my father in law recently visited a social worker and spoke a whole lot of lies about us expects us to still do everything From maintenance in his house to lights and water regardless we have kids to see to and have also been handed over with school fees as we can’t afford to pay after seeing to account house and transport fees we requested for us to live independently out a prepaid for us so we can pay our own lights and water and provide sufficient for our kids as sometimes there’s no food for my kids we need serious help on this matter as dad in law refuses anything and wants everything to be done for him regardless of financial status mum in law recently passed away and then he had started all this with his kids and now is threatening to sell the property if we don’t do everything how can we get help to protect this home as my mum in law invested a lot in this home and worked hard to maintain in keeping it and freeing it

  16. I am eighteen years old my father no longer wants to maintain me and my mother don’t work but she is trying to provide and I like to further my studies is it possible to go to maintanance

  17. Good day, my son will turn 18 in February 2022. He left school in when he completed Grade 9 to undergo online schooling. To date he does not have a matric, lives with his father and is currently working.
    The maintenance order stipulates that maintenance must be paid until he reaches 18 or is self supporting. What are my rights ? Do I have to approach the maintenance court to establish whether he is self supporting ? Or does the order simply fall away ?

  18. Hi. I have being paying child support for 18 years and helping her sister that’s not my child. Her mother did not help with any financials because she didn’t have any interest of looking for a job. Since my child was 14 she was seeing boys over 18 till today. In 18 years she didn’t come and visit me once. The only time I hear from her is on paydays. She failed 3 times in her first year of High school and now her grandmother send me threats for child support.. The mother started a working a month ago. Must I go on paying?

  19. Hi my son is 20 now and I’m still paying maintenance and his mom is not getting it any more about a year now.

    And I’ve been supporting even though it has been deducted from my payslip. So I still see it being deducted.

    What must I do to get it back?

  20. Good evening I am 23 yrs and I’m not working,my parents are in the middle of divorce and we (my self and siblings) are the one suffering for this. He doesn’t take our call nor help us with anything and mom doesn’t work. I have intentions of finishing my diploma and I want his assistant, what can be done??

  21. I have a 21 year old son that has taken me to court to pay maintenance. I have no way of knowing if he is still at school (he was still in grade 11 in 2019) I have no way of knowing if he is working as I have no contact with him. Am I liable to pay even if he shows no interest in finishing school or finding a job?

    1. All the information can be obtained when you both appear at the maintenance court. If he is lazy and does not want to work, the court would consider it and make a decision which is fair.

  22. On what grounds is any parent allowed to apply for maintenance on behalf of a major child? If such order is granted,how do one go about getting it discharged?Can one argue that such order was wrongfully issued? Thnx

  23. My daughter left her mothers care when she turned 18 in April 2021. She now lives with me and is still in school. Do I still need to pay maintenance to her mother? I pay for her schooling too – over and above the maintenance.

    1. It depends if there is a court order etc. For example, if there is no court order, then you do not have to pay. If for example, there is a court order that says you must pay until the child is selfsupporting, we advise that you approach the maintenance court to have it set-aside. It all depends on the working of the order

  24. hi, i have 24 years and 1 child and i am not self-supporting , i rely on my mother’s pension fund while my father is working as a trainee manager at the local municipality can i claim for maintenance?

  25. my child is 18 years old- she wants to go work/travel holiday overseas for a year. do i still pay maintenances when she overseas and to the mother when she not around.

  26. I am 21 years old and I have 1 child , am still studying can I claim maintenance from my father?

  27. a friend of mine who moved out her mothers house to live with her partner. The father has always paid maintenance for medical aid amounting 4000. Now that the she is no longer living with the mother, the mother is claiming that the maintenance is only 2000 and the other 2000 is for the mothers medical portion. can the father pay the daughter directly and stop paying the mother as she no longer lives there. my friend has mental problems (depression/medical ailments and a few to many to mention) so she isnt working. but her partner does work and has her own car and her own medical aid and they get no support money from the mother. i find it unfair that the mother is being paid and yet the daughter doesnt even live there. please help

  28. I am 23 years old and brother 21. been long we lost my mom and recently my grandmother, they were supporting us through everything. to divide the burden my brother stays with my father regardless of how he feels about him, and how he never supported or supports us, or slightly does just so he has an excuse that he’s there for us. and me I am staying in my granny’s house and having a small job just get me through the month. I want to pursue another degree after my last one is somehow making it hard for me to find a job. . Is it possible to claim a maintenance order if I am going for this diploma/degree, that will take at least one year? even though my younger brother is starting his own degree this year?

  29. I would like to know if I may stop paying maintenance if my son is working and earning R6000.00 per month but still stays with his mother

    1. If the R 6000 – 00 is enough for him to be self-supporting, then there is no obligation for you to support him if there is no order as he is earning enough to support himself. If R 6000 is not enough, then you must continue to support him It is best to have a discussion with the son and the mother. If there is an order in place you need to approach the court to have it set aside or reduced.

  30. hi, my niece is now 31 years old, and is not working and not self-supportive. She has been raised since birth by my mother and her father ha never contributed one cent towards her maintenance. Can she approach the maintenance court on her own to claim back pay maintenance for herself, or would my mother have to do that. We have only recently learned of the father’s whereabouts, hence the need for the back pay for all these years. Is this possible?

    1. Good day
      She can claim maintenance going forward from the father. We advise you to approach the maintenance court regarding the balance of the questions as they would deal with it,

  31. I got divorced 13 years ago and the divorce was granted under Section 7 of the divorce act of 1979.
    The wording for maintenance states maintenance is paid at x amount until :
    1. The child has reached 21 years of age
    2. The child has become self supporting
    3. The child has married.

    My son has finished school and has no plans on studying further currently and his Mom has said a gap year is fine for him.
    I plan on paying until he turns 21. From there on I don’t plan on paying. With the wording on the divorce is this legal or is there still a need to continue paying ?

    1. Good day
      From the wording, it is not clear as to whether self-supporting means when he is younger than 21 or over 21 and not self-supporting. We do not want to guess. It is best you speak to an attorney about this.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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?

  38. 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

  39. 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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