Child Maintenance Saga: How a mother forced the father of her child to pay child maintenance after battling for 5 years
Maintenance Saga: When Jill was 17 years old, she met Jack. He was much older than her, working, and very charming. Jill was in her final year of high school and in love with Jack. One thing led to another, and Jill fell pregnant with his child. When she told Jack the good news, he asked her to have an abortion. She refused. Jack was then out of the picture and nowhere to be found. She did not know where he stayed, nor did she have his work details. All she had was his mobile number. This number was useless as he blocked her. The furthest thing from her mind at the time was the issue of child maintenance.
Parents finding out
Needless to say, things did not go well for Jill. Other than having to keep the fact of her pregnancy from her parents, she also had to deal with morning sickness and weight gain. After the first trimester, her parents knew something was wrong and confronted her. She told them she was pregnant. Things then just got worse. Jill’s parents took her out of school, and she was kept out of the public eye. To them, she disgraced them. What made it even worse was that Jill could not provide much information about the father of her child. Her parents, already struggling to make ends meet, had an additional burden to pay for Jill’s gynaecological visits and medication. The child was born, and Jack was still nowhere to be found. Jill named her baby James.
Realities of life
Life moved on for Jill and her child. Jill’s mother gave up her job to care for the child and Jill had to go to work. With no matric or any special skills, Jill had to get a job in retail, working the late shifts. What she earned was not enough for her and the child’s expenses. Her parents were complaining and putting pressure on her to find the father of the child to help support him. This was not the life her parents, nor she, envisaged for her.
The Shock – He was married
Jill called around, spoke to some people and found out where the father lived. It turned out, that Jack was married, since before he met Jill and has three children with his wife. When she met with Jack, he wanted nothing to do with her and said that it is not his child. He also told her that should she take him to the maintenance court, he will deny paternity. This left her despondent and she did not know what to do. He did not even want to meet the child.
Jill could not leave it at that. She had to find a way to get Jack to support his child. It is unfair that he supports his other 3 children and gives nothing towards James. She finally found out what Jack did for a living. He was a self-employed graphic designer, working from home. Nonetheless, she wanted him to pay. She, however, did not know what to do.
The Maintenance Court
Two years passed and things were not getting better financially. Jill’s mother was getting old, and her father was soon to retire. With inflation, she earned about the same as she did when she first started working. Jill then spoke to some people who advised her to approach the maintenance court for assistance and advise. She then went to the Maintenance Court. She completed the Application Form and provided all relevant information. This included the home address of Jack. She then waited. Three months later, she received a letter in the post advising her of the date she needs to appear in court for the maintenance enquiry. The Court date was a month later. She then appeared at Court, and Jack was not there. The maintenance officer had no proof that Jack knew about the court date, so she had to issue a subpoena. Jill was told to leave and that she would be notified of the next date in due course. James just turned 3.
The Blood tests
Four months later, Jill, this time received a subpoena to appear in the same maintenance court. This time, she had to appear two weeks later as they took some time to get the subpoena to her. When she entered the court, she saw Jack walking with a lady wearing a suit and holding a briefcase. He did not even greet her. Jill waited outside the maintenance officer’s office and when her name was called, she entered the office where she saw Jack and his lawyer sitting. She was the same lady she saw him walking with earlier. Before Jill could say anything, the maintenance officer told Jill that Jack is disputing paternity and that she would have to go for a blood test with the child. Obviously, if Jack is not the father of James, then Jill has no right to make the application. Everything had to be kept on hold until the results were confirmed.
The paternity outcome
The first time Jack met his son James was when the blood samples were taken. Jack still wanted nothing to do with him. When they appeared back at the maintenance court 3 months later, the results were announced. Jack was 99.99999 percent the father of James. Neither Jack nor Jill was surprised with the results. But Jack’s lawyer was. She then withdrew as his lawyer. She could not represent a client who was dishonest to her. The matter, therefore, had to be postponed for legal representation.
The Maintenance Court Delays
Three months later, Jack and Jill again appeared before the maintenance officer. This time, Jack came with his wife. She, however, had to sit outside the office when the maintenance enquiry took place. Jack said he could not afford a lawyer and neither could Jill. When asked to produce his income and expenses, he said he did not have any. He also said that all monies he gets paid go into his banking account. But for the past 6 (six) months, he did not earn any money. The case was then postponed for Jack to bring copies of the last 6-months bank statements and for the maintenance investigator to look into the matter. The matter was then postponed for another 3 months. James was turning 4.
The paternal grandparents
When the parties appeared before the maintenance officer, Jack provided his bank statements. It depicted that he did not earn anything for the past 3 months. The maintenance investigator also could not find anything of value to show that James had money. Jill knew that Jack was lying about his income, but because he got paid in cash, there was no proof of the fact. It was then decided that they will call in the paternal grandparents to contribute towards James’s maintenance. This made Jack very nervous as his parents did not know that he had a son. Nonetheless, they were subpoenaed to Court. The matter was then again postponed for 3 months.
The maintenance settlement
When the parents of James and his grandparents appeared at the Maintenance Court, they were distraught. Never would they have thought they would ever have to visit a Court. What made it worse was that they were there because their son did not want to pay child support for his child. Embarrassed with the situation, Jack agreed to pay child support to James, on condition that his parents are kept out of the settlement. Jill agreed, and a maintenance order was granted.
Moral of the story
Never give up on claiming child maintenance for your child. Even if it takes you almost 5 years.
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Appealing a Maintenance Court Decision or Judgment In its very nature, maintenance matters are complicated and never straight forward. For starters, it deals with the income and expenditure of both parents and the needs of the child. It is not easy for a maintenance court to determine with a high degree of certainty what the true income of a self-employed parent is. The same applies to the true expenses of a parent. Manipulating the maintenance system It is very easy for a parent to manipulate documentation or only present information which he or she believes would be in their favor. For example, if a parent earns extra income by selling clothing, he or she may decide not to disclose that information to the maintenance Court. By doing so, the Maintenance Court will determine the maintenance of the child based on the incorrect facts presented. This could become more problematic when one parent knows of the other parent's additional income but cannot prove it. If the parties have legal representatives, this issue of improper disclosure is limited to a certain extent. For example, lawyers would be in a good position to do their own investigations and verify certain relevant information. Improper ...Read More
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Child Maintenance Court – What do you have to know to win. Tips and Tricks Best interests of a child: When it comes to child maintenance, the child’s best interests are of paramount importance. This principle is immortalised in our Constitution and applied in our Courts of Law. Therefore, in relation to child maintenance matters, and specifically to the child maintenance court, the moment a parent files an application for child maintenance, the principal should apply. Before we move on, on a side note, it is not only child maintenance that the maintenance court deals with. A spouse may take the other to the maintenance court for personal maintenance. Read on above a Successful Child Maintenance Appeal before the Full Bench Argued by Adv M Abduroaf Parental Maintenance Obligations Both parents have a duty of support towards their minor child’s proper living and upbringing. This should be according to their means, standard of living, station in life, and the needs of the child. This is found in our common law and further applies to divorced parents. According to section 15(2) of the Maintenance Act, the duty “extends to such support as a child reasonably requires for his or her proper ...Read More
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