How do I strategies my child maintenance case? I am struggling to grasp how to approach my maintenance matter. Please give me some advice?
As with any legal matter where you have a dispute, you need to have a strategy or a plan to be successful. Without a strategy or plan, you are just hoping for the best. However, hope does not steer a boat to shore. There are some, and in most cases, a lot of work, planning and thinking. Let’s face it, the other party or parent in your legal matter also has a plan or strategy. Suppose they put the necessary energy into executing it for the intended results, or at least more than what you are putting into it; their results will favour them much more. That is so, despite all the hope you put into it.
Understand the maintenance laws and how it works
But before we move on, with any plan or strategy, comes knowledge. It would do little good if you did not research how child maintenance works, the legal process, and what outcomes are possible. With all the information online, it is expected that you would watch some online videos on child maintenance and read some of the many articles on the topic. Knowledge is key, and that is what is going to get you through your case.
What are the basic principles in a child maintenance matter?
We would not say child maintenance matters are simple. Very few, if any, legal matters are simple. But anyone can learn. However, if you are guided by the principle that the maintenance amount payable is based on what the child costs, you are getting somewhere. That is your starting point and stay focused on that. Not what the parents earn or what they own. That is secondary. It does not mean that if a parent earns R 50 000 – 00 a month, that they should pay R 10 000 – 00 a month, despite the child costing R 1 000 – 00 a month. At best, the most the parent would pay is R 1 000 – 00. It would help if you worked from the ground up.
You need to focus on two words, “reasonable”, and “necessary.”
The child’s expenses must be reasonable and necessary for you to convince a Court to allow those expenses. In other words, force a parent to contribute towards it. In determining what is reasonable and necessary, one would look at what the child needs for daily living and whether that falls within the standard of living of the parents and the child. For example, if the parents are modest salary earners, living in humble homes, and were brought up in the same way, then that would be what the minor child would be entitled to when calculating child maintenance. If the parents never had ponies as pets, then a pony would not amount to a reasonable and necessary expense for the minor child. However, it is up to you to explain to the court why an expense is “reasonable” and “necessary”. If you can do so for a pony, then you did a good job.
Look at the means or money available in the maintenance equation
The principle one must move towards is that parents have to contribute towards the minor child based on their means. Remember, their contribution is firstly based on what the child costs and not what the earnings and wealth of the parents are. Then we need to look at what the parents can afford. Now affordability is not only based on your income, but also on your assets. If a parent does not have an income but owns expensive assets, then that has to be taken into account. Think of it this way – a parent can convert that asset into money by selling the asset.
Remember, parents have to live as well (They also have expenses)
It is not that simple just to take the gross or net salary of the parent and then work out the maintenance payable from there, based on the needs of the child. If that was the case, then maintenance matters would be resolved much quicker. Parents have expenses that need to be factored into the equation. Hold that in mind all the time because that principle applies to you.
Therefore, in order for a parent to earn a salary to pay child support, he or she needs to eat at work, buy clothes for work, travel to work and so on. Circumstances need to be assessed on what they are and not what one hopes them to be. If the parents cannot afford for the child to be enrolled at a specific school, then that is what one must accept and be happy with a less expensive school for your child.
Analyse the situation from all angles
Once you have analysed the situation, take stock of the fact that all factors need to be looked at. You need to focus on what is reasonable. Reasonability applies to all aspects of the child maintenance equation. This includes the reasonable needs of the minor child, considering the income and means of the parents. When focusing on the child, determine whether or not his or her expenses are reasonable considering the standard of living and your position in life. Does the child need everything, or are there some items that you now require seeing that the child is older or circumstances have changed?
Are the parents spending reasonably?
Look at your situation and that of the other parent as well. Is it reasonable for him or her to spend R 2000 – 00 on fuel to go to work when he or she can take public transport? This is so even though this parent earns R 6000 – 00 a month. This must be considered in conjunction with what the needs of the child are. If the parent says he or she cannot afford to pay half the school fees, which is a reasonable amount, then one needs to question whether under the circumstances using up a third of your income for fuel is reasonable, where after you are unable to pay towards your child’s school fees.
Create arguments to support your point of view
Remember, you need to convince the maintenance court that what you are requesting as child support is reasonable. Reasonable based on the facts before the court or at hand, and not what one party wishes it to be. And those facts are also your income, expenses, as well as that of the other parent. Let us not forget the standard of living. This is important as we all want what is best for our children. However, not all families can afford to send their children to the most expensive schools. For many, it is not sustainable.
On the other hand, parents should contribute toward their minor children, which is fair and reasonable. What is fair and reasonable is determined based on the information and facts at hand. Furthermore, what is fair and reasonable for one family will definitely not be fair and reasonable for another family. This is so despite both families having the same number of children and ages. All families and children are unique.
In conclusion, if you understand the above general principles, you would find it easier to deal with and handle your child maintenance case. You will focus on what is necessary in order to be successful. Good luck with your maintenance matter.