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How to get Child Support in South Africa if your Child's Parent Lives Overseas for FREE
Getting the Basics Right
I was 23 years old when I found out that I was pregnant and my boyfriend of 6 months, whom I'd known for a year, told me in no uncertain terms I could have an abortion and keep him, or keep the baby and never see him again.
I was emotional and afraid and completely shell shocked! Someone I had loved and trusted had suddenly changed his personality virtually overnight.
We had a family meeting and he agreed that though he didn't want the baby, he would honour his financial responsibilities.
My boyfriend and his mother had been planning to move abroad for some time already so I had no illusions about that but my father, the eternal realist, gave me the best piece of advice I was ever to receive - 'You go to court and get a court order now, because he'll change his mind later on" my father told me sternly. He was right.
So, once my son was born and I was able to drive, I headed off to the courthouse and asked for a maintenance order. It was terrifying and stressful and I sat in a long queue with a group of black ladies who clearly had very little money and no bath facilities but whose desperation was no less than my own.
Starting the Process - Step One
The maintenance court is part of the family court and is based in the magistrate's court - the sort of mid level court where every day cases are handled under the value of R 100 000.00
You do not need an attorney to seek a maintenance support order. What you will need is the following:
Details about your babies father such as address, ID number, date of birth, parents details, physical description etc
- A certified copy of your ID
- A certified copy of your baby's birth certificate
- Any proof of correspondence etc confirming your relationship and the paternity of your child. It would be advisable to have a paternity test done to confirm genetics.
You are now the "plaintiff" and your child's father the "respondent.
The court will either send a court official to deliver notice of a hearing, with a file number and a date, to the respondent or ask you to deliver it. They usually need to sign for it to show the court they have received it. You may ask a Police officer to escort you and hand over the order and ask for the signature if you are in anyway nervous or expecting difficulty. All of this is FREE.
You will then need to take a signed proof of delivery back to the courthouse which they will add to your file as proof.
A copy of the maintenance order application form is available here: http://www.justice.gov.za/forms/maintenance/MNT_Form%20A.pdf
The Hearing - What to Expect
If you are both living in South Africa, your hearing will happen at the same time in front of the same magistrate who will hear both sides of the story and will consider and evaluate the financial position and affordability of both parents.
For this hearing you will need to clearly have proof of your income, expenses and proof of the well being of the child. A very strong emphasis is now placed on the well being of the child as far too many cases of parents claiming high support orders and then staying home and not working or spending the money on themselves was recorded.
A good way to validate your claims (and often asked for by the court) is to have the following documentation ready:
- Proof of grocery spend - keep all your slips handy
- Proof of Clothing purchases
- Proof of School fee accounts and payments
- Proof of Rental / Bond payments and account
- Proof of Utilities accounts and payments
- 6 Months bank Statements and all Credit card / clothing accounts and payments
- Photographs of your child and their bedroom
The Magistrate will be very neutral and will hear you both. Allow the other person their time to speak and if you hear something you disagree with or can prove is false, write it down and come to it afterwards with proof - heresay will not suffice.
Keep records of communication and facts - emails, sms messages, Facebook / twitter posts etc - you may need to prove the tone of your relationship with your child's other parent or show how they behave / spend through what they post.
You may need more than one hearing if you cannot agree to a monthly value but usually the court grants a court order on the same day which is effective form the following month.
The value granted is payable before the 7th of every month - i.e, the funds must appear in your account before the 7th
Make note of the granted date - you are only permitted to apply for an increase annually or if circumstances change drastically and you can prove it. Prepare for an ammended court order one month before the due increase date.
Do you think Courts Do Enough to Enforce and Collect Child Support?
When One Parent Lives Outside of SA
The increase in a support order must be registered in the country where the child resides. If you live in South Africa and your child's other parent lives overseas, you will need to lodge your claim here and then register that order in the country where the Payor resides.
There are several Inter jurisdictional Offices around the world who are there to assist and enforce these orders.
I have found in my own experience it is easier to lodge your claim in that country yourself, with all the supporting documentation etc, than what it is to rely on the communication of the South African courts. This may change in the future!
Here is a list of functional websites with Interjurisdictional Offices:
Ontario, Canada : www.thefro.ca
United Kingdom: https://www.gov.uk/child-support-agency
There is a site with a list of reciprocating countries which will also break it down by state for some regions:
EXPECT IT TO TAKE UP TO A YEAR FOR YOUR CLAIM TO BE LODGED - BE PATIENT
Once your court order is lodged, the matter of registering increases and amendments becomes somewhat easier. The international recipient may contest an order given by going to his / her local court, with facts and figures to show what they can afford to pay.
Reciprocal Country Child support Offices List
Dealing with Arrears and Non-Payment
You cannot amend an order if you don't have an initial court order registered, so start at the beginning and be patient and persistent.
If you have not been receiving payments and have a court order in place, the reciprocal country will enforce and collect the arrears payments for you
Some countries have an interest payable clause on their court orders and some do not. If your court order does not make provision for interest payable, you will not be permitted to claim interest.
You will be asked to complete a statement of arrears for the international court, who will then notify the Payor that you have a claim and they wilol need to make a payment arrangement to pay it off in conjunction with their current monthly payments.
Child support payments that are not made never just disappear - if there is a court order in place, the Payor will be made to pay it off until all the funds are collected - even if the child is 30 years old at the time they finish paying. This is because the parent who has custody of the child is put under massive financial strain and it has negative affect on their credit records and stress as well as becoming a burden on the state.
The international reciprocal countries take child support very seriously and have several penalties in place, other than interest, to force payments including:
- Suspension of Driver's Licences
- Garnishing of Salaries
- Garnishing of bank Accounts
Child support orders are legally binding and not making payments is a criminal offence.
It may take you a long time to get your money but the only hope of getting monies at all, is with a court order!