Query: What is maintenance and who can claim maintenance?
Response: Maintenance is money or goods that a person has a legal duty to provide for the basic living expenses of his or her dependants. These living expenses include rent, water, electricity, food, clothes, transport, medical expenses and school fees. A parent, the person who looks after the child (such as a grandmother) or any person who takes care of the child, such as a relative, social worker, doctor, nurse, teacher, traditional leader, or religious leader can claim maintenance. Additionally, a child can also claim maintenance from a parent.
Query: How do I go about claiming maintenance?
Response: One has to go to the Magistrate’s Court; the clerk of the court will help you fill in the forms. An appointment is not needed. It is important that you take information about yourself, your child, how much you earn and how much it costs to care for your child. It should be noted that the entire process should be private and one does not need a lawyer. The maintenance officer has a duty to investigate your claim.
During the meeting with the maintenance officer both parents will be asked to attend an informal meeting. Most cases are settled at this meeting. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, a magistrate will have to decide the case. If the magistrate has to decide the case both parents will have to come back on another day. If the defendant does not come to court when he or she is supposed to, the magistrate can issue a maintenance order anyway. The defendant can complain about the order later, but he or she must start paying maintenance right away.
Query: How long must a parent pay maintenance for a child?
Response: A maintenance order generally ends when a child is able to look after him/herself by paying for food, housing, etc. This is usually when the child reaches 18 years of age. However, this period may vary, if a child leaves school before the age of 18 and gets a job, or if a child is disabled or for some other reason cannot earn enough money to pay for basic needs. Additionally, if a child goes to university maintenance payments will continue until the child is 21 years old.
Furthermore, if a child is disabled and unable to support him/herself, a parent might have to pay maintenance for the entire life of the child.
Query: Is it possible for a child to claim maintenance from someone who is in another country?
Response: One can still claim maintenance if the defendant is living in South Africa. The Namibian and South African courts will work together on the case. Maintenance can sometimes be claimed from people living in other countries, as well.
Walters Kamaya, chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, E-mail: email@example.com