Query: Who can claim maintenance on behalf of a child?
Response: A parent: One parent can claim maintenance contributions from the other for a child, regardless of whether the parents are living together or apart. Even if parents are married or living together, it is possible that one of them may not be fulfilling the duty to contribute to the child’s expenses.
A primary Caretaker: Anyone who is caring for the child can claim maintenance for the child from either parents, or from both parents. For example, a grandmother taking care of her grandchild can claim maintenance from the mother or the father of the child.
The Child: A child can claim maintenance from one or both parents. A child may suffer because the mother or the father does claim his maintenance from either party. Children can go to maintenance court on their own accord, or ask someone else (such as a family member or teacher) to apply to the maintenance court on their behalf.
Any Concerned Person: Any concerned person who has interest in the child’s well-being can apply for maintenance on the child’s behalf. The person making an application could be a relative, social worker, doctor, nurse, teacher, traditional leader, religious leader, employer, or other concerned community members.
Query: How long must a parent pay for maintenance for a child?
Response: A Maintenance Order for a child should end when a child becomes self-supporting. This will usually be when the child reaches the age 18, if the maintenance order does not say something different.
Note: Each maintenance order ought to be treated exclusively for its additional statement/s.
The maintenance order could come to an end sooner if the child becomes self-supporting. For example, suppose the child dropped out of school at age 17 and found a steady job with a good income, the parent who was paying maintenance could apply to have the order cancelled in these circumstances.
A maintenance order can be extended beyond age eighteen if there are special circumstances, such as a case where a child is disabled or unable to become self-supporting for some reason. For example, the parents may have money whilst the child is unemployed and cannot find a job. Another example might be a girl who had a teenage pregnancy and is still struggling to survive.
Once the child turns 18, the child or anyone acting on behalf of the child can apply to Maintenance Court to have the order extended.
In practice, the maintenance order will automatically remain in force and place until the child reaches age twenty one (21), if the child is attending an education institution to complete a course that will enable that child to become self-supporting – unless the maintenance order says something different.
Any maintenance order for a child will end if:
The child dies.
The child is adopted by someone else.
The parents’ divorce and a new maintenance arrangement is included in the Divorce Order.
The child marries.
But in the abstract, the mutual duty of support between parent and child never completely comes to an end. Throughout their lives, parents and children are expected to take care of each other whenever this help is really needed. The parent’s duty to support their child falls away when the children are able to support themselves. But the fact that a child is earning an income does not necessary mean that the child is self-supporting. For more information on Maintenance consult the Maintenance Act, Act No. 9 of 2003.
• Mr Simon Idipo, Senior Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Justice, E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org, 061 280 5371