Tag Archives: Maintenance


If a couple has gotten divorced and they have a child, then it’s the responsibility of both parents to support the child. The duty to pay maintenance cannot be avoided, regardless of either parents’ situation. If one parent refuses to pay maintenance, then the other parent can go to a court and make a claim. Being a single parent doesn’t mean being the only one to contribute to maintenance.

What should I do about it?

To deal with a spouse who refuses to pay maintenance you would first need to inform the maintenance officer. The maintenance officer can apply to the court for:

  1. A warrant of execution;
  2. An attachment order against the defaulter’s salary;
  3. An order to attach any debts; and
  4. A criminal prosecution.

Does the non-paying parent have a defence?

The only defence that a parent could have for not paying maintenance is having a lack of income. However, if the parent is unwilling to work, such as laziness, then this will not count as a defence. Failure to pay maintenance is taken very serious, guilty parents won’t get much sympathy from the court or others. If the parent is capable of working, then they will be expected to pay maintenance.

But I can’t find my ex-spouse?

Non-paying parents may think that they’re being clever by changing their address and not notifying the court. This is considered a criminal offence, and will result in punishment. Fortunately, it’s not the responsibility of the single parent to find anyone. A maintenance investigator will track down and find a non-paying parent.

How to claim maintenance

If you want someone to pay maintenance or believe that they are not paying the proper amount, then you can follow these steps at your local magistrate’s court. Remember to go the court in the district where you live.

  1. Go to the court and complete the form “Application for a maintenance order (J101)”.
  2. Also submit proof of your monthly income and expenses.
  3. A date will be set on which you and the respondent (the person whom you wish to pay maintenance) must go to the court.
  4. A maintenance officer and an investigator will investigate your claim and look into your circumstances.
  5. The court will serve a summons on the respondent.
  6. The respondent then has to either agree to pay the maintenance, or challenge the matter in court.

If found liable to pay maintenance

If the court finds someone liable for paying maintenance, it will make an order for the amount of maintenance to be paid. The court will also determine when and how the payments must be made. There are several ways the payments could be made. The court can order that the maintenance be paid at the local magistrate’s office or that the amount to be paid into the bank account chosen by the person claiming. The payments could also just be made directing to them. According to the new Maintenance Act (1998), an employer can deduct payments from an employee’s salary, if they’re liable for paying maintenance.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).


A4What can you do to enforce a maintenance order against a person who is responsible for paying maintenance, but fails to do so or is paying too little?

When someone fails to pay maintenance in terms of a maintenance order you have the option of lodging a complaint against them with the Maintenance officer, stating that the person is legally liable to maintain, for example, yourself or your minor child(ren) and is not doing so. The Maintenance officer must investigate the complaint and may then institute an enquiry in a maintenance court. The Maintenance officer, not the complainant, decides whether to institute an enquiry.[1] In investigating a complaint about maintenance, the Maintenance officer may obtain statements or any relevant information pertaining to the payment of maintenance. An enquiry under the Maintenance Act is a procedure which empowers people to enforce their rights and those of their child(ren) at the State’s expense. During the course of a maintenance enquiry the parties usually come to an agreement and seek to withdraw the proceedings, or have the terms of the agreement made an order of court, which cannot be disregarded by the magistrate.[2] If the parties cannot come to an agreement the matter will be referred to the maintenance court.

Whenever a person against whom a maintenance order has been issued under the Act fails to make any payment in accordance with that order, the order is enforceable in respect of any amount that person has failed to pay, together with any interest:

  1. by execution against property;
  2. by the attachment of emoluments; or
  3. by the attachment of debt.

If a maintenance order made under the Act remains unsatisfied for a period of ten days from the day on which the amount became payable or the order was made, the person in whose favour the order was made may apply to the maintenance court in which the order was made: 1) for authorisation of the issue of a warrant of execution, 2) for an order for the attachment of emoluments or 3) for an order for the attachment of debt. The application must be accompanied by a copy of the maintenance order or other order in question and a statement under oath stating the amount that the person against whom the order was made has failed to pay.[3]

Subject to the defence that failure to make a payment in terms of a maintenance order is due to a lack of means, a person who fails to make a particular payment in accordance with a maintenance order is guilty of an offence and liable to conviction with a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or to imprisonment without the option of a fine.[4]

On the application of the public prosecutor and in addition to or instead of imposing a penalty, a court convicting any person of the offence of failing to make a payment in accordance with a maintenance order may grant an order for recovery from that person of the amount he or she has failed to pay, together with any interest.[5]

Your best option would be to approach the Maintenance officer in order to reconcile the outstanding amounts. Thereafter, if the person still fails to effect payment, you can approach an attorney to either proceed with execution of the order, if the person has sufficient movable or immovable property, or obtain an emolument order which will be served upon the employer of the person (ordering the employer to pay the maintenance), or you may approach the maintenance court for an order for the attachment of any debt accruing, then or in the future, to the person responsible for paying maintenance.

[1] The Maintenance Act 99 of 1998.

[2] Young v Young 1985(1) SA 782 (C).

[3] The Maintenance Act 99 of 1998.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)