Family Law Attorney

Are Biological Fathers Responsible for Maintenance of Extra-Marital Children?

We have all become used to the beautiful love stories that we see all too often reflected in movies and books; girl meets boy, love blossoms and they get married, children follow, and they live out their happy love story. Unfortunately, we also know that this is far removed from modern society, as it is an unrealistic depiction of what many paint their futures to be. Real life isn’t as romantic, as the increase in children born outside of wedlock, and to unmarried or single parents, each year suggests.

This naturally leads to the question pertaining to if the biological father of children born outside of marriage is legally obligated to share the incurred birth and pregnancy-related costs, and contribute towards maintenance, even if he and the mother are not married to each other. How does the law view the child? Legally, children born to an unmarried father and mother are referenced as extra-marital children. 

South African family law is very clear on this. The law recognises any child, regardless of the matrimonial status of the parents, to be eligible to fiscal assistance from both the biological parents. The tricky part comes in with the level of contribution each parent is responsible for. In broad terms, the level of maintenance is dependent on each parent’s respective means. Let’s delve a little deeper into the legal meaning and ramifications of child maintenance in South Africa.

What Does Child Maintenance Mean for the Parents and the Child?

Child maintenance refers to the regular payment to the child’s caregiver, for basic amenities, such as clothing, food, shelter, medical care and education. Once again, South African family law is clear on this, and pursuant to the Maintenance Act 99 of 1998, the custodial parent may obtain a maintenance order, so as to pursue the common law obligation of parents to take care of their children.

A single mother seeking to claim maintenance for a child needs to provide proof of paternity. If neither the mother nor the claimed father can pay for the paternity tests, then the state will fund this. If the paternity test is positive, the mother may go ahead and claim maintenance, in order to provide for the child.

The Scope of the Maintenance Act

The Maintenance Act 99 of 1998 takes care of all issues related to maintenance, and also stipulates that should there be the absence of an existing maintenance order, a Maintenance Court should make inquiries into the situation. The court can then, after considering all relevant evidence, declare an order for the child’s father to pay the mother an amount of money, along with interest on the amount.

This amount reflects what the court deems that the mother qualifies for with regards to expenses incurred relating to the birth and maintenance of the child, from the date of the child’s birth, to the date of inquiry. A Maintenance Court situated in the city where the maintained person resides can hear an application for maintenance. If you are unsure as to the route to take with regards to securing child maintenance, your best route is to engage a seasoned family law attorney.

Why Choose Our Family Law Attorneys to Represent You?

We know that matters of the family often involve emotional and complex situations, many of which can leave you in murky legal waters. When you are in the midst of dealing with all these emotions and taking care of your family, the last thing you want is to be bogged down with legal issues. Our family law attorneys are sensitive and sympathetic to your circumstances, and we go the extra mile to provide our valued clients with the expert services that they need to take back control of their lives.

Let us help you manage anything from divorce proceedings to custody, access and maintenance claims, as well as any other family law requirements. We can also assist with parenting plans, settlement agreements, mediation and wills, among other services. Contact us to learn more about our family law attorneys and firm, and to find out why you should hire us as your legal team to pursue your family’s best legal interests.

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