On 12 May 2019 mothers across our country will be celebrating Mother’s Day. This day is special in that all mothers are recognized for their hard work and sacrifices made in raising their children, a task which is not only enormous but can sometimes be daunting and challenging. Women with children born out of wedlock sometimes find themselves in the predicament that the father of the child is not only absent in the raising of the child, but also fails to maintain and or properly contribute to the maintenance of the child.
This can place a huge financial burden on the mother in that she might struggle to financially make ends meet and properly provide for the minor child. In situations like these it is important that she approaches the Magistrate Court in the district in which she resides and apply through the maintenance court for an order that the father pay a fixed amount of maintenance monthly. This will create more certainty as to what contribution the mother can expect which will make her financial planning towards the expenses of the child a bit easier. The mother will also be able to approach the court at any time if the expenses of the child and or the cost of living increases and request an increase in the monthly maintenance contribution.
A further benefit is that if the father defaults on any months’ payment the mother can inform the maintenance officer as such, which in turn will result in a charge of arrear maintenance being laid against the defaulter who will then have to appear in court and make arrangements to bring the arrears up to date.
The court in these instances have various powers to enforce compliance with the order. Over and above the financial stress that a mother may endure there may also be instances, whether in a marriage or going through a divorce or in an abusive domestic partnership, where a mother fears for the safety of herself and or her child. There is specific legislation in place to protect the child and or mother who are in such an abusive relationship. Similar to the assistance the maintenance officer provides, a person in need of protection can approach the Magistrates Court and apply for a Family Violence Interdict. This does not only relate to the physical act of violence towards a person, but also includes any threats towards an individual, economic abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking and entry into a property not shared by the parties without consent.
A further aspect that needs to be addressed is what happens to the child in the event where the mother and or both parents are no longer able to care and provide for the child in the event of the mother or both parents passing away. In this instance a will is of the utmost importance. A mother is entitled to nominate a fit and proper person whom she trusts as the guardian of her child. The assignment of guardianship and care must however be contained in the mothers will. In addition to the appointment of a guardian, a mother is able to make provision for the child’s financial affairs and education in her will by means of a testamentary trust.
For more information kindly contact Van Niekerk Steyn at 044 601 9900.