Pretoria – By signing the Maintenance Amendment Act into law last week, President Jacob Zuma has improved the system, which will assist in bringing parents dodging payments or former spouses to book.
The act not only streamlines the way forward for those constantly struggling to receive maintenance for themselves or their children, but also forces parents to take responsibility in ensuring their children are financially taken care of.
The Department of Justice said the amendment of the act had been its major priority as it would ensure that parents took responsibility for the upbringing of their children.
The department said the act was part of a wider range of measures to bring about real change in service delivery to maintenance beneficiaries, and ensure access to justice for all, particularly children and women.
The act, among others, will further regulate the lodging of complaints and the investigation of maintenance complaints.
Interim maintenance orders can now also be given, pending the main legal battle.
This means that the cash-strapped spouse or parent can receive an interim payment while waiting for the outcome of a court case, which often takes a long time.
Pretoria-based lawyer Leon Haasbroek, from the firm Shapiro & Haasbroek Inc, who, among others, specialises in maintenance cases, was optimistic that the amendment act would address the difficulties of the past.
This was especially in obtaining and enforcing a maintenance order.
It will also now be easier to obtain the financial particulars of a defaulting parent to enable a presiding officer to make an informed ruling.
Haasbroek said that in the past a maintenance application, including an increase, had to be served on the person by the police, the sheriff or a maintenance investigator.
“I have appeared in many cases where the application could not be served, as the respondent was ducking and diving or moving from address to address.
“Now it can be served via electronic mail.”
It is now also easier to obtain details regarding a respondent’s financial status, as the person may face criminal charges if he or she refuses to divulge these details.
The amendment act compels a maintenance officer, once an order had been granted and a respondent failed to pay up, to refer the matter to the credit bureau, so that the respondent is blacklisted.
This can, however, only happen if the defaulter has been found guilty of non-payment by a criminal court.
Haasbroek said he had reservations about this provision, as the non-paying respondent would be listed with the credit bureau and thus be in a worse position to pay the maintenance arrears.
He hailed the provision that for the first time, interim maintenance payments could be made.
Haasbroek said legal proceedings often took a long time and a cash-strapped parent could at least in the meantime receive the much- needed maintenance.
While he welcomed these amendment, Haasbroek expressed his concern whether the maintenance courts would have the manpower to ensure enforcement of these provisions.
Article written by Zelda Venter and posted here