Calculating Child Maintenance 

Each parent has the legal obligation to provide support to minor children born into the relationship between the parents. This obligation forms the basis for the provision of child maintenance, also called child support.

A maintenance enquiry is a 2-staged approach: first, the reasonable needs of the dependants (children) must be determined; and after, the affordability of each spouse is taken into consideration. 

Only once the child’s reasonable maintenance (basic needs) have been determined will one be able to establish the contribution that each parent is required to meet those needs. 

What is Reasonable Child Maintenance? 

Reasonable maintenance is defined as: 

  • Operations which the individual reasonably can be expected to perform or have performed in the past and 
  • Operations which are necessary to keep an individual performing, functioning and operating at a reasonable level of performance. 
  • i.e. An amount of maintenance that would help the dependants to live in a reasonable manner, without such drastic changes that would affect them negatively.

Calculating Child Maintenance 

The general rule is that a child’s common share of the common expenses in the household is determined by allocating one-part per child and two-parts per adult or older child. 

The formula which is applied in practice to determine the contribution as follows: 

(Parent’s gross income)          (Child’s needs)
______________________       X    _______________
(Total gross income of both parents)

For example: If the child’s combined expenses amount to R6 000 per month, maintenance is calculated as follows: 

Total monthly expenses of child = R6 000
Parent A gross income = R40 000
Parent B gross income = R20 000
Total gross income of Parents (father & mother) = R60 000
Father’s contribution = R4 000
Mother’s contribution = R2 000

Therefore: 
Parent A will pay two thirds of the child’s expenses each month: R4 000
Parent B will pay one third of the child’s expenses each month: R2 000

Maintenance cannot be measured in monetary terms alone. Usually the parent who cares for the child on a daily basis indirectly contributes towards maintenance because of the time they spend together. 

Notwithstanding this, both parents still have a financial obligation to pay maintenance in accordance with their means, income and expenditures.

Maintenance adjustments

Maintenance may also need to be adjusted regularly, for reasons such as the annual increase in accordance with the Consumer Price Index; the changing needs of the child; or a change in the financial position of the parents. 

Once the need for change in maintenance arises, whether this be to file a new application; seek to vary an existing court order or settlement agreement, the applicant can request that the maintenance court: 

  • Set aside an existing maintenance order; 
  • Decrease a current order; 
  • Amend a current order; 
  • Change an existing order; or 
  • Make a new maintenance order

A parent’s duty to support further also only comes to an end when the child becomes self-supporting. 

However, a parents supporting duty could revive should the child cease to be self-supporting for reasons such as: ill health or disability. It must also be noted that a child having reached majority is not supported in the same manner as a minor child.

Van Deventer & Van Deventer Incorporated - Divorce Attorneys Cape Town 

For child maintenance advice and more information about child maintenance court please contact Van Deventer & Van Deventer Incorporated today. 
 

 

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