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Prison time for maintenance non-payment

Written by Solomon Mahlangu
Parents who default on child maintenance could face jail time.

Child maintenance defaulters have nowhere to hide, thanks to a new law that could see them face serious consequences for failing to take care of their children financially.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) introduced the new Maintenance Amendment Act in January 2018.

According to the Act, parents who do not pay child maintenance can be blacklisted at credit bureaus; face jail time for a period not longer than three years; face imprisonment with the option of paying a fine; have interest added to their arrears; and even have their property or salary attached.

 “As a department, we pride ourselves on the interventions that we continue to initiate to improve maintenance systems and ensure that children are taken care of,” said the Deputy Minister of DOJ&CD John Jeffery.

 The new amendments to the Act specify that if a parent responsible for maintenance cannot be traced, the court may issue an order to an electronic communication service provider, such as Vodacom, MTN, Cell C or Telkom, to provide the court with their contact information.

The order may only be granted if the court is satisfied that all reasonable efforts to locate the defaulter have failed.

The costs will be funded by the state, if the complainant cannot afford it. The court may also order the defaulter to refund the state for these costs.

The department is also working on a tool to monitor the implementation of the Act. It will be rolled out to the courts after the testing and piloting phases this year.

If the respondent fails to pay for maintenance within the specified time, complaints can report the matter to the Maintenance Offices. The court will follow these steps;

1. Enforce maintenance by:

  •  Emolument attachment, which means taking the money from the defaulterís salary.
  •  Attachment of debt, which allows the court to take the money from the defaulterís investment account.
  •   Execution of movable or immovable property, which means taking property from the defaulter and auctioning. The money recieved will be used to maintain the child.

2. Start criminal proceedings: The magistrate will issue a warrant of arrest if the respondent fails to comply with a court order.

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