31 July 2020
ATTENTION: Maintenance Defaulters – Prison is now a Real Prospect!
According the Maintenance Act of South Africa, all parents have a duty to support their children. This responsibility, through our law, has been deemed to be so vital that parents who fail in this duty can be convicted and sentenced to a prison term. This is borne out by a recent legal judgment handed down in Krugersdorp by Magistrate Abdul Khan where a father was sentenced to a four-and-a-half-year prison-term for failure to adhere to his duty to pay spousal and child maintenance.
There are many cases where spouses are turning to courts and/or alternative dispute resolution processes in order to ensure that they receive the spousal and child support that they are entitled to. These disputes are having the effect of loading an already burdened judicial system. This recent case is a sure sign that the courts are no longer taking maintenance defaulters lightly and therefore it is our view that their sanctions will become ever more punitive.
In this case the father, who was a successful businessman harassed his ex-wife using underhand tactics to ensure that the Mother and Son never received the maintenance that they were entitled to. The Magistrate went as far as to state that he was “shocked” to discover that the Mother was threatened with arrest, disappearance, and civil suits to withdraw her case. The Mother testified as to the horrific circumstances her and her children had to endure in this three-year legal struggle, living a life in abject poverty. Magistrate Khan went as far as stressing the rights of women and children in his judgment.
Even though this judgement was handed down in a lower court and does not set legal precedent, it is likely that this case will most definitely be referenced in future Maintenance hearings and is possibly the start of the Judiciary taking a far stricter view in these types of matters.
To conclude I leave you with the words of Magistrate Khan:
“You have been convicted of an offence against the most vulnerable members of society, a woman and a child. And this is not any woman, and it is not any child… this is the other of your two sons, and the child is your own son.”
Should you have any queries or any advice concerning regarding Maintenance matters, feel free to contact us at Van Schalkwyk Attorneys on 012 346-3668.