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Government coming for child maintenance defaulters

Johannesburg – Child maintenance defaulters will soon have nowhere to hide. The Department of Justice and Correctional Services will soon start using registered cellphone and telephone numbers, company registrations, credit profiles, court judgments, property purchases, sales and transfers as well as vehicle regulations, to trace child maintenance defaulters. 

The government believes this will ease dependency on social grants.

But the women who have been battling with maintenance arrears say they have very little faith in the latest announcement.

Justice Department spokesperson Stephans Mahlangu said the department will unleash data sources to trace the whereabouts of persons to investigate maintenance cases, and enforce other related enforcement orders.

“After the introduction of the amended Maintenance Act, the department embarked on a communication campaign and people were informed through radio, TV, outreach programmes and information sessions and social media about the new laws relating to the tracing of the defaulters. The project is not ambitious and overdue. At this stage the Department is seeking to enhance the already existing system.”

The system will be able to list all enquiries made on a defaulter or beneficiary including information of the person making the enquiry, and those made by courts.

Investigators are expected to make use of Consumer Protection Act data indicating the defaulter or beneficiary or their company’s financial ability and viability.

Mahlangu said the department has controls in place to comply with the POPI Act.

“Only designated officials will be trained and given access to the system and the utilization of the system will also be monitored on a weekly basis by the supervisors of the designated officials and there will be no unauthorized usage of the system.”

Mahlangu stressed that the proposed system will be secure, protecting information against infiltration by unscrupulous third parties and unauthorised users, allowing the department to monitor usage and trace it back to an unauthorised user.

Tracing is expected to be available in about 600 magistrate’s courts and Department of Justice and Constitutional Development regional offices across the country.

But the announcement offers little comfort to Sarah Smith (not her real name) who has been battling for the last six years to get R143 000 in child maintenance arrears, from her ex husband.

“I hope that the latest move by the department can work although nothing stops them from changing their numbers – it will only work if it is a contract cell number – use my ex as an example, we have been divorced since 2015 and he has changed his number three times,” she said.

Smith is part of a Facebook group, Child Support – maintenance issue – SA, which has 30 247 members, all lamenting the same challenges in getting child support. 

Smith said she has to take off from work to pursue her case: “Having to go to court on a Tuesday to see the maintenance officer and sitting there the whole day to get an update on your case or follow up on a payment. He defaulted on the maintenance agreement from the word go, didn’t honour anything that was stipulated in the divorce agreement. Also, the turnaround time on lodging a complaint and getting results is very poor.”

In Smith’s case, her ex-husband ended up in jail for defaulting, was released and signed a new court order for reduced maintenance, and defaulted on that as well.

“I am still waiting for results on getting outstanding maintenance that is over R100 000 – he is getting away with and it and living the life. I think they ( maintenance court) are inundated with the same problems and haven’t got the manpower to tackle the matter in an efficient manner. My file also mysteriously disappeared and after I wrote to the KZN Department of Justice it was miraculously found the next day – its just a constant fight from this side with no real help.” said the frustrated mother of two.

Smith who is the breadwinner in her family, said after her file was lost, she had to start the process from scratch.

“Back to square one – it takes long and is frustrating the problem is that they allow him to pay it off as if its a retail account – those expenses have been paid long ago – there is no system that makes him liable to pay the arrears immediately, e.g. force him to make a loan to pay the whole amount once and for all and close the matter,” she said.

The Department is currently dealing with more than 3000 default cases. The number has slightly increased due to Covid-19 related challenges as many people lost their jobs in the year 2020, but the department said 80% of the people against whom maintenance orders have been issued are paying regularly.

Reprinted from IOL by Norman Cloete

Some links added by SD Law

If he still won’t pay

A maintenance order may be made as a result of a divorce decree or an unmarried mother may seek child support from the father of her child. Sometimes, despite court orders, payments lapse. This can cause extreme difficulty if the income of one parent alone is insufficient to cover the costs of raising the child. But often the parent in these circumstances… usually the mother… feels powerless to enforce the maintenance order. Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. can help. If you are not receiving the financial support you are owed by the father of your child, call Simon at Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za. We will ensure you get the child maintenance you are due.

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Disclaimer

The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.