Children of Single Parents Need Support from Courts

16th August 2017 | By | Reply More

Single mothers are not the ones in need of support from courts – our Children are the ones who desperately need support from our courts.

News24 article, ‘Single mothers need support from courts’, 2017-08-01, by Aishah Cassiem refers:

If a single mother is raising her child without the financial support of the child’s father, it is the child’s rights which are being violated, not the mother’s. It is not the mother who is entitled to child maintenance, it is the child who is entitled to child maintenance. Therefore, the father who is not paying child maintenance is acting in contravention of the child’s rights to (b)parental care and (d)protection from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation. The child is the one who needs support from the courts in this case.

There seems to be a prevalent misconception among fathers that child maintenance benefits the mother of the child and therefore they resist or even refuse to pay it. Although that is simply not true, it is the root of many drawn out maintenance disputes, which has to be eradicated.

Section 28 of the Bill of Rights, entitled “Children”, says:

  1. Every child has the right to –
    1. a name and a nationality from birth;
    2. family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment;
    3. basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;
    4. be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;
    5. be protected from exploitative labour practices
    6. not be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that –
      1. are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age; or
      2. place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development;
    7. not be detained except as a measure of last resort, in which case, in addition to the rights a child enjoys under sections 12 and 35, the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time, and has the right to be –
      1. kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18 years; and
      2. is treated in a manner, and kept in conditions, that take account of the child’s age;
    8. have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state, and at state expense, in civil proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise result; and
    9. not be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times of armed conflict.
  2. A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.
  3. In this section ‘child’ means a person under the age of 18 years.

This applies to any child of a single parent, be it the mother or the father, raising a child without the other parent paying child maintenance. If a parent does not contribute to the maintenance of his/her child, that parent is not giving (b)parental care and guilty of (d)maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation of that child.

In the event that any parent of a minor child does not pay child maintenance, the child’s right to (h)have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state, and at state expense, should be enforced with immediate effect, by the state. Otherwise, (h)substantial injustice would result. This state appointed legal practitioner, which is the Family Advocate or anyone appointed by them, has to bring the defaulting parent to justice by appropriate means, at the expense of the state. It is not the responsibility of one parent, such as a single mother, to initiate and drive the required legal action against the defaulting parent, at her own expense. The parent who is providing proper care for a child, is merely in a position to report the defaulting parent to the Family Advocate and provide whatever proof thereof they possess.

As a child’s (2)best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child, the onus is on the Family Advocate to act immediately with investigation, mediation and/or litigation in order to protect the child’s best interests, with urgent resolution of the matter. It is common knowledge that matters reported to the Family Advocate in South Africa, generally take up to two years to be actioned with a recommendation and court appearance. The poor child suffers up to two years of all kinds of neglect!

Among several organisations, a Facebook group of more than 15 000 members exist in South Africa, where complaints are posted daily about the appalling state of affairs in our maintenance courts. The lack of basic legal & procedural knowledge, extremely unprofessional service and utter disregard for compassionate support is rife. As a result, millions of children suffer maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation, because their basic right to parental care is not protected by the state, as promised.

Vulnerable children are robbed of their only parental care, as single parents are forced out of their primary caregiving roles, into years of financially crippling, emotionally devastating, legal warfare. The best interests of our children are blatantly disregarded when their only responsible parent is expected to fight a losing battle with the other often disloyal, dishonest and disinterested parent. These drawn out court cases violate our children’s right to be cared for and protected by those who really love them and want to be in their lives.

Any parent who is constantly in conflict with the other parent and stressed by the daily challenges of breadwinning as well as raising a child, will feel overwhelmed. The uncertain outcome of a maintenance claim, anxiety about the livelihood of his/her family and the embarrassment about their dire circumstances will only make matters worse. Furthermore, to be disappointed by the futility of the legal process in which we trust and depend upon and humiliated by insensitive court officials, will make it impossible for any parent to sustain the best parental care for their child.

On the other hand, if our courts offer proper support to our children by protecting their basic rights, then their single parents will feel supported too. If a qualified and experienced independent legal practitioner implements an effective, speedy process to hold both parents accountable for parental care, the caring parents will be able to rely on justice and focus on parenting to the best of their abilities. That way, the child’s basic right to parental care is honoured.

Our courts inflict the gravest injustice of all on our vulnerable children, with gross violation of their basic human rights, due to poor management and implementation of our legal system and resources. If a child is not supported in the best and most efficient way possible, to at least sustain the care of one accountable parent, let alone both parents, then they fail miserably!


Written by Sinta Ebersohn (Creator of – Stellenbosch RSA)

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Category: Anxiety, Financial, Litigation, Maintenance, Mental, Parenting Plan, Practical, Single Parenting, Stress, Support Network, Technical

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