News | South Africa
Fathers have described the Maintenance Act as “barbaric” as they fight to keep up with maintenance orders while being alienated from their biological children.
A father from the West Rand said his 11-year battle to have a relationship with his 15-year-old daughter has completely ruined him.
“The Maintenance Act is biased and barbaric in its execution,” the father, who did not want to be named to protect the identity of the child.
The father said although the case was opened in 2011, the court order issued in March 2012 was the beginning of his financial ruin.
“I had to take out a second bond on my home to pay the applicant’s, or mother’s, legal costs, plus my costs. These amounted R250 000,” he said.
He said he has not recovered financially from the court ruling which saw a garnishee order granted against him in April 2014.
“This ultimately led to my retrenchment a year later.
“I had been working at the company for over 14 years,” the father said.
The father said all the financial stress and trauma led to him suffering a heart attack in August 2016, which further set him back financially.
“I’m still R30 000 in arrears with the attorneys.
“I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of rands purely on legal representation. This situation has practically made me bankrupt,” he added.
The father said the Maintenance Act was extremely harsh on parents who simply don’t have the finances to meet the court order.
He has applied for a maintenance reduction five times with no luck.
“The entire 11 years have constituted sheer misery. I’m both financially and emotionally exhausted,” he said.
The father said all the money spent on defending himself could easily have gone to his daughter. Another desperate father, Louis Joubert, said he has been alienated from his 11-year-old daughter since her birth. Joubert said he felt like a sperm donor.
“I’m sad about my daughter. It’s been 11 years of alienation by family,” Joubert added. Joubert said during a sessionwith a newly appointed social worker earlier this month it was clear to him that no-one considered the suffering of his daughter.
“My child has gone through so many evaluations by psychologists and social workers that there is nothing more that any other professional could add.
“The problem is not with my child, but with the biological mother,” he said.
Joubert said mediation between himself and the biological mother was important.
“I have given our child to God. God’s plan for her is superior to mine,” he said.
Joubert said he hasn’t seen his daughter since June last year and was hoping to see her before he was due in court again, on 20 October.
Fathers4Justice founder Gary da Silva said fathers were simply not the problem any more. Da Silva said government had blatantly ignored their recommendations. “The government has tried to reintroduce the maternal preference rule which was declared illegal years ago.”
Da Silva said the current amendments to the Children’s Act want to maintain the status quo.
“In the instance of Section 31, reintroducing the maternal reference rule will further alienate fathers and children from one another,” he added.
Da Silva said a public hearing was done in North West, but in the rest of the provinces they have been postponed until after the municipal elections.
“If the government does not want to implement the changes as demanded, then it must shut up about the 70% faithlessness rate in South Africa,” Da Silva said.