Updated 30 January 2020
In a divorce where minor children are involved, the one area of the divorce settlement is a maintenance agreement, wherein the amount of maintenance payable as child support and the method of payment is described.
Child maintenance calculations are often hotly debated after the final divorce and as time goes on, owing to the fact that situations change. It may be when a child leaves home to attend University, a change in living arrangements or a change in financial circumstances of either party. Parents of minor children should always be aware of the effect disagreements over maintenance can have on a child and minimize any conflict over maintenance when the children are within earshot.
It is not so much the calculation of the maintenance for each child that results in disagreements, but the affordability of the maintenance and the apportionment in relation to what each person earns.
Calculating child maintenance
Essentially, child maintenance is calculated as a percentage of each parents income divided proportionately to meet the children’s needs.
Lets us use an example of a woman who has custody of 2 children earning R10 000/month and a father who earns R15 000 per month. The father does not have custody of any other children.
The children’s needs are taken into account as a percentage of the total household expenditure divided proportionately. 2/3 of the rent, 2/3 of the food cost, 2/3 of the cleaning cost etc.
Let us assume that the total cost of living in the custodial parents home is R9 000. That amount would be two thirds apportioned to the children giving us a total of R6 000.
How is child maintenance divided between the parents
In order to calculate who pays what, we take the both parents income, add it together and then divide the individual parents income by the total to give a proportion of the children’s costs to be paid by each parent.
In this example the mother or custodial parent would be responsible for 40% of the childrens costs and the father 60%.
The maintenance order would be made against the father, who would now be responsible to pay R3 600 in maintenance to the children’s mother. The method of payment, be it by deposit into an account or payment of certain things like medical aid etc, will be specified along with the date it is due.
What to include in a child maintenance cost calculation
In order to calculate the cost of a child, it is a good idea to download the application for child maintenance form from the family court website.
For non custodial parents, this is a very good starting point and will help you understand how the courts view the cost of a child and the items they use to calculate child maintenance.
How to manage child maintenance as time goes on
The countries maintenance courts are very busy due to many parents being unable to agree on the amount of maintenance and the calculation of living expenses, and unfortunately, the children are most likely to suffer the consequences of bickering parents who waste untold amounts of money in legal fees fighting over a few Rand. The calculation is very simple and straight forward, parents need to be honest with one another and they will all save a lot of money and enjoy better relationships with their children.
What happens when a child leaves home to attend University?
When one child leaves home to attend university, the calculations are based on the same principle outlined above, the proportions will change, but the principle remains the same for the calculation of the child remaining at the custodial home.
There are many such scenarios, like the increase in costs of schooling or the requirement for extra mural activities not previously catered for.
These types of potential disagreements are endless and parents should be communicating with one another to determine the affordability and adjustment of maintenance going forward.
Before you commit to any expenditure or costs, consult your former spouse and agree on payment thereof.