Application for a reduction in maintenance

Child maintenance can be decreased by a parent for a number of reasons by mutual agreement or by making an application for a reduction. Of course there are certain circumstances where one would expect maintenance obligations to be automatically reduced, for example in the event that a child leaves home and becomes self supporting. This is a very logical deduction but this is not the case.

Do not make the mistake of reducing your maintenance payments in any scenario without agreement with your ex spouse or until you have consulted an attorney. A maintenance order is an order of court and unless it is amended or substituted it stands and you are liable for the amount of the order.

Other grounds for a reduction in maintenance payments are, changed financial circumstances like a change in earnings, a change in the living arrangements of your spouse, a child leaving home, a child receiving a bursary or any financial aid for education. Basically changed circumstances are any circumstances which involve a change in earnings or costs.

For example, let us assume that a child maintenance calculation determines that the custodial parent is responsible for 40% of the children’s expenses and the parent not living with the children is responsible for 60% of the costs. The costs of the children include a contribution to a vehicle payment, the bond or rent, travelling etc and the custodial parent receives a vehicle as a gift from a boyfriend now living on the same property that the children live at.

This is a material change and grounds for a reduction in maintenance. The car repayment at the time of the order must be deducted from the expenses and the division of contributions to the bond/rent, rates/water must also be reduced.

The best way to go about this is to come to a private reasonable arrangement with your ex to reduce the maintenance which then needs to be reduced to writing and made an order of court. Do not forget to have it made an order of court or the original order stands and should you and your ex fall out, you would be liable retrospectively for the original order amount and could be in for a lengthy and expensive court proceeding to have it made an order.

A section 10 hearing for the reduction of maintenance can be very lengthy and involves a full investigation into earnings and expenses of both parties. Always have the best interests of the children in mind!