Women’s ongoing battle to secure child maintenance from fathers has been dealt another blow due to the current economic climate which has resulted in an increase in errant fathers.
Mitchell’s Plain maintenance court officer Glenthea Kannemeyer said there has been an increase of about 15% in maintenance defaulters due to the recession as a lot of the fathers have lost their jobs.
Kannemeyer said their office had also a tremendous increase in applications for reductions in child maintenance as a lot of the respondents have been put on short-time as the companies could no longer afford to pay them their full salaries.
She said garnishing orders have also “most definitely” been affected as many of them could not be honoured due to a lack of available funds.
However, in cases where a respondent has been retrenched and unable to pay maintenance, the court would make orders against the grandparents if they had the means to support their grandchild or children.
Paralegal advisor at the Saartjie Baartman Centre, Charmaine Morris, said the present economic climate was definitely impacting on child maintenance due to job losses, and the fact that unemployed fathers also found it increasingly difficult to secure an income.
Morris said this, and the drawn out process of getting a maintenance defaulter to prove that they were seeking work, often resulted in women trying to seek employment for themselves, increasing the burden on themselves as child carers.
“They rather find their own employment because trying to get maintenance is so exhausting.”
Women’s Legal Centre attorney Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker said it was no surprise that the current economic climate impacted negatively on maintenance support.
Fayker said the economic recession was also a perfect opportunity for some fathers to shy away from their responsibilities and some purposely did not work in the formal sector.
Senior Prosecutor at the National Prosecuting Authority in the Western Cape, Nigel Jones, said although there were no figures yet available to indicate how severely the present economic climate impacted child maintenance payments, he said: “I would assume that poverty stricken areas are likely to feel it more”.