4 Options To Enforce Child Maintenance Orders In South Africa: A Guide For Parents


Ensuring your child receives the financial support they are entitled to can be challenging, especially if the other parent does not comply with court-ordered maintenance payments. Several legal avenues are available in South Africa to enforce child maintenance orders. So, what four standard options can you take to enforce child maintenance orders in South Africa?

To enforce a child maintenance order in South Africa, you have four legal options: Warrant of Execution, Emoluments Attachment Order, Attachment of Debt, and Section 31: Criminal Prosecution. Each option provides a different mechanism to ensure the defaulting parent meets their financial obligations.

If your ex-partner has been neglecting their duty to pay child maintenance, it’s crucial to understand the steps you can take to rectify the situation. Let’s dive into the specifics of each enforcement method, starting with a brief overview of what child maintenance entails.


Child Maintenance: What Is It?

Child maintenance is a legal obligation imposed on parents to support their children financially, as mandated by the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 and the Maintenance Act 99 of 1998. This support is essential for covering the costs of education, healthcare, clothing, and other basic needs.

When a court issues a child maintenance order, it stipulates the amount and frequency of payments the non-custodial parent must make to support their child, ensuring clarity and accountability in fulfilling parental responsibilities.


4 Legal Options For Enforcing Child Maintenance

When the other parent fails to comply with court-ordered child maintenance payments, several legal avenues are available to enforce these orders effectively. Here are four key options to help you secure the support your child deserves.


1. Warrant Of Execution

A Warrant of Execution allows the maintenance officer to seize and sell the defaulting parent’s movable assets to cover the owed maintenance. This process begins with applying to the court for the warrant, which, once issued, authorizes the sheriff to identify and attach the defaulter’s property. The proceeds from the sale of these assets are then used to pay the outstanding child maintenance.


2. Emoluments Attachment Order (Garnishee Order)

An Emoluments Attachment Order, commonly known as a garnishee order, directly deducts the owed maintenance from the defaulting parent’s salary. This order is served on the employer, who is legally required to deduct the specified amount from the employee’s wages and pay it directly to the maintenance beneficiary.

This method ensures regular payments and is particularly effective if the defaulter is employed and earning a steady income. Additionally, under Section 37D of the Pension Funds Act 24 of 1956, an outstanding amount can be deducted from the defaulter’s pension fund, as permitted by Section 26(4) of the Maintenance Act.


3. Attachment Of Debt

The Attachment of Debt is a method where the court directs any third party who owes money to the defaulting parent to pay the owed maintenance directly. For example, if the defaulter has funds in a bank account or is expecting a payment from a debtor, such as rent, these funds can be redirected to cover the maintenance arrears. This option can be effective when the defaulter has financial resources but is unwilling to comply with maintenance payments.


4. Section 31: Criminal Prosecution

Under Section 31 of the Maintenance Act, a parent who fails to comply with a maintenance order can face criminal prosecution, including imprisonment for a period not longer than three years or imprisonment with the choice of paying a fine. This approach involves laying a criminal charge against the defaulting parent, who may be summoned to court.

This method is often seen as a last resort but can be a powerful deterrent against non-compliance. Failure to pay can also adversely affect your credit record and may be reported to your credit providers.


Documents Needed To Prove Default On Child Maintenance Orders

To pursue these enforcement options, you must provide certain documents to prove that the other parent has defaulted on their child’s maintenance obligations. These documents typically include:

  • The original maintenance order issued by the court
  • Proof of payments received (or lack thereof), such as bank statements or receipts
  • Any correspondence with the defaulter regarding the maintenance payments
  • A detailed account of the arrears owed


Having these documents ready will streamline the legal process and help build a strong case for enforcement.


Essential Aspects To Remember In Child Maintenance Cases

When dealing with child maintenance enforcement, there are a few critical aspects to keep in mind:

  • Persistence and Patience: The legal process can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. It’s crucial to remain persistent and patient throughout the process.
  • Legal Advice: Seeking advice from an attorney experienced in family law can provide valuable guidance and improve your chances of a successful outcome. They can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system while representing your interests effectively.
  • Child’s Best Interest: Always remember that the primary goal of child maintenance is to support your child’s well-being. Keeping this focus can help you stay motivated and committed to seeking justice for your child.
  • Individual Case Consideration: Understand that each case is different, and the courts will consider the information presented for each case on its own merits. The judgment will be based on the unique circumstances and evidence provided.


Enforcing child maintenance orders in South Africa involves a range of legal options designed to ensure that children receive the required financial support. Whether through asset seizure, salary deductions, debt attachment, or criminal prosecution, these mechanisms provide effective solutions for parents facing non-compliance from the other parent. By understanding and utilizing these options, you can take decisive action to uphold your child’s right to maintenance.

Our team at Burnett Attorneys has extensive experience with child maintenance cases, understands the complexities and sensitivities involved in such matters, and is committed to providing you with knowledgeable guidance and support at every step. Whether you need assistance with enforcement proceedings or legal advice or have questions about child maintenance, we are here to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance tailored to your specific needs and concerns.