Enforcing Foreign Maintenance Orders: A Comprehensive Guide


In today’s interconnected world, relationships often transcend geographical boundaries. However, when parents living in different countries separate, the responsibility for child maintenance can become a complex issue. If, for some reason, the parent living in a foreign country stops paying maintenance, you might wonder if there are legal steps you can take to enforce the maintenance order.

The Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act 80 of 1963 regulates foreign maintenance processes. It is a piece of legislation that makes provisions for South African parents to have their maintenance orders enforced in proclaimed foreign countries and vice versa.

The intricacies involved in enforcing child maintenance orders across borders can be extensive, but luckily there are legal steps that can aid you in this endeavour. To better understand these steps and the procedures involved, we’ll delve deeper into the key aspects of this process, providing you with essential information to help you on your path to enforcing your foreign maintenance order.


What Is A Maintenance Order?

A maintenance order is a legally binding directive issued by a court that outlines one party’s financial obligations towards another, typically after the dissolution of a marriage or partnership. This order ensures that the party responsible for making payments provides consistent financial support to the other party, often a spouse or partner, based on their financial capabilities.


Does South African Law Support Foreign Maintenance Orders?

Indeed, South African law supports the enforcement of foreign maintenance orders. This legal framework underscores the importance of recognizing and honouring maintenance orders issued in other countries, facilitating international cooperation to ensure that financial obligations are met, even across borders.

This alignment with international legal principles enables individuals to seek justice and receive the support they deserve. One key thing to note here is that South Africa does not have reciprocal enforcement of maintenance order agreements with all foreign countries, only those recognized under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act.


What Is The Reciprocal Enforcement Of Maintenance Orders Act?

At the heart of the international enforcement of maintenance orders lies the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act (REMO Act). This act is a robust mechanism that streamlines the enforcement of maintenance orders between South Africa and foreign countries.

The REMO Act outlines the procedures and protocols for recognizing and enforcing maintenance orders, creating a structured framework that enhances legal cooperation among countries.


Which Countries Have Reciprocal Agreements With South Africa?

South Africa has proactively entered into reciprocal agreements with numerous countries, each with its nuances and terms. These agreements aim to facilitate the seamless enforcement of maintenance orders across borders, ensuring that the welfare of individuals and dependents remains a priority.

Some countries with which South Africa has reciprocal agreements include Hong Kong, Nigeria, Swaziland, Mauritius, Lesotho, Canada, Namibia, Isle of Man, Fiji, New Zealand, Botswana, Germany, United States of America, St Helena, Australia, Sarawak, Kenya, Cyprus, Guernsey, Isle of Jersey, Cocoa Islands, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Norfolk Island, Singapore, and Malawi.

These agreements reflect the global commitment to upholding financial responsibilities in the context of international relationships.


What Documents Will You Need To Enforce A Foreign Maintenance Order?

Enforcing a foreign maintenance order requires a meticulous approach, including submitting specific documentation. Among the essential documents, you will need:

  • Four certified duplicates of the preliminary court decree.
  • Four certified copies of the sworn statements provided by the plaintiff or a court representative specifying the outstanding amount under the decree.
  • Four certified copies of the sworn statement or testimony presented by the plaintiff.
  • The physical location and/or workplace address of the respondent.
  • A picture and a detailed description of the respondent.
  • The original proof (such as marriage certificates, birth records, photos, etc.) cited in the plaintiff’s statement or testimony, properly authenticated as required or as an affidavit.


Procedure Protocol From South Africa To A Foreign Country

Understanding the procedure protocol will give you some much-needed insight into this process. Let’s explore the procedure from South Africa to a foreign country and shed light on the vital steps involved in this cross-border process.

  • Registration of your maintenance order or documentation.
  • South African Court (Documentation through Protocol) – The maintenance order gets submitted to the South African court that issued it to initiate the process.
  • Department of Justice and Constitutional Development – Once the order receives approval from the South African court, it gets forwarded to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
  • Department of International Relations and Cooperation – The Department of International Relations and Cooperation becomes a key player, facilitating the diplomatic channels through which the order will travel.
  • The South African High Commission (Canada, London, USA, Namibia, etc.) – The relevant South African High Commission becomes instrumental depending on the destination country.
  • The Court in the Foreign Country (For registration and enforcement of the order) – Upon reaching the foreign country, the order is presented to the court with jurisdiction. This court oversees the registration and subsequent enforcement of the order within its legal framework.


Procedure Protocol From A Foreign Country To South Africa

Navigating the enforcement of maintenance orders from a foreign country to South Africa requires a well-defined procedure protocol. This protocol outlines the intricate steps that ensure the effective recognition and execution of maintenance obligations, transcending international borders.

  • South Africa High Commission in Canada, London, USA, Namibia, etc. – The process commences as the foreign country’s maintenance order is presented to the relevant South African High Commission.
  • The Court in the Foreign Country – The court that issued the maintenance order overseas becomes a focal point in this protocol. This court’s endorsement and authentication of the order provide the foundation for its recognition in South Africa.
  • Department of Foreign Affairs (SA) – The Department of Foreign Affairs in South Africa is critical in facilitating the diplomatic channels through which the maintenance order will travel.
  • Department of Justice and Constitutional Development – Once the order arrives in South Africa, it is directed to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
  • South African Courts (Confirmation and registration of the Order) – The final steps of the protocol involve presenting the maintenance order to the relevant South African courts.


The enforcement of foreign maintenance orders involves intricate legal processes and cross-border cooperation. At Burnett Attorneys & Notaries, we specialize in guiding you through these complexities, ensuring that your rights and responsibilities are upheld no matter where you or your former partner reside.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to enforce a foreign maintenance order, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced team. We are here to provide expert advice and support throughout this journey.