Am I up for this: A Maintenance Court Sequel

Over the weekend I received an email from a single mom with maintenance related questions.  I am very grateful and humbled to admit that my life has changed so much and the maintenance money isn’t an absolute necessity that I have to have.  The emails between this mom and I, did however get me to think and I could almost say relive some of those anxious and infuriating emotions.  

Some of the details of our emails I would like to relay here: 

In my initial reply I mentioned that the maintenance court is a lengthy process.  I mentioned that the more information you have – contact numbers, addresses: work address, home address, girlfriend’s address – the better your chances of the person receiving the summons.  

The delay in receiving the summons from a person in Pretoria to another person in Pretoria is between 4-6 weeks.  If the person does not receive the summons, he will not know to be in court.  And you will need to have him summoned again.  This is a torturous waste of time that I have experiences twice in my life (consecutively) 

In the event that the Sperm-Donor (SD) skipped a payment and you want to make the court aware of this or sue him for the outstanding.  You will need to wait until he has skipped the maintenance payments for a minimum of two full months before the court takes you seriously.  This was how it was in my case at least!  

When I opened the case against my SD, he was summons to court, on the first encounter he was asked whether he will represent himself, whether he will appoint a lawyer and that he can apply for legal aid.  We were then given another date to be back in court again (10-14 days later).  It is an up and down, back and forth kind of experience.  

Over the 3 months of going back and forth to the court, he managed to pay the maintenance and a little bit towards the outstanding maintenance.  On the day that we were about to set a date for the start of the trial, the court manager told me that the best thing for me to do was to withdraw the lawsuit because it looked good on paper that he had paid the maintenance for three consecutive months.  His legal representative drew up a document advising how he would settle the outstanding money. 

What I am trying to say, is that the court doesn’t just garnish salaries left, right and center.  They follow a procedure, covering all grounds.  I think for the most part, all I am doing is to keep a paper trail; the SD is bound to start running out of excuses at some point in time.

The maintenance court experience is at no time fun.  It is hard!  If you are up for it, my best advice would be, do not hold your breath thinking things will work out in a month or two.  Find an alternative way of managing financially.  I have learnt not to bargain on that money, if I get the maintenance, bonus I settle debt, I splurge a bit on things we don’t really need, I save that money.  I don’t bargain on it and I certainly do not include it when working on my budget.  

**  What I haven’t had time to deal with emotionally or physically is for the SD to have skipped the maintenance payment and the portion of the outstanding money he was suppose to pay at the beginning of September.  So the question in my thoughts is simple – Am I up for this?  **

Surname Change and Abandonment Act

If I am honest, the whole maintenance court experience was not all bad, I got to ask Sperm-Donor’s Legal Aid representative some questions.  I hated her, because she represented him.  He managed to get Legal Aid, not because he fell in the salary bracket to qualify for Legal Aid but because he was unemployed.  And he was unemployed because he was negligent, he was comfortable and arrogant.

(She was however nice enough)

I asked her whether there will be a procedure I would need to follow if I changed Logan’s surname, as I intended to. The good news is that this would not be a problem at all, as long as I have the documentation to prove Logan is still the same Logan.  And worse case scenario, we would need to do a paternity test to prove this!

I also asked her, where, how will I be able to implement the abandonment act (when I am really) where the Sperm-Donor will lose all right to be a father to Logan. She advised that I would be able to represent myself and that I would need to go to the High Court as this involved the status of a person.

One step at a time however, I will get there!

It looks good on paper:

Yesterday was what seems to be the end of my monthly trips to the maintenance court.  I am not sure what I was expecting, to me it was a process of going through the ropes and yesterday would have been the start of the trail.  What I have been going back and forth for the past five odd months!

At the court I was asked (not by the judge, but by the court administrator) whether I wanted to continue with the trail.  The reason for this question was, that the Sperm-Donor seemed to have learnt his lesson:

The fact that he managed to pay maintenance for the past TWO MONTHS and a bit extra looks good on paper.

I was boiling with anger.  His pattern is to stop paying, he has never paid for longer than 12 consecutive months, what gives them the right to speak on his behalf?  His legal aid representative was asked to draft a document and get us to sign this, it says something along the following lines:

I, Sperm-Donor know I have not been paying maintenance for SEVEN AND A HALF months and I plan on paying the arrear maintenance over the course of the next TWENTY months.  If I should fail at doing so, the mother can go through this whole SEVEN AND A HALF MONTH procedure again, while my kid will cut back on the basics a kid should really get to enjoy.

It is just not fair!  Like I said I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I sure as hell wasn’t expecting an “It looks good on paper” comment when I have been battling to make ends meet!

The trick is in the paper-trail:

It has been pretty much a hectic day for me.  This morning the Maintenance Court (Court O) was graced with my presence.  Court O is a very scary place to be honest!  In the past I found myself in the basement of the court with million of other individuals crammed into a tiny space.  Your name is called and you (and the sperm-donor) along with a maintenance officer talk things through!

 

Court O is on the second floor, in a proper court – the type you read about in books.  The type you see in movies!  There is no list to confirm whether you are at the right place or not.  You wait (that much couldn’t possibly change – maintenance court and wait may as well be the same thing!!). 

So while waiting in the corridors you talk to moms with (hopefully) more experience than you do.  You hear their stories and you share your situation.  The stories that come out is honestly shocking!

The Sperm-Donor was there.  Well he was late, but better late than never I suppose!  He didn’t even say “good morning, how is my kid?”  Instead he sat in the spot I was sitting in (I was early) and left me to sit in the front row, which was quite exciting in the end (you get close up’s of all the dad’s sperm-donors).  After what felt like ages (I suppose I should count myself lucky, before morning-tea) my sperm-donor was called to the stand.

I wouldn’t call him highly intelligent or anything, but I think he followed the pattern of the other dads who said that a.) they would pay lawyers or b.) they would apply for legal aid.  Pity he didn’t follow some of the dads who paid the arrear maintenance before coming to court!  Oh well!  I’m sure he doesn’t realise how little he needs to earn in order to qualify for legal aid.  Then again maybe he is still unemployed in which case the judge should k@k him out for wasting time with legal aid when he could be looking for a job!

In short:  I’m going to the maintenance court again on the 7th of May!  And I am absolutely thrilled!

In the end I think the paper trail will speak for itself,  until then all you can do is vas-byt and to follow the procedure! 

Photo Credit

Writing about it always helps…

After yesterday’s dramatic post, I felt a hell of a lot better.  Just placing things into perspective gave me enough energy to a.) Phone UNISA  b.) push through things mentally and c.) well, let’s not push it!

The good news is, I will be able to write exams and finish the modules I have taken this semester regardless of whether or not they have cancelled the modules due to outstanding fees. 

In other words I really should get off my sorrowful ass and start studying.  No point failing the exams, right?

Lastly I feel like I may have enough energy to get my ducks in a row even further and plan research all the things I want mentioned in the maintenance court!

{ photo credit }