Pursuant to Section 68 of the Women’s Charter, a child is entitled to maintenance from both his parents.
Who is a child?
For the purposes of the law, a child must be under the age of 21 to be entitled to maintenance. This includes a legitimate child, an adopted child, an illegitimate child and a step-child.
A legitimate child above 21 years of age can also claim maintenance provided:
- The child has a mental or physical disability
- The child is or will be serving full-time national service
- The child is receiving instructions at an educational establishment or undergoing training for a trade, profession or vocation, whether or not this takes place during gainful employment
- There are any other special circumstances which justify the making of a maintenance order.
How does one make a claim for child maintenance?
A legitimate child who is above 21 years of age can make an application for maintenance against his parents for himself in the Family Court. If the child is under the age of 21, the following persons can make the claim on his/her behalf:
- Any person who is a guardian or has actual custody of the child
- Any of his siblings who is at least 21 years of age
- Any person appointed by the Minister.
Any person who is filing a claim for child maintenance may do so by filing a Magistrates’ Complaint at the Family Court.
How does the Courts decide on the quantum to award?
The court decides on the quantum to award after considering the following factors:
- The financial needs of the child
- The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the child
- Any physical or mental disabilities of the child
- The standard of living enjoyed by the child before the errant parent stopped paying the reasonable maintenance for the child
- The manner in which the child was being educated or trained, as well as that which the parties to the marriage expected him/her to be educated or trained.
Should there be any variations in the situation of the child or parent, the law enables an application to be made to the court to vary a maintenance order. However, the availability of this variation is premised on a significant change in circumstances.