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Maintenance for children at university

I have had a client who came to consult me recently, whose child over the age of 18 was studying further after school, and was litigating against his ex-wives in this regard. My client was residing in Cape Town, and had been divorced ten years earlier. The maintenance in terms of the divorce order had been reviewed by the Randburg Magistrates Court. The child was 18 and was about to commence studying at the University of Pretoria. The mother wanted the child to stay at home and was expecting the father to pay the full rental of her place of residence.

In the abovementioned matter my client instructed me that he would far prefer the child to enrol at university residence. His argument was that university residence was a far cheaper option than the child living at home with her mother. It was an hour’s drive from where her mother lived to the university, and this would be extra travelling expenses.

Parties often argue about university fees. In this case my client was also of the opinion that he had to pay no maintenance in respect of the child, as the child was over the age of 18. The reality of the matter however is that the parental duty of support only comes to an end when the child becomes self-supporting. Very often a child remains financially dependant on his or her parents for several years after having attained the age of majority, especially when tertiary education is involved.

In the above case, three years earlier, the Randburg Magistrate’s Court had made an order that my client would be liable for “reasonable education and accommodation costs” of the child after the child had attained the age of 18. My advice to my client was that this clause had not been correctly formulated by his previous legal representatives, as there was no certainty as to what exactly is a “ reasonable education expense”, or whether this would include university residence accommodation or accommodation at the child’s mothers place of residence. I advised my client that the only way of sorting this matter out would be to go back to the Randburg Magistrate’s Court and apply to have the order varied.

He would have an opportunity there to give evidence as to why he believed it to be in the best interest of the child that the child stays at university residence and not with the mother. He would not be able to approach the Cape Town Court, but would need to go to the court where the order was granted in the first place.

This article was written by Cape Town divorce lawyer, Peter M Baker
petermbaker@yahoo.com

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