The duty to maintain an ex-spouse, or soon-to-be, and any dependent children is based on blood relationship, adoption, or the fact that the parties are or were married to each other.
Should a person default on their maintenance obligations, they may face criminal prosecution and be liable, upon conviction, to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years.
In the circumstances where the defaulter is not located in South Africa, one may face some challenges in executing such conviction in that the defaulter will be outside the Republic’s jurisdictional reach. Nevertheless, persons wishing to enforce a maintenance order against an international defaulter may do so in terms of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act, 80 of 1963.
This Act makes provision for the enforcement of maintenance orders granted within South Africa where one party is located in another country listed within the Act, and vice versa. With over 25 countries party to the Act, inclusive of the U.S, the U.K, and several African countries, persons wishing to enforce a maintenance order or conviction against an international defaulter may do so by instituting legal proceedings against him or her via diplomatic channels. This may result in the proclaimed country confirming and enforcing the order, or even granting extradition of the defaulter, returning him or her to South Africa for punishment.
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