In terms of South African law, a child reaches majority age when they turn 18 (eighteen) years old.
Does this mean that the parent’s duty to support comes to an end when the child becomes 18? We will be finding that out in this article.
The parent’s duty to support children continue even when the children have reached the age of majority. The duty can only cease to exist when the child becomes self-supporting [ see In re Estate Visser 1948 (3) SA 1129 (C); Kemp v Kemp 1958 (3) SA 736 (D & CLD); Lamb v Sack 1974(2) SA 670 (T) ].
It is important to also note that the duty to support a child ends at the child’s death but not at the parent’s death, in the event of the parent’s death, the child may lodge a claim for maintenance against the deceased parent’s estate.
A child’s interests and rights will always be protected by the law even when they reach the age of 18. As long they are incapable of providing for their own financial needs, it will remain the parents’ responsibility to ensure that they are provided for to the best of their abilities.
When can a child be said to be self-supporting?
A child will be said to be self-supporting when she or he starts to work, is able to pay for own living expenses, but there are instances where continued support is necessary in accordance with the child’s need for support, ie: where the child has ill health or is physically challenged.
What if the child is capable to support themselves but chose not to?
The court may order maintenance payment to be stopped [see M v M (0042146/17)  ZAGPJHC 506].
What is the test used to consider if the major child is entitled to maintenance?
The test whether a major (dependent) child is entitled to maintenance, and the amount of maintenance payable, is subjective and depend on the financial means and standard of living of the parents.
The child is now married, does the parent still have the duty to support them?
When a child marries, the duty of support rests primarily on the spouse and only if the spousal maintenance is not enough can parents be called upon to make a maintenance contribution. In these circumstances, the parents would have a right of recovery against their married child’s spouse, that is because of the duty of spousal maintenance married parties have against each other.