It is no secret that the poor communities in South Africa face a high unemployment rate and poverty due to a struggling economy. But an even more prevalent theme in the townships and communities is the number of children left without parents, leaving them to fend for themselves. With a lack of finances, and no parents to support the children, what remedies are left for the children to obtain financial support? While the primary responsibility to support the child(ren) is vested in their parents, South African law provides various recourses available to children to obtain support. For purposes of this article, I will touch on two of those options available, namely, support from the grandparents or siblings.

Should a child be unable to claim from their parents, or if their parent(s) is deceased and the estate is insufficient to provide for child support, South African law is clear that the duty of support will fall to the grandparents of the child. While the case of Petersen v Maintenance Officer, Simon’s Town and 4 Others 2004 (2) SA 56 (C) predominantly discussed the duty of the paternal grandparents, the case is significant in that it highlighted the duty of support that extends to grandparents (maternal and paternal alike). Thus, the option is available to request that the Maintenance Officer summon the grandparents (both maternal and paternal) to an inquiry into their financial affairs to determine their ability to support the child(ren).

So, what can you do if the child(ren)’s parents are deceased, and the grandparents cannot provide support? Under South African law, siblings should support each other. However, it is not as simple as claiming support from a parent or grandparent. To prove that the sibling has a vested duty to support the other, the sibling submitting a claim for maintenance must prove that they are indigent.


The rights and interests of children have been emphasised through various legislations such as the Children’s Act of 2010 and the Maintenance Act. These Acts, combined with the Bill of Rights, ensure that the child’s best interests are considered and that there is a duty of support. At SchoemanLaw, our experts will be able to guide you through the mediation as well as litigation process when dealing with maintenance claims, as well as legal advice to see you through your matter. For any of your legal needs or maintenance enquiries, contact our experts at SchoemanLaw today.