City attorneys come to the rescue of needy child

Shani van Niekerk, an attorney at Adams&Adams.

Shani van Niekerk, an attorney at Adams&Adams.

Published Apr 29, 2024


TWO PRETORIA lawyers opened their hearts to the plight of the mother of a boy aged 11, who sufferers from severe autism.

The child is in a centre who cares for him, and the lawyers approached the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria free of charge to obtain an urgent order, securing the care of the boy at the facility.

Shani van Niekerk, an attorney who specialises in family law at the law firm Adams&Adams, read about the mother’s plight on Facebook, where the mother, through Back-a-Buddy, asked for urgent help for her son.

The mother, who is not identified to safeguard the identity of her young son, urgently needed money so that her child, who has severe intellectual disabilities, could remain in the full time care of the centre which is currently taking care of him.

She had fallen behind with her monthly fees payable to the centre, to the tune of R82 278. Apart from that, the divorced mother is also unable to continue to pay the monthly fees of the care centre which amount to R14 755.

The care centre told the mother that if she did not pay the R82 278 in arrears by the end of March, they would release the child in her care.

The problem was that as part of the divorce settlement, it was agreed that the child’s father would only pay R1 000 a month towards each of his two children he had with the applicant (the mother).

Advocate Sybrandt Stadler.

The mother said she realises that this small amount is severely prejudicing her children’s well being, but at the time she simply wanted the divorce to be concluded.

Following the threat that her child will no longer be cared for by the centre, she asked the father to contribute towards the costs. He steadfastly refused and simply said he cannot afford it.

Meanwhile the mother was at her wits end as she only managed to raise R18 293 through Back-a-Buddy.

But luckily for her, Van Niekerk saw the Back-a-Buddy post and opened her heart to the mother. She agreed to take on her case - free of charge. And so did advocate Sybrandt Stadler.

But, the two legal eagles had to make an urgent plan, because as the parents of the child are already divorced, the maintenance court at the magistrate’s court is the correct forum to turn to, as this matter involves maintenance.

The problem, however, is that the maintenance court is so busy, that it can take up to two years before it can hear a case. And an urgent plan had to be made to secure the care for the boy.

The mother explained that she is already struggling to make ends meet, as she is earning a small salary. She cannot afford to pay the full monthly care of her child as things stand and she will not be able to feed her family if her child is released into her care and she has to resign from her job to take care of him.

Van Niekerk meanwhile asked the care centre for a month’s grace in payment, until the situation could be sorted out.

She and Stadler then decided to turn to the high court, to ensure interim help for the child, until the maintenance court can later finally decide on the father’s contribution.

They asked Judge Brenda Neukircher, for an interim order that the father pay half of the outstanding amount, as well as that he monthly contributed half of the ongoing care at the facility.

Stadler argued on behalf of the mother that impossibility was not the same as uncomfortability. This was following the father’s contention that it is impossible for him to contribute more than R1 000 a month.

Stadler said it might be uncomfortable for the father to make these payments and he might have to drive a smaller car and live a less luxurious life, but it is in fact possible.

If a mother makes a plan, then surely a father must make those plans as well, he said.

The judge made it clear that she is not sitting as a maintenance court, and while she made an interim order for the father to pay, the mother must now approach the maintenance court.

The judgement is welcomed in light that a maintenance court is not equipped to deal with an urgent matter. A disabled child’s future is now safeguarded,” Van Niekerk said.

Pretoria News