Dad fights son's grandmother for Road Accident Fund payout
An unemployed man who is at loggerheads with the maternal grandmother of his son over the boy's custody has vowed to fight to the bitter end to get what lawfully belongs to his son.
The 34-year-old man from Orlando, Soweto, said his misery started in June 2011 after the death of his wife. She died in a car crash, meaning their son could claim for loss of support from the Road Accident Fund (RAF), he said.
Their son was only three months old when his mother died and he has since been taking care of him.
The man said all was well between him and his mother-in-law until last year when he discovered that she had successfully lodged a claim without his knowledge with the RAF for loss of support for his son.
The man said he was shocked when he discovered the RAF had already paid out an undisclosed amount into the trust account of a legal firm .
The attorneys are not paying a monthly allowance for the child's upkeep nor his schooling, he said.
He said soon after the money was deposited into the trust account of the law firm, his mother-in-law then applied for full custody of his son.
"I have a better right as a biological father over her, but she wanted to take over all my responsibilities because she wanted to have control of my son's money."
The man said the mother-in-law was not successful in her application and then opted for visitation rights, which he granted.
He said it was in his son's best interests to have contact and a good relationship with his grandmother, but after losing the custody battle she had not bothered to contact or even call her grandson.
The RAF, however, would not help him to recover money from the law firm, because the claim was lodged by the mother-in-law on behalf of the child, he said.
He said he has been trying for more than a year to recover the funds with no joy. "My son's school is threatening to expel him. My landlord is threatening to evict me due to arrears owed to him."
He said he has to provide shelter, feed and clothe the child and himself on a monthly budget of R433.
"I've tried everything I could to provide a better life for my son and I'd hate to turn to crime to support my son."
Approaching the Law Society of the Northern Provinces has not helped because the legal firm has ignored them, he said.
Advocate Muhammad Abduroaf of Our Lawyer said the father has full parental responsibilities and rights (custody and guardianship) of the child at the mother's death.
Under certain circumstances fathers of children born out of wedlock do not have any rights, Abduroaf said.
"The grandmother had no automatic rights to the child. She did not even have visitation rights to the child at her daughter's death.
"Grandparents do not have automatic rights to grandchildren.
"However, on the issue of maintenance or support, it is possible for the grandchild to claim from the grandparents, even if they were born out of wedlock and the grandparents have no visitation rights to them," he said.