The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has ordered a man to pay a monthly maintenance bill of more than R23 000 to his estranged wife and two children after he “strategically” reduced his contributions.
The judgment was delivered on 28 March, and the couple cannot be named to protect the identity of their two boys.
The parties were in the process of getting divorced after being married for 24 years.
The father entered into an extra-marital affair with another woman he now lives with. He moved out of their shared home on 11 January 2020.
The man had been the primary breadwinner and continued to maintain his estranged wife and their sons after leaving the common home.
The court said the man provided no explanation for the reduction in contributions and did not state he did not have the financial means to maintain his estranged partner and children as he did before.
“It appears that the respondent is deliberately acting to cripple the applicant financially.”
The woman approached the court for help getting her estranged husband to maintain her and their children.
In court papers, the woman submitted they had a high standard of living – having houses in Midstream Estate and driving luxury vehicles.
Since 2015, they have travelled to various African countries for camping holidays, visiting Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Angola, and more.
Some of these overland trips cost between R250 000 and R300 000.
But, the court papers said, since the start of divorce proceedings, the man reduced his contributions and promised the woman he would ensure she walked out of the divorce with nothing.
The woman said her health deteriorated significantly since the separation, and in January 2020, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Doctors removed the thyroid, and she was prescribed medication. She is currently in remission.
“She became extremely depressed and struggled to cope with the trauma caused by the physical and mental abuse that she had suffered at the hands of the respondent during their marriage.
“Furthermore, she had to deal with the fear and uncertainty that her cancer diagnosis caused. She thus required treatment from a psychologist to date.”
The woman filed a letter of demand through her attorneys, and the man paid R20 000 per month towards maintenance since February 2020.
She said she used the money for food, groceries, cleaning materials, clothes, and other incidental expenses.
But from May 2020, the man abruptly reduced this to R10 000 per month and informed her he was paying the sons directly an amount of R5 000 each since they were no longer minors.
In May 2020, the man stopped paying her fuel bill, DSTV account and domestic worker’s salary.
In August 2021, he stopped paying her cellphone bill; in March 2022, he stopped paying the one son’s “maintenance money”.
In June 2022, both children started working for the man and received salaries.
The court said:
“The applicant was left in dire straits.”
She worked as a sales representative and earned a 10% commission.
The woman also did marketing for and sells blinds for a blinds company. Her income from both endeavours was meagre.
The court said the woman filed a financial disclosure form (FDF) and stated she lived on the poverty line because she could not pay for her everyday expenses.
Her monthly expenses, excluding the money she spent on their two children, amounted to R39 047 per month.
As he declared in his first FDF, the total value of the man’s assets amounted to more than R11 000 000.
In his submitted affidavit, he denied the allegations against him. He claimed he paid maintenance of close to R47 000 per month and had always been willing to maintain the woman reasonably.
The court said the man was evasive regarding the question of whether he could or could not afford the amounts she demanded and was silent regarding his spending patterns, as alleged by the woman.
It ordered him to pay maintenance of R23 500 per month on or before the first day of the month to the woman.
The man was ordered to contribute to the woman’s legal fees of R650 000, payable in instalments of R100 000 per month.
He was also ordered to pay the costs of the application.
“The applicant is entitled to be maintained in the same standard of living that she enjoyed during the subsistence of the parties’ marriage, subject that the respondent can afford to keep them in that standard of living.
“It is not expected of her to reduce her standard of living just because the respondent refuses to pay her proper maintenance.
“After all, the respondent admits that because they are still married to one another, he has a duty to maintain her,” the court said.
Source : News24