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Family: Husband cannot escape spousal maintenance – ruling

A husband has been ordered by Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) Acting Judge Shaida Mohamed to pay his estranged wife R18 000 for spousal maintenance after she was allegedly forced to move out of their marital home and now lives in KZN with her boyfriend. The former couple got married in community of property in 2010 and had two children. The children live with their father. Their relationship became strained when they accused each other of engaging in extra marital relationships. The wife said she had gone to attend her father’s funeral when her husband obtained a protection order against her. She was ordered not to assault, intimidate, or harass the husband, and this forced her not to return to her marital home. On top of that, she faces three criminal charges – failure to attend court, common assault, and conspiracy to commit murder. She said she stayed over with friends and family, until she was forced to leave Johannesburg and join her partner in KZN. She told the court that she has not seen her children in over a year and lacks the money or means to visit them. Moreover, she added that it was good that the children lived with their father as he controls the family business and all finances, and he can attend to their needs. She wanted the husband to pay her R25 000 every month until their divorce is finalized. She explained that she needs money for accommodation and personal upkeep. She also wanted him to pay R300 000 for her legal costs.

The husband argued that his wife failed to demonstrate a need of R25 000 monthly maintenance. According to the IoL report, he said his take home was R71 300 and he cannot afford to pay her the money she was claiming. His legal representative argued that if he was made to pay his wife maintenance, he will be forced to remove their eldest child from boarding school as his finances were in a dire state. Mohamed reviewed both arguments and said it was wrong that the wife had to rely on others for accommodation. ‘Her dignity must be preserved and protected particularly in the eyes of her children, whom she has nurtured over the years, she remains their mother,’ said the judge. The judge also found that the husband’s living expenses for one person were very high, as his monthly expenses include R10 000 on food, and R15 000 to service a debt which he did not explain. It was also said that the husband’s argument that he was ‘drowning in debt’ cannot be a defence because spousal maintenance is a legal duty and must be prioritized. ‘Of concern is that the debt he incurs are debts of the joint estate and applicant must be supported to protect her interests in that estate,’ said the judge.

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