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Divorced, jobless woman must get spousal maintenance for as long as she lives or until she marries again, judge rules

Divorced, jobless woman must get spousal maintenance for as long as she lives or until she marries again, judge rules

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Pretoria – The sad reality of divorce is, in most cases, the people involved will be compelled to reduce their standards of living.

Where the available means of support is not adequate to maintain both people according to their former scale of living, each person has to scale down his or her budget, a judge has said during divorce proceedings before him.

In this case, the wife, who had hardly worked before and had few qualifications, told a Northern Cape High Court judge she had applied for at least 45 jobs, but had not been invited to a single interview.

The judge said by no fault of her own it was unlikely, given her age and working experience, she would ever find work. He ordered her husband had to pay spousal maintenance to her for long as she lived or until she marries again.

The judge referred to a similar case in which a judge had remarked that for most, divorce brought a measure of hardship or at least some degree of deprivation. The judge said: “To say that two can live as cheaply as one is not true. The fact of the matter is that two living together can live more cheaply than two living apart.”

It was said in the judgment that the problem of “indivisible household expenses” is real. “The fact that each former spouse now has to pay for things formerly enjoyed in common places a heavier burden on the finances than was formerly the case. It is therefore clear that in most cases both parties will have to reduce their standard of living to some extent,” the judge said.

In this case, the couple were married out of community of property with the accrual system for nearly two decades. It was agreed upon divorce that the wife would receive about R1.5 million from her husband’s pension fund, but the woman said this would not be enough to make ends meet each month.

While she had worked for a short period during their marriage, it had been agreed she would stay home and look after their children, who were young at the time. The woman also said she and her husband had agreed the cost of buying new work clothes was simply not worth it, compared to the salary she earned.

The wife said throughout the marriage she had dedicated herself to housekeeping, home-making and cooking, most of the time without domestic assistance. Thus, she was entitled to spousal maintenance to make up the shortfall she would face in her monthly expenses.

She said she was not unwilling to work, but applying for more than 45 jobs and not hearing anything back from the potential employers gave her little hope of a career.

Judge JW Eksteen said the divorce legislation did provide for spousal maintenance in certain cases. He said the court could make an order for the payment of maintenance by one party to the other for any period until the death or remarriage of the party in whose favour the order is given, whichever event occurs first.

“Although the plaintiff ( the woman) said that she would like to be employed and portrayed a positive self-image, optimistic of obtaining some form of employment, I am satisfied that her prospects of securing a rewarding position are very slim indeed,” Judge Eksteen said.

The judge added that the woman had limited working experience and was no longer young. She had no post-school qualification nor formal training in any field of employment.

“She has made numerous applications, without success, and the conclusion to which one is ineluctably driven is that she will be at a significant disadvantage against an oversupply of younger applicants in the labour market.”

The judge said this was not to say that she was unemployable. “She is a presentable, intelligent, healthy, well-spoken woman and portrays a positive self-image. Her own evidence suggests that she may be able to find some form of employment in the future. But, realistically, the expectation is that it would yield a modest income. I have accordingly come to the conclusion that she will require maintenance until her death or remarriage,” he said.

He pointed out that her husband had had the same steady job for the past 25 years and that, in addition to paying maintenance to their child, who was still living at home, he had to pay his wife R8 000 a month of spousal maintenance.

Pretoria News

Original Article

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