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Divorce: Forging spouse's signature


Attempting to gain an upper hand in a divorce matter through unlawful and intentional making of false documents to the prejudice of other of other person’s rights, even during a divorce process, is a common law offence under South African law.

A client came to see me the other day and was concerned as his wife was in possession of his identity document. He was concerned that she may attempt to use the identity document to sell the house which was registered in the name of both the parties, by forging his signature on the transfer documents. I advised him that this would be very difficult, but that he should take all steps to get the identity document back from her as soon as possible.

Often in divorce matters, the one spouse will attempt to do something illegal in order to gain the upper hand in the divorce case. A very common thing is when one spouse attempts to dissipate the assets of the joint estate without the consent of the other spouse. In one of my cases recently, the parties had been married in community of property, and were going through a divorce. One house was registered only in the name of the man, as it had been purchased prior to the marriage. The house was sold and the man did not advise the transferring attorneys that he was married in community of property. The proceeds from the sale of the house were paid directly into his account, and he spent it on himself. Although this was not directly illegal, he had clearly spent the money in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the divorce. His wife was theoretically entitled to half of the proceeds of the sale.

A recent matter which made newspaper headlines involving alleged perjury was that involving professional golfer, David Frost. Frost now lives in West Palm Beach, and is accused of forgery and perjury. His divorce case is still active in South Africa and he allegedly filed for divorce in Florida less than six months after establishing residency there, which is not allowed. He allegedly also did not tell the court that his divorce case is still active in South Africa, where his wife lives.

Frost has allegedly also admitted to forging his wife’s signature on the deed of a house he bought in Texas and allegedly lied about it under oath. Frost also allegedly stopped paying maintenance in South Africa, and allegedly served his wife with divorce papers in a post office box rarely used by her. It is also alleged that he may have married his lover in Palm Beach County before he was officially divorced from his wife. 

According to reports, Frost’s wife wants approximately R 10 million before she will agree to a divorce. Frost is currently allegedly in a relationship with Colene Visser, ex-wife of South African Big Brother winner, Ferdinand Rabie. According to reports, Frost’s South African wife, Cornelia, has asked a US Judge to find Frost in criminal contempt for perjury for denying that he forged her signature to sell their house, and of filing a false divorce notice to marry Visser.

Forging somebody’s signature in our legal system can be seen to be a criminal offence. It is not always that easy to get away with something like that, as usually you would have witnesses who would also have to sign acknowledging that that is indeed that person’s signature. In a case like the Frost case, the evidence of witnesses who may have signed any document would no doubt be of quite a bit of importance in determining whether he could be criminally liable.

In our law, you are not allowed to be married to two people at the same time, although certain cultures do allow for this, such as the Muslim culture. Our civil law does however not allow for this. You have to be legally divorced from one person in our civil law before being allowed to marry another person. Bigamy is a serious crime in our legal system. That is when you are married to two people at the same time. You can be held criminally liable for this.

article written by Cape Town divorce attorney, Peter M Baker

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The postnuptial contract

Perjury in the court papers

Children suing for maintenance

Contempt of Consent Paper


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