How to find a divorce lawyer in Cape Town, South Africa

What to take when you move out

I had a client who recently came to consult me for a divorce. He and his wife owned a small house together and he had moved out. There was not much equity in the house and a lot of money was owed on the mortgage bond. He had left only with a bag of clothes and needed a lot of the movable assets back which had been left in the matrimonial home.

In the divorce summons we then proceeded to list the assets he wanted back – the fridge, couch, microwave, etc. It is very expensive to buy these things new when you start afresh and move into a new place. And for that reason movable assets often come into dispute in a divorce matter, particularly when funds are limited. A fridge for example would cost more than R2000 if bought new, and for somebody who only earns R8000 net per month, this would be a quarter of his/her monthly income.

Another celebrity divorce case which has made the newspapers recently is that of Constant Visser and the South African model Minki Van Der Westhuizen. It is alleged that Minki and her mother recently went to the ex matrimonial home to pack certain movable assets and that Constant arrived at the home and threatened to phone the police if she did not stop.

A very common problem in a divorce case is what movable assets one can remove from the house prior to the divorce going through. I usually advise my clients only to take their personal items and if they are married with an antenuptial contract to look at what it says to see if they are entitled to remove anything. If parties are married in community of property it is usually quite difficult to determine what movable assets can be removed from the matrimonial home.

Whatever Minki is alleged in the recent newspaper article to have removed from the home she must therefore according to the law have been permitted to take, and only the matrimonial regime according to which she and Constant are married can determine this. In the article friends are quoted as saying that Minki moved into Constant’s house with only her clothes when they got married. They were married only for a short while and if that is true then she could well have no claim to the movable assets owned by Constant at the time of the marriage.

What I find quite interesting in the abovementioned article is that even in households where there is a fair bit of money, people still argue about the movable assets it would appear. I in my practise do however encounter this more often when the parties don’t own anything much except for movable assets.

The best way to sort out the movable assets in a divorce is probably to first move out and then make a list of what movable assets you want to keep, as my client (mentioned at the start) did. If you do it like that nobody can try use it against you that you removed items to which you were not entitled.

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