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Application for reduction in maintenance

I recently had a case where a couple had got divorced. My client in this case had been represented by an attorney who appears to have advised him incorrectly, as he had come off really badly in the divorce. He had now applied to the maintenance court for a reduction in the maintenance. His wife had no job at the time of the divorce, but now had employment.

In the above case the divorce order said that my client had to pay his wife R5000 personal maintenance per month until their children were 18 years of age (as well as an additional R2500, 00 per month per child). Subsequent to the divorce she had met somebody else. In an email to my client this other man admitted that he was living with my client's ex-wife and was contributing to the expenses. The court found that her new partner's contribution to the household expenses has to be taken into account, and my client's application for a reduction in maintenance was allowed.

In another similar case which I dealt with recently I was acting on behalf of the lady. Her ex-husband applied to court for a reduction in maintenance, but in this case it was he who had met another lady after the divorce, and this lady was now living with him. My client, who I only came on record for after her divorce, alleged that her ex-husband had recently started his own business. He however claimed that he was no longer in a financial position to pay the maintenance ordered by the court in the divorce, as he no longer had a stable income, and had taken a financial knock due to having begun his own business.

In the above case, prior to the court proceedings we requested my client's ex-husband to disclose his business close corporation founding statements and other related information. We also wanted full disclosure of his new live-in partner's financial position. Her ex-husband could not understand why he had to disclose his new partner's bank statements, salary slips and related information, but eventually reluctantly agreed to do so.

My client's ex-husband failed in the above case in his application for a reduction in maintenance. The court found that subsequent to the divorce his financial position had actually improved as he had a new live-in partner who contributed to the household expenses.

It simply has to be taken into account therefore that your financial situation improves if you remarry or have a new live-in partner who contributes to the household expenses, and the courts do take this into account. It is not fair to support somebody post-divorce who has a new partner supporting him or her.

This article was written by Cape Town divorce law specialist, Peter M Baker

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