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Moral & financial responsibility to ex


Getting your spouse accustomed to a certain standard of life, and the duty to maintain that same standard after you divorce. When does the obligation for moral and financial responsibility of your spouse during and post-divorce dissolve?

couple seating on a couch

I received a query via email from a female who had been awarded R1 000 maintenance per month in terms of a rule 43 court order. She stated that she had no source of income, other than that awarded by the rule 43 order and that she had been totally dependant on her husband since the date of marriage in May 1999 (i.e. for 14 years).

Her query was that the rule 43 order does not cover medical shortfalls or excess payments for damage to the vehicle driven by her. She also questioned why her husband is not responsible to maintain the matrimonial home or to service the vehicle which she drives. She found it bizarre that she had to pay for all of these costs from the R1 000 cash amount she received per month in terms of the rule 43 court order.

The questions posed to me in her email were:


The rule 43 application is an interlocutory application and cannot be appealed against. Moreover, if one can prove a material change in circumstance, in terms of rule 43(6) either party can launch an application to have the court order amended. The lady in this case would for example be entitled to launch an application for more maintenance and for the original rule 43 order to be amended if she can prove maybe that her husband earned more now than he did back then at the time when the original rule 43 order was granted. Another material change in circumstance would be for example if she all of a sudden is retrenched (if she had a job), or her monthly expenses become higher for some or other reason.

No mention was made in the email to me of her minor children, so I presume the maintenance was solely for her. The more this lady’s husband got her accustomed to a certain standard of living during the marriage, the more of a duty there would be on him to maintain her pendente lite (while the divorce is underway) as well as post-divorce. How much he would have to pay would depend on what he earns and on what her reasonable monthly expenses are.

Is there a duty on the husband in this matter to pay for the maintenance of the matrimonial home, service of the motor vehicle driven by his wife and the medical shortfalls? The answer to that question is yes there is. If he paid these expenses while married and living with her, he must still now continue paying them even though the divorce is not yet final. If these expenses were not factored into the calculation when she was awarded the original R1 000 per month, this may well have been an unfair order against her. One cannot blame the court. She may not have had a legal representative who thoroughly went over the expenses.

Be that as it may, if a few months or a year has lapsed since the date the original order was granted, and there has been a change in circumstance, the client can launch a rule 43(6) application to change the original order.

The client’s husband’s financial obligation dissolves when the divorce court orders it to be dissolved. In this case the client may well have a claim for lifelong maintenance as the parties had been married for a long time and she also mentioned in her email that they had lived together as common law husband and wife and she had supported him through his engineering apprenticeship. The court would look at her state of health, age and whether she has work qualifications in determining how long she should be entitled to maintenance.

Until the divorce is final, the client’s husband is bound to the rule 43 order, or any variation subsequently made to that order. I don’t quite agree with her attorney that since the rule 43 order had been made her husband has no moral obligation towards her. Because they had been married so long morally there should be a duty on him to look after her during and after the divorce. However, not all people have high moral values unfortunately.

article written by Cape Town divorce attorney, Peter M Baker

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