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Emergency monetary relief

The interim protection order can include an order where the complainant is awarded so-called “emergency monetary relief”. This is allowed in terms of the Domestic Violence Act.

I had an interesting case recently which dealt with this. My client, the lady, had instituted a divorce action against her husband. It was an acrimonious divorce and my client’s husband had been extremely abusive, and had according to my instructions, consumed large amounts of alcohol.

My client had not been working when her husband moved out of the flat that they shared together. She asked in her protection order papers that he pay R5000 per month “emergency monetary relief” to help her pay the rent. The court allowed this.

However, a few months later, my client found employment and started earning approximately R7500 per month. Her husband earned about twice that. Her husband then brought an application to vary part of the protection order in terms of Section 10 of Act 116 of 1998.

In his application to vary, my client’s husband only sought to vary a part of the order, that part dealing with the R5000 per month he had to pay. He agreed to the other parts of the order dealing with clauses such as his not being allowed to enter the residence or place of work of his wife, and not to assault, threaten, intimidate, harass, insult, shout or swear at his wife.

In my client’s husband’s application to vary he emphasised the fact that his client was now working and that she was not working at the time of the original order. He and his attorney further argued that no emergency relief was needed, as my client had never relocated and had no accommodation expenses. They further argued that the intention of the Act is to compensate for monetary losses suffered by a complainant at the time of the issue of a protection order as a result of domestic violence, and that on a factual basis it has never been the case and alternatively was not the case at present.

Her husband further argued that Rule 43 of the High Court provides adequately to make a competent order for interim financial payments to a party, and that any order relating to the parties, their finances, living arrangements etc should be heard and considered in such forum. They argued that my client was abusing the term of “ emergency monetary relief”, and missing the aims and intentions of the Act.

Our argument which was accepted by the court in the end was that even though our client was now working, she still relied on that money from her husband, as she was earning very little. The court also looked at the duration of the marriage. The parties had been married for some time, and the court found that in the actual divorce case our client may well succeed with a claim for rehabilitative maintenance against her husband. The application to vary the protection order was therefore dismissed in the end.

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