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Article by listed attorney: Fawzia Khan

Warning to divorcing parents! Don’t ignore the court order for interim maintenance.

A father embroiled in divorce proceedings tried to avoid paying interim maintenance for his two minor children, was told by the court in no uncertain terms to pay the arrear maintenance or face imprisonment for being in contempt of the court’s order. The court’s unsympathetic approach towards the man was due to the fact that it found that he “played the judicial system” which ultimately lead to the prejudice of his minor children.

In this case which was heard in Gauteng on 27 September 2016, the wife successfully obtained an interim maintenance order against her husband for her two children. However the husband refused to pay the maintenance. Instead he tried to vary the maintenance order by going to the maintenance court, pleading poverty. The husband said that his reason for not being able to earn a day’s income was because of his wife’s disruptive behaviour in regularly dragging him before the courts. However the court found that the husband still maintained his business interests and did not disclose to the court whether or not disposed of any of his interests and if so for what amount. The court found the husband to be untruthful when he claimed to having no access to funds in order to pay the arrear maintenance. By not paying the maintenance, it meant that not only was he in arrears with his maintenance, he was also in contempt of court. This could mean imprisonment for him. The message from the courts towards recalcitrant maintenance dodgers was thus loud and clear, “pay up or pay the consequence”. In arriving at its decision compelling the man to pay the arrear maintenance, the court said that it took into account several factors including the prejudice the minor children suffered because of his refusal to pay them maintenance, the fact that the man indeed had access to funds as well as the interests of society as a whole to ensure that court orders be respected.

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