Reprinted from the Pretoria News, by Zelda Venter – 2020-09-03
The role of homemaker versus breadwinner was decided in a divorce case. Picture: Supplied
Pretoria – The role of homemaker versus breadwinner came to the fore during a matter before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
This was after an aggrieved husband appealed an earlier ruling in which a judge ordered that he had to share half of his estate with his former wife as part of the divorce.
The issue at hand was that while a court does not undervalue the role of a homemaker, should this equate with that of a breadwinner?
The issue started when a court in 2017 ruled that Mr V had to hand over 50% of the couple’s estate to Mrs V. He perceived this distribution to be unfair, as he worked and earned an income, while his wife, who had worked as a secretary for nine years during the marriage, quit her job to raise their children.
However, he admitted this was with his blessing and she had looked after their children until they were adults, after which the couple decided to part ways.
The husband was medically boarded at one stage as he had suffered from bipolar disorder. The wife said she continued to support him emotionally, physically and otherwise when he was diagnosed with it.
During this time, she used R40 000 which she had inherited towards the household expenses.
The husband did not dispute that the wife did help out financially, but he said the cash value of his estate was R10.1 million and he owned the matrimonial home.
He listed assets to the value of R320 000 which he said his wife owned.
Mr V, in appealing the earlier judgment, said the judge had overvalued the contribution the wife had made to the household and to the increase of his estate when it was ruled that he had to equally share his assets with her.
In referring to case law, Judge Kollapen said the starting point was not the redistribution of assets, but rather starting with a clean slate.
In dealing with what is described as the traditional role of a housewife, mother and homemaker, the judge said case law cautioned that this role should not be undervalued because it was not measurable in terms of money.
The judge referred to case law which referred to “a dedicated housewife and mother’s role” and where it was held that it would be unacceptable “to place a greater value on the contribution of the breadwinner than on the homemaker”.
In agreeing, the judge said this might endorse a hierarchy in the role of breadwinner as opposed to the homemaker in the maintenance and the increase in the breadwinner’s estate, which may in turn result in a measure of unfairness.
The judge commented that Mrs V, in this case, did work for nine years of their marriage and her now former husband did make good investments from the money he had earned while his wife took care of the household as well as his needs.
He said the role Mrs V played when her husband fell ill was invaluable and could not be measured in monetary terms.
In appreciating the role of a dedicated homemaker, Judge Kollapen said if everything is taken into account – including the few assets she had herself – it would be fair that the husband transferred 40% of his assets to Mrs V.
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