Is R20,000 a month on groceries excessive? The judge thought so!
Even with five hungry mouths to feed, R20,000 a month was considered by one judge to be an unrealistic food bill. In a recent maintenance case that appeared before the Limpopo High Court, a woman claimed she had a R60,280 shortfall each month, consisting in part of a R20,000 grocery bill. Her monthly salary is R23,000, and she claimed her husband earns on average R127,500 per month as a wealthy taxi business owner.
When they were married, they lived in a five-bedroom house and drove expensive cars, dining out regularly and enjoying luxury holidays. Since the divorce proceedings began, she said she couldn’t make ends meet and her well-off husband should contribute R51,530 to maintenance for her and her children each month.
Not luxurious, but modest
The husband, by contrast, claimed that the lifestyle they led was modest, and he has done his part since the separation to support his children, paying school fees, all other costs, and delivering groceries to her door. He said his business is not the success she indicated, having been hit hard by COVID-19. He has also suffered from health problems.
The voice of reason
The judge was not convinced by the wife’s assertions or by her sums. He called her petition for R20,000 for food alone “unrealistic”, particularly as the husband was already paying for “everything”. The judge ordered the husband to pay R1000 per month per child – a total of R5000, not R50,000. This contribution is to cover unexpected expenses such as school trips.
Rule 43 maintenance
This type of maintenance is known as Rule 43 or interim maintenance, because the divorce has not yet been finalised between the two warring parties. The purpose of Rule 43 of the Uniform Rules of Court is to allow an order for interim maintenance to be made by the court during divorce proceedings. It is meant to provide support – usually to a wife and children, who historically have been financially disadvantaged by divorce – until the action is finalised. At this point the order lapses and any maintenance order resulting from the divorce decree takes effect.
Interim maintenance is intended to protect the interests of children and may also include custody arrangements as well as financial support. However, as this case shows, it is open to abuse. It can also drain the payer’s finances. A Rule 43 order cannot be appealed because it is an interim measure, and can only be altered if a substantial change in financial circumstances can be demonstrated. Therefore, interim maintenance must be carefully considered to avoid either party suffering a severe disadvantage.
A reasonable judgment
The claim in this case for interim maintenance was exaggerated. The applicant (the wife) sought to exploit the circumstances beyond what was reasonably necessary to support the children. The judge, rightly in our opinion, threw out the claim and passed a much more reasonable judgment, thus ensuring the well-being of the children was not jeopardised but neither would the husband be bankrupted by the time the divorce is finalised.
Get help with Rule 43 from a leading divorce attorney in Cape Town
SD Law is a Cape Town law firm of experienced family law and divorce attorneys, with offices in Johannesburg and Durban. What does a family lawyer do? Family lawyers deal with much more than just divorce and custody. If you need interim maintenance, or if you feel your Rule 43 order is no longer appropriate and you would like to apply for an amendment, call family lawyer Simon Dippenaar on 086 099 5146 or email email@example.com. We will help you secure the best possible outcome for all parties.
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