The Star E-dition

Stingy old man who divorced 31 years ago must cough up


A MAN aged 84, who had divorced his wife 31 years ago, turned to the courts to have his maintenance payment to his former wife reduced, claiming he could not afford it any longer.

But it emerged in the Limpopo High Court, sitting in Polokwane, that the man had fixed assets worth multi-millions but lived on a very small pension because he feared running out of money.

The court ordered that he pay the amount he had undertaken to pay all those years ago (which had increased in accordance with inflation). The judge noted that he had “more than enough to sustain him and his (equally elderly) wife up until their deaths”.

The couple got divorced in September 1992 and entered into a settlement agreement in terms of which the husband had to pay R4 500 per month as maintenance to his wife. The amount was subject to an annual escalation until either the wife remarried or died.

As a result of the annual escalation order the husband was until now paying maintenance of R19 500 in observance of the now nearly 31-yearold order.

The husband earlier approached the Tzaneen Magistrate’s Court, asking for a variation of the maintenance order. He argued that he was no longer in a financial position to honour the order and asked for a reduction of the maintenance amount to R10 000 at most.

The wife called a financial advisor to prove that her husband was worth millions. But the magistrate ordered partly in favour of the husband and reduced the amount to R15 000 a month.

The wife then appealed the order before the high court. It was argued that the husband’s financial circumstances had depreciated to the point of disabling him from continuing to honour the existing maintenance order.

The wife, however, presented evidence that the husband had two living annuity plans with Sanlam, the first of which was valued at R1.7 million. The second was valued at R8.8 million.

He was also a trustee of a trust which had a net value of R28 million and generated a yearly income of approximately R1.5 million.

Acting judge A J Monene said the court was simply told that the man was no longer capable of honouring the maintenance order, and that the investments may fall victim to tax issues and the uncertainty of the markets. The judge noted that the husband was a trustee of a R28 million trust and had annuity investments of more than R12 million from which he chose to derive the barest minimum as an income.

“He drives a 2021 model luxury motor vehicle, is 84 and thus does not have a financially demanding long life ahead of him. He has an obligation to maintain an equally very old appellant whom he must maintain until remarriage or death,” the judge said.

The husband, in the court’s view, had an asset base which, without even investing further, was more than enough to sustain him and the ex-wife up to their death, he said.

“With investments as they currently are with or without the contingencies of a hostile economic environment he is, in my view, a very wealthy man by anybody's definition.”

The husband told the court that he lived on the bare minimum a month as he feared what the economy would hold in future. He also feared the tax implications if he dipped into his investments, thus he made do with the bare minimum himself.

But the judge said these fears should not deprive his former wife of a decent maintenance.

“It is in the very nature of people who derive an income from economic prospecting to stand the risk of either making it big or coming crumbling down. It cannot, in my view, be reason enough to vary an order simply because of a party's subjective view that somewhere in the distant uncertain future, 'in a year or so', there may be economic gloom approaching.”

The court ordered that the original divorce order stood, which the husband had to honour.





African News Agency