A man (84) who divorced his wife in September 1992 turned to the courts to have his maintenance payment to his former wife reduced, claiming he could not afford it any longer.

But The Star reports it emerged in the Limpopo High Court (Polokwane) that the man had fixed assets worth millions of rands but lived on a very small pension because he feared running out of money.

Acting Judge MS Monene ordered he pay the amount he had undertaken to pay then (which had increased in accordance with inflation), noting he had ‘more than enough to sustain him and his wife up until their deaths’. 

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 of R19 500 to R10 000 at most.

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 Monene.

According to The Star, 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, the first of which was valued at R1.7m and second was valued at R8.8m. He was also a trustee of a trust which had a net value of R28m and generated a yearly income of about R1.5m.

Monene said the court was simply told 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.

‘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.

‘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 judge added the man’s 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.

Full report in The Star

Judgment