The reality of the hard economic times middle-class South Africans are experiencing is felt especially during dragged-out divorce proceedings, a judge said during an application by a wife for her soon-to-be ex-husband to up his monthly maintenance towards her and their children.

Pretoria News report says the wife turned to the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) because she felt her husband was financially much stronger than her.

Apart from claiming more maintenance, she also wanted her husband to contribute towards her legal costs in the divorce, which she said was at this stage standing at more than R400 000.

Judge Elmarie van der Schyff said realities cannot be ignored when a court considers the question of maintenance in rule 43 applications.

‘On the one hand, it is a reality that the applicant (the woman) and the two dependent children need to be maintained. The applicant has not been active in the labour market since 2003,’ the judge said.

She noted that the wife did meanwhile start a sales job, but she only earned around R5 000 a month.

The judge noted the husband, on the other hand, is employed, but she accepted the family must make do with his income, ‘not something that can easily be accomplished if two households must be maintained’.

The Pretoria News notes the husband has to pay for the bond where the wife and daughter live, has to maintain his son at university in a different city and has to pay other expenses such as school fees for his daughter.

‘It is trite that a husband’s duty of support includes the duty to provide the wife with costs for her litigation, and that she should be placed in a position adequately to present her case,’ the judge said.

She commented that it did not matter that the parties were in a much better financial position before the divorce proceedings.

‘Whatever these parties’ living standard was before their marriage breakdown, is irrelevant. It is evident that their financial position has changed dramatically. The extended divorce proceedings are further rapidly depleting available resources,’ the judge said.

While increasing the husband’s monthly maintenance towards his wife and daughter slightly, the judge suggested that all the parties tighten their belts.

‘The parties need to make hard choices, which include reconsidering their son studying away from home and the possibility of him studying at a distant university while earning an income.’

Full Pretoria News report in The Star