In a recent judgement by a Gauteng lower court, a maintenance defaulter received a harsh reminder of the risk a person takes when not making good on maintenance payments.
The Durban businessman was sentenced to a four and a half year prison-term after he was criminally convicted of failing to pay spousal and child maintenance. The man’s assets were also attached by Krugersdorp magistrate Abdul Khan, the sale of which will enable his ex-wife to recover the maintenance she is owed – more than R1 million.
The three-year legal battle took its toll on the man’s former spouse, emotionally, physically and financially. According to Times Live, evidence before the magistrate included that the ex-wife and their two children were living in abject poverty. “At times, she testified, they had to resort to building a fire in the lounge to keep warm and cook when the electricity was disconnected.”
The defendant is a director of a well-known SA restaurant chain. According to the divorce settlement, the man had to pay his ex-wife R24 000 per month for five years and R10 000 per month for the children, which he defaulted after three months, his defence being that he could not afford to pay the maintenance.
The court refused to grant the man leave to appeal the conviction and refused to hear an application for bail, pending a petition to the Chief Justice for permission to appeal.
According to Llewelyn Curlewis, a legal expert in Criminal Law and lecturer at the University of Pretoria, the violation of a court order is a statutory offence. Unlike high courts, lower courts do however not bind other courts, and a legal precedent was not set.
The public sphere has, however, reflected its disdain for maintenance defaulters and this case has become the subject of public discourse at all levels of the legal industry.
Mediation Academy has been working with top software developers on finding a practical solution to the technical aspects of this often neglected area in family law. We look forward to releasing this tool in the coming weeks.