Cape Town divorce lawyer Bertus Preller writes South Africa’s first Book on Divorce and Separation for the general public, published by Random House Struik

CAPE TOWN, WC, SOUTH AFRICA, August 7, 2013 /EINPresswire.com/ —

Everyone’s Guide to Divorce and Separation by Bertus Preller will help with the following crucial aspects: your rights when you get divorced in South Africa, and the monetary aspects relating to divorce (including the consequences relating to assets and the divisions thereof, spousal maintenance and support, parental rights and responsibilities of children, how to implement a parenting plan, how much child maintenance will likely be required, and how to file for maintenance and child support, the procedures to obtain a protection order when there is domestic violence or abuse, an unmarried father’s rights and how to acquire parental rights and the law on cohabitation, same-sex marriages, and how to draft a proper cohabitation agreement.
In the Foreword of the book, Judge Denis Davis says the following:

“Bertus Preller has filled a very significant gap with this timely book, in that in plain language, he provides a comprehensive guide to the broader community through the thicket of law that now characterises this legal landscape. Having said that, many lawyers, particularly those who do not specialise in the field, will also find great assistance in this work. Early on in the text, Mr Preller makes a vital point – litigation is truly the option of last resort in the event of a matrimonial dispute. The adversarial process which is the manner in which law operates is not at all conducive to a settlement of issues, particularly custody of minor children, which have a long-lasting and vital impact on the lives, not only of the antagonists but also the children who have not, in any way, caused the problem giving rise to the forensic battle. Often in my experience on the Bench, I have wondered how such vicious and counter productive litigation can be allowed to continue. Lawyers will point to clients, whose disappointment in the breakdown of the marriage now powers such adverse feelings to their erstwhile partner, as the core reason for the ‘legal fight to the finish’. Whatever the context, however, it is important that arcane and often incomprehensible legal jargon be made accessible to those affected by the law. In this way, ordinary citizens can ensure that their rights work for them and at the same time they are assisted to grasp fully the implications of the obligations that the law imposes upon them. – Judge Dennis Davis”

The book is on the shelves of all major book stores on and also at Amazon.com

About the Author:

Bertus Preller is a Family and Divorce Law Attorney and Mediator at Bertus Preller & Associates Incoss in Cape Town. He acts in divorce matters across South Africa He matriculated at Grey College, studied at the University of the Free State and the University of Johannesburg and was admitted as an attorney in 1989. He has nearly 25 years of experience in law. He was appointed as a part time mediator and arbitrator in 1996 by the CCMA. He has also been quoted on Family Law issues in various newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times and magazines such as Noseweek, Keur, Living and Loving, Longevity, Woman and Home, Women’s Health, You, Huisgenoot and Fairlady and also appeared on the SABC television show, 3 Talk, Morning Live and on the 5FM Breakfast show with Gareth Cliff. His clients include artists, celebrities, sports people and high net worth individuals. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, child abduction and Hague Convention cases and domestic violence matters and international divorce law. He is also the founder of iDivorce an online uncontested divorce service.

Tel: 021 422 2461

 

Follow Bertus Preller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bertuspreller
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To visit the book’s official website go to: http://www.divorcelaws.co.za

Divorce Attorney Cape Town
Bertus Preller & Associates Inc.
+27214222461

Is a husband obliged to pay maintenance when his wife lives with another man?

 

A recent judgment concerned the issue whether a husband is obliged to pay maintenance to his former wife, who is involved in a relationship with another man, after divorce. The plaintiff issued summons against the defendant, her husband, during 2003, for a decree of divorce, maintenance for herself and their son and ancillary relief.

The parties had not lived together as man and wife for a continuous period of at least two years prior to the date of the institution of the divorce action. In terms of the provision of s 4(2)(a) of the Divorce Act 70 of 1979 (the Divorce Act), this is proof of the irretrievable break-down of the marriage. The remaining issues were whether the plaintiff is entitled to maintenance, and if so, what such maintenance should be. The defendant’s case in respect of the plaintiff’s entitlement to maintenance was that it is against public policy that a woman should be supported by two men.

The maintenance post-divorce Section 7(1) and (2) of the Act sets out when a court may order the payment of maintenance and the factors that should be taken into account when making such determination.

It provides as follows:

‘7(1) A Court granting a decree of divorce may in accordance with a written agreement between the parties make an order with regard to the division of the assets of the parties or the payment of maintenance by the one party to the other.

(2) In the absence of an order made in terms of subsection (1) with regard to the payment of maintenance by the one party to the other, the Court may, having regard to the existing or prospective means of each of the parties, their respective earning capacities, financial needs and obligations, the age of each of the parties, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living of the parties prior to the divorce, their conduct insofar as it may be relevant to the break-down of the marriage, an order in terms of subsection (3) and any other factor which in the opinion of the court should be taken into account, make an order which the court finds just in respect of the payment of maintenance by the one party to the other for any period until the death or remarriage of the party in whose favour the order is given, whichever event may first occur.’

Through a long line of cases dealing exclusively with maintenance pendente lite, it has become customary not to award maintenance to a spouse who is living in a permanent relationship with another.

In Drummond v Drummond the Appellate Division agreed with the definition of the phrase ‘living as husband and wife’ as stated by the full bench. The parties agreed that the husband would pay maintenance towards the wife and that maintenance would ‘cease should the plaintiff prove that the defendant was living as man and wife with a third person on a permanent basis’. The said phrase has the following meaning: ‘. . . the main components of a modus vivendi akin to that of husband and wife are, firstly, living under the same roof, secondly, establishing, maintaining and contributing to a joint household, and thirdly maintaining an intimate relationship.’ The plaintiff and S clearly live together as husband and wife according to the said definition.

In Cohen v Cohen the parties determined in a deed of settlement that the maintenance payable by the plaintiff (the husband) would cease if the defendant lived with another man as husband and wife for a certain specified period. This order was varied by a maintenance court in respect of the amounts the husband had to pay towards maintenance. In the maintenance court’s order the condition in respect of the cohabitation was left out. In a subsequent action it was decided that, where the magistrate had left out the said clause, the condition was no longer enforceable as it had been substituted by the maintenance court.

In Carstens v Carstens the wife claimed maintenance pendente lite in a rule 43 application while she lived with another man as husband and wife. Mullins J found: ‘It is in my view against public policy that a woman should be entitled to claim maintenance pendente lite from her husband when she is flagrantly and deliberately living as man and wife with another man. Not only is applicant in the present case living in adultery, but she and her lover are maintaining a joint household complete with the addition of an adulterine child. She has by her conduct accepted the support of Clarkson in lieu of that of her husband. The fact that Clarkson is unable to support her to the extent that she may have been accustomed in her matrimonial home with respondent does not appear to me to affect the position.’

In SP v HP (another rule 43 application) it was found, on the strength of Carstens, that ‘(t)he objection is not so much about the moral turpitude attaching to the illicit cohabitation, but more about the notion of a woman being supported by two men at the same time’.

In the unreported judgment of Qonqo v Qonqo dealing with a rule 43 application for maintenance pendente lite, the court, in spite of the fact that the applicant cohabited with her lover, ordered the respondent to pay maintenance pendente lite. The reason for ordering the payment of maintenance was that there was no proof that the lover supported the applicant in that instance.

It is also clear from the wording of s 7(2) of the Divorce Act that the legislature did not determine that maintenance should cease when the person receiving the maintenance is in a relationship akin to a marriage but only on remarriage. It is usually by way of an agreement between the parties that the additional condition relating to the cessation of payment of maintenance on the cohabitation with a third party is added.

Marriage entails that the parties establish and ‘maintain an intimate relationship for the rest of their lives which they acknowledge obliges them to support one another, to live together and to be faithful to one another’. One of the effects of marriage is the reciprocal duty of support. This duty of support does not exist, in circumstances such as these, if there is no marriage.

In Volks NO v Robinson and Others the proceedings had been initiated by Mrs Robinson who had been a partner in a permanent life partnership with Mr Shandling for a period of 16 years until his death in 2001. The couple had not been married, although there was no legal obstacle to their marriage. Following the death of Shandling, Robinson submitted a claim for maintenance against his deceased estate. The executor of the estate, Volks, rejected her claim because she was not ‘a survivor’ as contemplated by the Act. Skweyiya J said at paras 55 – 56: ‘Mrs Robinson never married the late Mr Shandling. There is a fundamental difference between her position and spouses or survivors who are predeceased by their husbands. Her relationship with Mr Shandling is one in which each was free to continue or not, and from which each was free to withdraw at will, without obligation and without legal or other formalities. There are a wide range of legal privileges and obligations that are triggered by the contract of marriage. In a marriage the spouse’s rights are largely fixed by law and not by agreement, unlike in the case of parties who cohabit without being married. The distinction between married and unmarried people cannot be said to be unfair when considered in the larger context of the rights and obligations uniquely attached to marriage. Whilst there is a reciprocal duty of support between married persons, no duty of support arises by operation of law in the case of unmarried cohabitants. The maintenance benefit in section 2(1) of the Act falls within the scope of the maintenance support obligation attached to marriage. The Act applies to persons in respect of whom the deceased person (spouse) would have remained legally liable for maintenance, by operation of law, had he or she not died.’

If regard is had to the decision of Cohen, that it cannot be read into s 7(2) of the Act that the maintenance will cease when the recipient of the maintenance lives as husband and wife with another, as an express agreement to that effect can be amended by the maintenance court. Having regard to the factors that should be taken into account when determining whether the defendant ought to pay maintenance for the plaintiff, in terms of s 7(2) of the Act, the factors mentioned are not exclusive.

When taking into consideration the factors mentioned in s 7(2) of the Act to determine whether the defendant is liable to pay maintenance the following emerge:

(a) The existing and prospective means of each of the parties and the parties’ respective earning capacities.

(b) The financial needs and obligations of the parties. It is clear that neither of the parties can live lavishly, but they are not destitute.

(c) The age of the parties.

(d) The duration of the marriage.

(e) The standard of living of the parties prior to the divorce.

(f) The conduct of the defendant insofar as it may be relevant to the breakdown of the marriage.

The facts of this matter differed materially from Carstens; SP v HP; and Qonqo. It is immaterial whether the defendant was unable to support the plaintiff and their son, or whether he was merely unwilling to do so. Other legislation also makes it clear that the legislature envisaged that a man can be supported by two women. In terms of the provisions s 8(4) of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998, a court dissolving a customary marriage has the powers contemplated in ss 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the Act. This has the effect that with polygamous customary marriages a husband will have the right to be supported by more than one wife, post-divorce, if circumstances demand it. Although it might have been a concept that was unacceptable in a previous dispensation, the concept is not unacceptable today. The court was of of the opinion that in the circumstances of this case it could not be said that it is against public policy that the defendant should be liable to pay maintenance to the plaintiff; there is no legislative prohibition and the court found that there was no general public policy to that effect or moral prohibition.

Protecting Your Assets in a Divorce

The news of Kim Kardashian divorcing her husband after 72 days of marriage, highlights why it is important for business owners to make sure that their marital regime is governed in terms of an Antenuptial contract .  An  Antenuptial contract is the most cost-efficient and reliable pre-marital contract that can protect business assets in the unlikely event of a divorce.  An Antenuptial contract is a pre-marital contract between two parties entering into a marriage which regulates what happens to a spouse’s assets at the time of a divorce.  It sets forth how marital property will be divided in the event of a divorce.

A well drafted Antenuptial contract can save you time and money on litigation costs during a divorce and prevent a battle over the ownership of a business and other assets.  The more issues covered in the Antenuptial contract, means one less issue to litigate over during a divorce.  Therefore, it is a prudent investment to make prior to getting married.  One of the most important provisions a business owner can have in a Antenuptial contract is a provision addressing the appreciation of individual pre-marital assets (assets you possess prior to entering the marriage).

For example, let’s say your business, an asset, is worth R 6 million prior to getting married.  At the end of your divorce, your asset is worth R 12 million.  Your spouse could be entitled to half or more of the R 12 million appreciation during the marriage.  However, if you have a valid and enforceable Antenuptial contract whereby you and your partner agree that pre-marital property and any growth thereon is excluded at the start of the marriage, then such assets will not be taken into account for purposes of an accrual.

Marrying in terms of an Antenuptial contract (out of community of property) can also help limit your liability for your future spouse’s debts and prevent you from inheriting this debt during the marriage and divorce.  Remember, creditors can go after marital property- i.e., your business if you are married in community of property.

Antenuptial contracts may be unenforceable if certain formalities are not followed. A common attack to a Antenuptial contract is if both spouses were represented by the same attorney or one spouse was forced into the contract and did not really know what the consequences are. It is critical for you and your spouse to have separate attorneys who are independent of one another during the drafting and negotiation of the Antenuptial contract or at least, if you do go to one attorney, make sure that the attorney explains the pro’s and con’s and give the other spouse and option to discuss the agreement with another attorney.

An Antenuptial contract or pre-nuptial agreement must be entered into before marriage through a notary public, if not the marital regime by default will be that you are married in community of property. To change your marital regime later after divorce is costly and can only be accomplished by way of a court application in the High Court.

Another requirement for a valid and enforceable Antenuptial contract agreement includes the use of clear language in the agreement and terms that are fair. It is important both you and your future spouse have sufficient time to review, negotiate and execute the Antenuptial contract.  You and your future spouse want to avoid reviewing and signing the Antenuptial contract six hours before the wedding and while under duress.  Therefore, you should both have sufficient time to review the Antenuptial contract and formally execute it.  By undertaking these measures, you can protect your business and assets with a valid and enforceable Antenuptial contract.

Bekende Egskeidings Prokureur Gee Raad

Dit is belangrik om die implikasies van die wyse waarop jy getroud is te verstaan, en as jy dit nie verstaan nie, vind dan uit by iemand wat aan jou kan verduidelik sodat jy dit behoorlik kan verstaan. Is jy getroud binne of buite gemeenskap van goedere? As jy is getroud binne gemeenskap van goedere, sal jy geregtig wees op 50% van die gemeenskaplike boedel en as jy is getroud buite gemeenskap van goedere met die aanwasbedeling, is jy geregtig op die helfte van die verskil van jou en jou gade se aanwas. As jy getroud is buite gemeenskap van goedere sonder die aanwasbedeling voor 1 November 1984, sal jy geregtig wees om te vra vir ‘n herverdeling van die bates, wat behels dat jy dalk in staat sal wees om 50% van die gesamentlike bates te eis, maar as jy getroud buite gemeenskap van goedere sonder die aanwasbedeling na 1 November 1984 sal jy net ‘n eis vir onderhoud kan instel onder sekere omstandighede.

  • Jy kan onder sekere omstandighede eis vir rehabiliterende onderhoud. Rehabiliterende onderhoud is waar een gade die ander vir ‘n vasgestelde tydperk maandeliks betaal, bv vir twee jaar of langer.
  • Onthou dat jy kan ‘n aansoek loods hangende die egskeiding om onderhoud, terwyl die egskeiding nog nie afgehandel is nie, in so ‘n aansoek kan jy ook eis dat jou gade ‘n bydrae maak tot jou regskoste.
  • Kry soveel finansiële inligting oor jou eggenoot moontlik, maak afskrifte van alle bankstate, kredietkaart state en maak ‘n lys van al die bates en laste, bronne van inkomste, ens.
  • Stel ‘n volledige begroting op van jou huidige maandelikse uitgawes en inkomste van jou en jou kinders. Dit kan die moeite werd wees om voorsiening te maak vir toekomstige uitgawes.
  • Jy kan ook aandring op die sessie van ‘n lewenspolis van jou gade om die betaling van maandelikse onderhoud te verseker.
  • Probeer om aan te bly in die gesamentlike woning vir solank as jy kan huis (as dit naby aan jou kinders se skool of werk is). Daar is ‘n gesegde in ons reg, dat besit 9 / 10 van die reg is. Om in die gesamentlike woning aan te bly, sal ook die situasie van die kinders stabiliseer, aangesien ‘n trek na ‘n nuwe bestemming ‘n baie traumatiese ervaring vir die kinders kan wees.
  • Onthou dat jy nie noodwendig die oordragkoste hoef te betaal vir ‘n eiendom wat aan jou oorgedra word in jou egskeiding nie. Daar is verskeie opsies met betrekking tot eiendom wat aan beide van julle behoort, byvoorbeeld deur dit te behou of te verkoop of die netto wins verdeel.
  • Sien toe dat die Skikkingsooreenkoms so opgestel word dat jy kan aandring op ‘n aftrekking van jou gade se salaris indien hy nie betaal nie.
  • Sorg dat jou egskeiding Skikkingsooreenkoms sou opgestel word om ‘n deel van enige bates wat jou eggenoot wegsteek en waarvan jy nie bewus is op datum van die egskeiding nie te bekom wanneer jy later daarvan uitvind.
  • Moet nie minder tevrede wees nie, baie vroue loop eenvoudig as gevolg van die emosionele druk met minder as waarop hulle geregtig is. Onthou dat egskeiding altyd ‘n sake-besluit is en die besluite wat jy maak nou ‘n definitiewe impak sal hê later in jou lewe.
  • Egskeiding kan ‘n langdurige proses wees en dit kan baie frustrerend en emosioneel dreinerend wees, dit neem tyd en strategiese beplanning.
  • Moenie verander prokureurs in die proses bloot as gevolg van jou eie frustrasie nie, soos hulle sê, die spel van ‘n egskeiding is soos’ n skaakspel.
  • Onthou dat jou eggenoot se bates sluit ook in aandeelhoudings in maatskappye, aftreefondse, pensioenfondse en selfs belasting terugbetalings.
  • Dink met jou kop en nie met jou hart.
  • Onthou om jou testament te verander.

Beware the love tweet

Social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and MXit are becoming the easiest way to prove marriages have irretrievably broken down in contested divorces.

NIVASHNI NAIR | 10 October, 2011 00:44 – Times Live

A wealthy Durban doctor created a fake Facebook profile as a “hot young thing” to gather evidence against her husband in their divorce battle.

A Johannesburg businessman installed cameras in the study where his wife logged on to social networking sites so he could capture her “wild affairs”.

Cape Town divorce lawyer Bertus Preller said it would be wise for unhappy couples to watch what they post because it could come back to haunt them.

“Posting status updates and uploading photos of otherwise fun-filled events on social networks have led to an overabundance of evidence in divorce cases,” he said.

“According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have used or faced evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites, including YouTube and LinkedIn, over the past five years. In South Africa, the situation is the same.”

Preller said almost one-third of his caseload involved contested divorces in which evidence from Facebook, MXit and Twitter was used to prove that the marriages were over.

“Although adultery is grounds for divorce, one must show that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. But in contested divorces, one party will want to show otherwise, therefore evidence needs to be brought in to show that the marriage is over,” he said.

“These days, the first thing that clients do is go to Facebook or Twitter to get evidence. Often people do not log off their profiles or delete their inbox messages, making it easier for their spouses to gather evidence.

“So if you forgot to de-friend your wife on Facebook while posting vacation shots of your mistress, her divorce attorney may just be thrilled about you doing that.”

He said betrayed spouses went to great lengths to source evidence.

“Some have downloaded technology surveillance software to obtain information that will otherwise not be obtainable.”

A Durban doctor and mother of two, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wanted to catch her husband “in the act” to show the court that their marriage was “definitely over”.

“I created a profile and became his friend. We exchanged inbox messages three times and, on all three occasions, as he tried to convince me to go out to supper with him, he repeatedly said he was not married.

“He even said he didn’t believe in marriage and was not ready to settle down,” she said.

Although her divorce has not yet been finalised, the woman is confident that her “investigative skills will nail him”.

“I don’t think any judge would want me to stay with a man who said he doesn’t believe in marriage and is not ready to settle down.

“It hurt me at first because we have been married for 18 years, and have teenage sons, but I got over it when I saw the look on his face when I produced evidence.”

Hacking your husband or wife’s mobile phone is a criminal offence

Hacking your spouse’s mobile phone is a criminal offence

I acted in a divorce matter where the husband hacked into his wife’s cell phone, email and facebook accounts in an endeavour to obtain information to strengthen his case. Although it is a criminal offense this happens frequently. Actions such as these amount to a criminal offense and is illegal.  Whether you use BBM, Whatsup or Mxit, all data can be hacked.

Cell phone hacking does occur in divorce matters, but not as frequently as computer hacking. Hacking is the intent to load viruses or spyware, obtain passwords or personal information, or cause general electronic mayhem. While smartphones can have a computer-like operating system, the majority have different operating systems like Andriod or Symbian. Hackers attempt to find flaws in an operating system, which makes a cell phone or computer vulnerable to attack. Because there are a large number of cell phone operating systems, a flaw in one system may not be the same flaw in another.

Recent figures by the GSM Association group of mobile operators found 18 different spyware applications sold openly on the internet, at prices ranging from $29.99 to $847.

Most of these require the snooper to get hold of the target’s phone to install the necessary software and then intercept and monitor communications. Getting the spy software installed on a phone without physically handling it is almost impossible, so if you think you can hack a phone over the internet you can’t, because any program that is installed on the phone must be done manually. So if your spouse had your phone in his possession then chances are good that he/she could have installed software on the phone to hack it.

What can be downloaded off the cell phone?

  • GPS. Since many cell phones have a GPS chip embedded within the phone, a hacker can determine your location. This in turn lets them find out places you go, like home or work.
  • Contact List. A hacker can obtain and download all your contacts. In 2005, Paris Hilton’s phone was hacked and all her contacts stolen. People on her contact list received prank calls for months afterwards.
  • Getting general personal information. Text messages, pictures, video: they are all vulnerable to getting stolen if cell phone hacking happens. This is akin to spyware stealing your passwords on your computer or a hacker seeking out all your private stuff in those folders you thought you had hidden away well.
  • Speakerphone or Spycam. A truly inventive hacker may hijack your phone in order to use the camera to spy visually and audibly.
  • Call Interception. Listen to the actual calls live on the target cell phone
  • Environment Listening. Make a spy call to the target cell phone running and listen in to the phone’s surroundings.
  • SMS Logging. Records both incoming & outgoing SMS and MMS
  • SIM Change Notification. Get instant notification via SMS when the target cell phone changes its SIM
  • Remote Control. Send secret SMS to the target phone to control all its functions

The hacker can download all the data from a web based programme to a computer, from any location in the world.

Hacking has been entrenched in our law in section 86 (1) of the Electronic Communications Act (ECT), which makes any unlawful access and interception of data a criminal offence. The section also make any attempt to gain unauthorised access a crime Section 86(3) and 86 (4) introduce a new form of crime known as the anti-cracking and hacking law. In terms of this law, the provision and/or selling and/or designing and/or producing of anti-security circumventing technology will be a punishable offence liable to a fine or imprisonment of up to 12 months.

About the Author

Bertus Preller is a Divorce Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Bertus Preller & Associates Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times and magazines such as Noseweek, You and Huisgenoot. His clients include artists, celebrities, sports people and high networth individuals. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

 

Adultery, Infidelity, Extra-marital Affairs and Divorce

From a moral, ethical and religious view adultery is a sin and an act contrary to the basis of trust between married spouses and so is the behaviour of that a third party that break up the marriage seen as immoral.  This article is purely focussed on the law and not the public view or for that matter any moral or religious viewpoint.

Adultery may be defined as extramarital sex that wilfully and maliciously interferes with marriage relations which renders the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship. It is often cited as grounds for divorce. In our law, both the married person and the lover will be regarded as adulterers.

South African law has recognised  claims for damages that can be instituted by an aggrieved spouse against a mistress, but is our law not evolving away from the historic public and religious views? Damages may still be awarded on the basis of the insult caused to the innocent party and of the loss of consortium. Compensation can be claimed for financial loss caused by break-up of the marriage, as well as for the loss of the affection. A court will consider the spouse’s financial and social situation, their moral reputation and the state of the relationship before the adultery was committed. When an innocent spouse’s behaviour was partly responsible for driving his or her partner into another person’s arms, the damages awarded can be considerably lower.

It can however be argued that the South African common law on which a Plaintiff’s claim is predicated for damages against a spouse who committed adultery in a marriage must be developed to promote the spirit, purport and objective of the Bill of Rights contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of South Africa, 1996 (“the Constitution”) and the interests of justice (under Section 39 (2) and section 173 of the Constitution).

According to the view expressed above it is argued that the time has come to develop the common law so as to remove or curtail claims for damages by a married person, utilising the actio iniuriarum, against a person involved in an intimate relationship with the married person’s spouse. The actio iniuriarum is used to claim for the impairment of one’s personality.  The purpose of this action is to compensate for the intentional injury to one’s mental integrity.

The argument against such a claim is that it breaches the right to human dignity (of the adulterer and mistress) under Section 10 of the Constitution, in that:

  • The relationship and love between the adulterer and mistress is treated as morally reprehensible or without opprobrium;
  • The mistress is held wholly responsible for damage caused to an aggrieved spouse by the other spouse’s marital infidelity; and
  • The mistress is treated as an instrument, in that her human relationship with the adulterer is used as a means to express condemnation for the adulterer’s marital infidelity, and/or to generate sympathy for the aggrieved spouse.

It is further argued that such a claim breach the adulterer and mistress’s rights to equality and freedom from discrimination under Section 9 of the Constitution on basis of marital status, conscience and belief in that:

  • No similar claim for damages is possible against a person who begins an intimate relationship with a man or a woman involved in a long-term homosexual or heterosexual relationship, customary law marriage or religious union;
  • The emotional consequences and loss for the aggrieved partner (i.e the person who learns of the infidelity of his or her partner with a third person) in all of the above relationships may be no more or less serious than a spouse in a marital relationship;
  • The law accordingly differentiates between a person who enters a relationship with a married person; and a person who enters a relationship with a person in other types of committed, long-term relationships;
  • The differentiation amounts to unfair discrimination on the basis of marital status and on the basis that it impairs, or has the potential to impair, the fundamental human dignity of an adulterer and a mistress.

It can further be argued that an adulterer and mistress’ right to privacy under Section 14 of the Constitution is violated in that it causes a public inquiry into the details of their relationship, how it formed and its strength.

Furthermore it seems that an adulterer and mistress’ rights to freedom of conscience, thought, belief and opinion under Section 15 of the Constitution, expression under Section 16 (1) of the Constitution and freedom of association under Section 18 of the Constitution also come into play for the following reasons:

  • Burdening people such as the mistress with damages will have a detrimental effect on her ability to honestly and openly express her emotions and love for another person;
  • The expression of emotions and love between the adulterer and mistress will be treated as morally reprehensible or tainted with moral opprobrium.

Therefore it seems that the common law must be developed in the interests of justice taking in to account the recognition that both parties contribute to the breakdown of the marriage relationship, which is inherent in the ground for divorce introduced in Section 4 of the Divorce Act 70 of 1979, namely “the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”.

It is so that many foreign jurisdictions don’t tolerate such claims anymore and that there seems to be developments in South African case law to that effect. The historic view in our law that damages are awarded on the basis of the insult caused to the innocent party and of the loss of consortium seems to be outdated and time will tell on how our courts will develop the common law.

About the Author

Bertus Preller is a Divorce Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Bertus Preller & Associates Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

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