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Ability to Pay Wife / Child Maintenance During the Covid-19 Outbreak

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

This unfortunate & unprecedented outbreak impacted businesses and their employees.. If you have suffered from major financial setbacks due to the outbreak of Covid-19 but are bearing the burden of paying wife or child maintenance every month, what you can do?

Consequences of defaulting in Wife or Child Maintenance You probably know that if you defaulted in wife and/or children maintenance, you will be faced with legal implications such as dealing with committal proceedings which may put you behind bars, until you can pay the maintenance you owed. Bear in mind that this is only one of the many legal implications which you may face.

Can You Stop Paying Wife or Child Maintenance?

There are 2 circumstances when you may stop paying maintenance:-

  1. when your ex-wife has remarried or is living in adultery unless you have agreed otherwise;

  2. when your child attains the age of 18 years old or has completed his/her tertiary education;

  3. when there is a material change in circumstances such as you have suffered from substantial or total loss of income.

What are the steps that you have to take to cease paying wife and/or children maintenance?

If you have in any way suffer loss of income then you may apply to the High Court to vary the maintenance order. This would mean that the Court may:-

  1. reduce the amount of the wife and/or children maintenance; or

  2. suspense your obligation to pay the wife and/or children maintenance for a certain period of time.

However, you will bear the burden to prove to the Court that such income loss is substantial that it has affected your ability to pay for the maintenance.

Before making any application in the High Court to vary the maintenance order, you will need to:-

  1. have an open discussion with your ex-wife about your financial situation;

  2. understand that she may also suffer from loss of income and may not be able to sustain herself and the children;

  3. suggest how much you can pay and how long would the situation last;

  4. mitigate the income loss by taking all the reasonable steps and make all necessary efforts.

If your ex-wife agrees to the temporary suspension of your obligation in paying the maintenance, ensure that her agreement is in a written form such as Whatsapp text, e-mail. It is best to have the agreement reflected in the Court order.

However, if the suspension period is more than a year or is conditional upon the happening of a certain event such as resuming employment, then it is advisable for you to make a formal application to the court to prevent any unnecessary litigation which may be a toll on your money.

Can she withdraw her consent later? If the consensus is not recorded in court, she may at anytime agree to revoke her consent and you are being placed in the original position as spelled out in the Order. Hence you will need to may the application in the Court to vary the Order before any stern legal action is taken against you which you will need to fork up additional legal expenses in defending the case while making an application in the Court to vary the Order.

If the consensus is recorded in the Court, then she cannot simply withdraw her consent. To do so, she will need to make an application in the Court to support her withdrawal. Hence, it is advisable to have the consensus recorded in the Court as this saves both parties from any unexpected legal fees and implications that can be avoided in the first place.



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