Estranged husband ordered to pay spousal maintenance to escort wife
The Johannesburg high court has ordered a husband to continue paying maintenance of R36,000 a month to his estranged wife, despite his claim that she did not need the money as she was earning large sums as an escort.
The two have been in a bitter divorce battle since 2019.
The wife has accused him of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. She told the court she suffered severe psychological harm as a result of his abusive conduct. He denies the allegations “and points to the fact that he has been acquitted of 20 or so assault charges pressed by Mrs VW [estranged wife] after criminal proceedings were terminated at the close of the state’s case”.
Judge Stuart Wilson said: “It is not necessary for me to resolve these allegations. But the fact that they have been made — and they are not obviously vexatious — provides an important part of the context in which I must decide this application.”
The woman was said to have been in a state of psychological collapse. In October 2020 she allegedly drove a car into her sister’s ex-husband, causing unspecified injuries to him and “minor” injuries to his father.
It could not be ascertained whether this action was intentional. However, her husband decided to cut her visitation and contact with their minor child who lives with him. He said her conduct was at the least reckless and this made it dangerous for her to have in-person contact with their child.
He also asked the court to adjust the maintenance payments, saying there was a material change in their circumstances. The payment was suspended in October 2022 pending the wife presenting her financial records to the court.
The husband said in the initial stages of the divorce the wife was in need of the monthly spousal allowance of R36,000, but she had since taken a job as “a masseuse and upmarket escort”. He alleged she earns between R88,000 and R153,000 a month.
“While there has never been any real dispute that Mrs VW has taken work as an escort, Mrs VW has denied her income exceeds a few thousand rand a month,” the judge said.
“Mr VW says [she] has been earning these sums since June 9 2021. He seeks an order ending his maintenance payments. He also seeks an order that would have the effect of declaring Mrs VW not entitled to payments she received” after that date.
The estimate of her earnings was not verified by the husband via documents directly evidencing her income but was instead based on a series of inferences drawn on a private investigator’s report and a set of internet advertisements for her services, said the judge.
In the ruling handed down this week, Wilson found Mrs VW's financial disclosures provided no indication that she earns a regular or substantial income from being an escort or from any source other than Mr VW’s maintenance payments.
In a supplementary affidavit in November, Mr VW continued to rely on the private investigator’s report to press a series of inferences that Mrs VW is being dishonest about her income and is hiding additional bank accounts and sources of income from the court.
“That may be true, but Mr VW’s case that it is true is speculative and unsupported by direct evidence placed under oath.
“To succeed in being finally relieved of his maintenance obligations, Mr VW had to allege and prove, on a balance of probabilities, a material change in Mrs VW’s circumstances in the form of a substantially increased income.
“When read in light of Mrs VW’s financial disclosures, Mr VW’s case, the evidentiary foundation of which was never expanded beyond the private investigator’s report and the internet advertisements, falls short of that standard.”
The wife has also been granted contact with her child via a daily video call and in-person contact once a week for one hour at the rooms of a suitably qualified and experienced social worker or psychologist. The costs must be paid by the husband until the divorce is finalised.
She also gets to keep her car which her husband had wanted back.
Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.