Pretoria – A husband who started his married life by making sexual advances to one of the bridesmaids on their wedding day – his wife’s cousin – and continued on this path during their 12-year marriage got a rude awakening when the court ruled he forfeit half of their joint estate.
“It strikes me to be exceedingly unfair that the defendant (husband), having shown no regard for his role as husband and father, and having made no contribution of any kind to the common home, neither financially nor emotionally, should benefit from the plaintiff’s (wife) work. Consequently, the claim for forfeiture should succeed,” Gauteng High Court, Pretoria Judge Jan Swanepoel ruled.
The parties were married in April 2011 in terms of the accrual system by virtue of an ante-nuptial contract in which their respective estates were valued at nil rand at the time.
The wife became a successful businesswoman and built their joint estate over the years. The husband appeared to have done nothing and mostly embarrassed and disappointed his wife.
He turned to court for a divorce order, coupled with an order that he not forfeit his half on their joint estate.
In the opening remark of his judgment, Judge Swanepoel said: “I daresay most marriages start off with the two partners believing they are in love and that they will be together forever.
“That may have been the future the plaintiff envisaged on her wedding day, but it was most certainly not what the defendant had in mind.”
The court heard the wife successfully operated a close corporation, for which the husband worked for a brief period before he was fired for misconduct.
“The plaintiff and defendant did not exactly have the same hopes and dreams on their wedding day,” the judge said in referring to the sexual advances made to the bridesmaid.
While the husband was employed in another province for four years subsequent to their marriage, the couple agreed he would return to their marital home at weekends.
Those weekends became less frequent as the husband would spend his time with his biker friends. The entire burden of financially maintaining the household fell on the wife, with the husband not making any contribution.
Two years after placing the wedding ring on his wife’s finger, the husband was involved in an extramarital relationship with a family friend, who was also married. He was also involved in relationships with two other women and later with a fourth person, also a family friend who was engaged to be married to another family friend.
The husband, who worked for a mine before he joined his wife’s business, received R275 000 from the mine when he lost his job – money his family never saw. He refused to say what he had done with the money.
When he was rendered unemployed, and his wife allowed him to work for her business, the husband kept on demanding salary increases.
“None of the defendant’s income was used to support his family. He would go on weekend getaways with girlfriends, and he maintained a girlfriend in an apartment in Durban.”
The judge also noted that during his employment with the corporation, the husband engaged in affairs with four staff members. “One can imagine the plaintiff’s hurt and embarrassment. No doubt, people must have known of the defendant’s affairs, and the plaintiff must have felt very belittled.”
The last straw for the wife was when the husband exhorted her for money – she fired him.
The judge said not satisfied with merely being unfaithful and dishonest, he also set up his own companies to try to compete with the wife’s corporation while he was still in its employ.
The judge said if the husband were to receive half of the assets his wife had built, he would benefit from the marriage. “The marriage (on the face of it) lasted 12 years. But in truth, it lasted only a short while. The defendant was living as if he were a bachelor. He did not contribute to the common home financially, emotionally, or in any other manner.”