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Arrear maintenance: Must you choose your weapon?

arreamaintenance“A maintenance order is granted to protect the vulnerable and ensure their support ….. the law seeks to promote an effective and accessible maintenance scheme ….. An effective maintenance scheme exists where maintenance ordered is paid and received without undue delay” (Savage AJ in judgment below)

If you are struggling to recover maintenance from a defaulter, must you “choose your weapon” by selecting only one of the recovery methods available to you?  Or can you use all possible weapons at your disposal, simultaneously?

The High Court has answered this question in your favour.

The facts

  • A husband embroiled in acrimonious divorce proceedings was ordered to pay R11,000 p.m. maintenance for his three young daughters
  • He failed to pay and fell into arrears
  • He is employed and owns a trailer worth R10,000
  • His wife obtained a writ of execution from the High Court enabling her to attach the trailer, and then also obtained from the magistrate’s court a garnishee order obliging the husband’s employer to deduct from his earnings R11,000 p.m. for the maintenance plus R500 p.m. to reduce the arrears.

Double Trouble

The husband asked the High Court to set aside the writ of execution, arguing that his wife had rather elected to recover the maintenance via a garnishee order.

The Court held against the husband, and the upshot is that he has double trouble – he both loses his trailer and has his salary docked.

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