Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally charged process, often accompanied by financial uncertainties. Spousal maintenance is a concept that aims to provide financial support to a disadvantaged spouse after a divorce. In this article, we will explore certain aspects of spousal maintenance in South Africa and shed some light on the issue.


Understanding Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance refers to the financial assistance provided by one spouse to the other following a divorce. The purpose of spousal maintenance is to alleviate some of the burdens that may arise from the termination of a marriage. However, this does not mean that every other spouse is automatically granted maintenance after getting a divorce. The need for spousal maintenance is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and various factors are taken into account before a decision is made.


Who Pays Spousal Maintenance?

Under South African law, either spouse could be required to pay spousal maintenance, depending on their circumstances. A key consideration is the financial position and earning capabilities of each spouse after they have separated. The courts always seek to achieve a fair outcome, and they will scrutinise all the relevant information to reach a conclusion. The financial needs of the disadvantaged spouse are assessed while the other spouse's ability to pay is also brought into question. 

It should be emphasised that spousal maintenance is not gender-specific, and either party can be held responsible for paying for it. It simply depends on the specific circumstances of the case.


Determining Spousal Maintenance

When determining spousal maintenance, the courts consider several factors, including:

Income and earning capacity: The courts assess the income and potential earning capacity of both spouses. If one spouse has a significantly higher income or earning potential, they may be more likely to be required to pay spousal maintenance.

Standard of living during the marriage: The court takes into account the lifestyle enjoyed by both spouses during the marriage. The aim is to ensure the disadvantaged spouse can maintain a comparable standard of living post-divorce.

Duration of the marriage: The length of the marriage is often an important factor. Generally, longer marriages may result in a higher likelihood of spousal maintenance being awarded.

Financial needs and obligations: The financial needs and obligations of each spouse will be assessed, including child support responsibilities, debts and other financial commitments. If one spouse is overburdened by legitimate expenses, the courts might find that they are dependent on spousal maintenance to make ends meet.  

Age and health: The age and health of each spouse are also taken into account. If the disadvantaged spouse is unable to support themselves due to age or health issues, spousal maintenance may be awarded to help them cope.

It is important to note that each case is unique and that the court exercises its own discretion in determining spousal maintenance, based on all the available information.


Spousal maintenance often plays a vital role in divorces, providing financial support to individuals that truly need it. The decision to award maintenance and the amount granted depend on various factors, and there is a lot to wrap your head around if you need to apply for or contest a maintenance order. It is essential to seek professional legal advice when dealing with legal matters, as it can have a significant impact on the outcome of your dispute.


Contact Cawood Attorneys now if you are in need of qualified legal assistance. Our attorneys approach each case with empathy and fairness and can answer any questions you may have regarding spousal maintenance. We will help you navigate through the complexities of our legal system so you can approach the process with greater clarity and make more informed decisions.

Get Your FREE Telephonic ConsultationContact Us