What are the different types of spousal maintenance in South Africa?

The four types of spousal maintenance in South Africa are token, interim, rehabilitative, and permanent or lifelong. Each type serves a specific purpose, supporting a spouse financially during or after a divorce or separation.

Token Maintenance

Token maintenance involves a nominal amount of money, such as R1 per year, agreed upon by both parties. This type is chosen when the receiving spouse doesn’t need financial support immediately but wants to keep the option open for future maintenance claims.

  • Example 1: A couple divorces while both spouses are young and financially independent, but they agree to a token maintenance of R1 per year, allowing for a claim of maintenance in the future if circumstances drastically change.
  • Example 2: After a short marriage without children, both parties are employed and self-sufficient, but they agree to token maintenance to leave the door open for possible future claims if one party encounters unforeseen financial difficulties.

Interim Maintenance

Interim maintenance is provided during the divorce proceedings. It helps the lower-earning or non-earning spouse cover their living expenses until the divorce is finalized. This type is crucial for maintaining the financial status quo throughout the legal process.

  • Example 1: During the divorce proceedings, one spouse who is a stay-at-home parent receives interim maintenance to cover daily living expenses and care for the children until a final order is made.
  • Example 2: An unemployed spouse receives interim maintenance to cover rent, utilities, and food while the divorce is being processed, ensuring they aren’t financially disadvantaged during the proceedings.
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Rehabilitative Maintenance

Rehabilitative maintenance is awarded for a specific period to help a spouse become financially independent. It’s often used when one spouse has been out of the workforce and needs time and resources to gain skills or education necessary to obtain employment.

  • Example 1: After a decade-long marriage during which one spouse didn’t work, rehabilitative maintenance is granted for three years to support that spouse while they return to college to update their qualifications and re-enter the job market.
  • Example 2: A spouse who previously worked part-time to support the other’s career receives rehabilitative maintenance for a set period, allowing them to undertake training to gain full-time employment in their field.

Permanent or Lifelong Maintenance

Permanent or lifelong maintenance is granted when one spouse is unlikely to become fully self-supporting due to age, health issues, or other significant factors. This type ensures ongoing support to the spouse who cannot adequately support themselves post-divorce.

  • Example 1: In a long marriage where one spouse has a chronic illness and cannot work, permanent maintenance is awarded to ensure ongoing medical care and basic living expenses are met.
  • Example 2: After a 30-year marriage, one spouse who has never worked outside the home and is now near retirement age receives lifelong maintenance to continue the standard of living they were accustomed to during the marriage.

Each type of maintenance aims to provide financial fairness and security, addressing the specific needs and circumstances of the divorcing or separating couple.

What are the different types of spousal maintenance in South Africa?