Legal Wranglings: Suing for spousal support

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May 20, 2016

The Maintenance Act places an obligation on a spouse as far as he or she is capable, to maintain the other spouse if the need arises.

Married couples are referred to as spouses, but under the Act, a spouse includes a single woman who cohabits with a single man for a period of not less than five years, and the same applies to a man who lives with a single woman for the same period.

A woman who had been living with her common-law husband for 14 years came home from the market one Saturday to discover that he had moved out all of his belongings from the house.

She said she collapsed in November last year when she discovered what he had done, and her neighbours had to rush her to the doctor.

"He showed no signs that he had any intention of ending the relationship as we were always on good terms," she said.

"He was the one who gave me money the Saturday morning to go to the market. He even told me some special things to buy for him. When I came to the gate, I did not see his minibus and one of my neighbours helped me to carry the food items inside the house.

"I collapsed when I discovered that he had moved out, and my neighbour had to rush me to the hospital. I later found that he moved out to live with a 20-year-old woman and he is three times her age. I am 50 years old and I believed all along we had a very good relationship. He has some minibuses running on the road, and since he left the house in November last year, he has not made any financial contribution to the house.

"I used to work, but I got laid off from my job in February last year. I sometimes wonder if it is because I am not working why he left me. I am trying to find a job, but in the meantime, my relatives have to be assisting me financially. The good thing is that the title to the house is in my name also, so if he wants to sell it, I will have to get my share.

"A friend suggested last month that I should sue him for maintenance, but I don't know if that is possible since we were not married," she said.

Under the Maintenance Act, you fall under the category of a spouse. You can apply to the court for an order for your former common-law husband to give you spousal support. The court, after hearing the matter, will make a determination.

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