Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I am currently divorced, but awaiting a decree absolute. However, I was granted spousal support which my husband has only paid over once. The ruling was made in 2010. What can I do?
I note that you say you are divorced, but if the decree absolute has not in fact been granted, you are definitely not divorced. It would mean that you have only been granted the decree nisi, which has to be made absolute for your marriage to have been dissolved. When you are merely in position of a decree nisi, neither you nor your husband can marry anyone else, but once the decree has been made absolute, you can go off and marry whomever you wish.
You also say that you were granted, I assume from an application to the court, a maintenance order by which your husband should provide some specified sum of support for you. You say he has only ever paid the sum once and yet the order was made in 2010. What were you doing all these years when he failed to make these ordered payments? Why were you sleeping on your rights and entitlement and why did you permit so many years to pass? You have clearly indicated by your inaction that you did not need these sums from your husband in order to survive. What has changed now?
If, as you say, the decree absolute is still outstanding, then you have time to make an application for your maintenance order to be reinstated, and you will have to convince the court by your affidavit in support that you really are in need of his contribution. You could also add an application for an order that he should pay the outstanding sums of maintenance due to you which he failed to pay over the years, and again state and prove that you are in dire need of these funds.
Of course, it must be stated that your husband acted in breach of the court order by his failure, and therefore was in contempt of the court. You could have applied during the period for him to be committed to prison for his failure to obey the order, and he would still have to pay you the outstanding sums. I cannot guarantee that the court will simply make an order for your husband to pay you the outstanding sums, since you sat on your right for so many years, which only says to everyone that you didn't need the money then.
Since you caused so much time to pass, you will have the burden of convincing the court to act against him for his breach of the order and act in your favour.
I should also tell you that the Matrimonial Causes Act provides that a spouse can make an application for maintenance even after the decree absolute has been granted, but only within 30 days of its date of grant.
I would suggest that you quickly retain the services of a lawyer to advise and guide you in this matter, and to assist you with the grant of the decree absolute. I wish you luck.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to email@example.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.