Recognising the Value of Homemaking and Career Sacrifices: Navigating Maintenance Claims
09 June 2023 11:00
In the realm of family law, maintenance claims can extend beyond financial considerations, encompassing the significant contributions made by individuals who have dedicated their time and efforts to homemaking and sacrificing their careers for the benefit of the family. In this blog post, we delve into the often-overlooked aspect of homemaking and career sacrifices within marriages and explore how maintenance claims can be pursued to acknowledge and address these contributions. By shedding light on this crucial dimension, we aim to empower family law practitioners in advocating for their clients' rights and achieving just outcomes.
The Consortium of Homemaking and Career Sacrifices
Within the context of marriage, the consortium refers to the mutual support and companionship between spouses, which includes contributions to the household and personal well-being. Homemaking, an integral part of the consortium, encompasses various responsibilities such as managing household tasks, child-rearing, and providing emotional support to the family unit. However, in fulfilling these vital roles, individuals may often make significant career sacrifices, impacting their earning capacity and future financial prospects.
Recognising the Value of Homemaking
- Financial Dependence: Individuals who have dedicated themselves to homemaking may find themselves financially dependent on their spouse, particularly if they have foregone opportunities for career advancement or education. Recognising the financial impact of these sacrifices is crucial in ensuring fair and equitable maintenance awards.
- Impact on Earning Capacity: The decision to prioritise homemaking often results in a reduced ability to earn income or re-enter the workforce at a competitive level. Understanding the long-term consequences and limitations faced by individuals who have sacrificed their careers is essential in presenting a compelling case for maintenance.
Navigating Maintenance Claims
- Demonstrating Financial Need: To pursue maintenance based on homemaking and career sacrifices, it is essential to establish the financial need of the individual seeking support. This may involve presenting evidence of the economic disparity between the spouses and the impact of career sacrifices on the individual's earning capacity.
- Duration of the Marriage: Longer marriages often amplify the significance of homemaking and career sacrifices. Highlighting the duration of the marriage can contribute to the argument for maintenance, as it suggests a longer period of reliance on the supporting spouse and an established lifestyle that requires continued financial support.
- Contributions to the Consortium: Emphasising the valuable contributions made in maintaining the household, raising children, and supporting the family unit is crucial. Presenting evidence of the sacrifices, efforts, and dedication put forth by the homemaking spouse can strengthen the case for maintenance.
Legislative Developments for Homemakers
Advocating for your clients' rights mean knowing that homemakers are a remarkably important part of the family law realm. In a recent case in the Pretoria High Court, a judgment was delivered which declared Section 7(3)(a) of the Divorce Act inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that the provision limits the operation of Section 7(3)(a) to marriages out of community of property without the accrual.
Typically meaning that those individuals referred to in the blog, would walk away from a marriage with nothing – as their financial or asset contribution has been minimal because of their house making obligations which has a dramatic effect on their earning capacity. However, with this order, a spouse who had focused their efforts on the home, can now apply for a redistribution of assets order, claiming some of the financially advantaged spouse’s assets to their personal estates; even without usage of an accrual system.
A court will take the following into account when granting such order;
- The existing means and earning capacity of both spouses
- Any contribution towards the estate of the advantage party by the disadvantaged party
- The age of the parties
The determination of these considerations would result in whether a client is eligible for a redistribution of assets order. Importantly, ‘any contribution’ could refer to contributions that are not purely financial, but links to a saving for the advantaged spouse. An example would be where the home maker stayed home to take care of children, where the breadwinner would typically have needed to hire au pair assistance or pay day care fees. There is a strong case for home makers, and family legal practitioners play an indispensable role in ensuring adequate maintenance for them, should their marital regime be that of out of community of property without the accrual system.
Homemaking and career sacrifices within marriages are integral components that deserve recognition and consideration in maintenance claims. As family law practitioners, it is our responsibility to advocate for the rights of individuals who have dedicated themselves to these crucial roles.
To further deepen your understanding of maintenance claims and equip yourself with practical knowledge in addressing homemaking and career sacrifices, we invite you to download our free eBook, "Maintenance Applications: A Crucial Understanding for Firm and Client Success". This theory-constructed resource will provide you with refreshing insights and strategies to fully understand maintenance claims.
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Together, let us strive to ensure that the contributions of homemakers and those who have made career sacrifices are acknowledged, valued, and justly compensated within the realm of family law.