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Durban - Former city manager Michael Sutcliffe and his wife of 35 years, Felicity, finally divorced on Wednesday after coming to a settlement agreement in which he will pay her R2.6 million.
The couple separated just before the start of World Cup in 2010, with allegations by Felicity in her court papers, which were reported on at the time, that he had become infatuated with another woman.
Wednesday’s proceedings before Durban High Court Judge Anton van Zyl were brief because the matter, initially set down for trial, was settled. Felicity testified that there was no chance of a reconciliation, confirmed the financial agreement, and the judge granted a decree of divorce.
The three-year dispute is reflected in the papers in the file before the judge, in which Sutcliffe denied the allegations “as to the cause of the breakdown”.
Sutcliffe said that before Felicity moved out of the beachfront flat they shared on June 4, 2010, she had “unreasonably demanded” that he leave his job as city manager, and his unwillingness to do so had resulted in “meaningful communication becoming impossible”.
“In the face of unhappiness arising from media pressure, difficulties arose and the parties attended counselling,” he said.
“In spite of the positive effects of the counselling, the plaintiff (Felicity) chose to end the marriage relationship when, with reflection and commitment, the marriage could have survived,” he said.
He said both had worked during their relationship, and each had contributed in many ways to the accumulation by the other of wealth.
He said in spite of his willingness and offer to “achieve an equitable sharing of the assets and to contribute to her support during the transition”, she had refused to find an amicable resolution “and has invited or permitted media attention that has caused discomfort and harm to my career and livelihood”.
In filing for divorce and defending herself against his counter-claim, Felicity said he had become infatuated with another woman.
She said because of the “public nature” of his job, this “inappropriate and intimate relationship” had embarrassed her. She had asked him to leave his job, but he had refused.
“No amount of counselling was able to save the marriage.”
She argued that she was entitled to half of his estate and maintenance of R30 000 a month because she had devoted herself to being a wife and mother to their two (now adult) children, enabling Sutcliffe to devote himself to his professional and political career.
In terms of the settlement made an order of court on Wednesday, she abandoned her claim for maintenance and agreed to a payment of R2.6m, made up of R1.7m in cash and R900 000 from his retirement annuity to be paid into her pension fund.