Wife who was ‘fraudulently’ divorced 13 year ago, fights husband from evicting her



Published Mar 6, 2024


An elderly woman who was not aware that she was fraudulently divorced from her estranged husband who tried to evict her from her home, had the divorce revoked by the High Court in Johannesburg.

The former couple got married in community of property in September 1981 and built a house in Meadowlands, Soweto.

The woman, 67, still lives in the house.

In May 2010, the husband instituted divorce proceedings in the Regional Court. He was represented by firm of attorneys, Sarlie & Ismail Inc. Th wife was self-represented.

On May 8, 2012, she was served with a notice to attend a pre-trial conference. However, prior to the date of the pre-trial conference, the husband’s attorneys filed a notice of withdrawal of action on April 18, 2012.

During the same month in April, she received a decree of divorce after it was posted to her mail box. The decree of divorce was dated November 18, 2011, it was granted by the high court on an unopposed basis.

The documents stated that she had forfeited benefits from the marriage, including the house, and the husband’s pension fund.

After receiving the divorce papers, she approached Monama Attorneys and instructed Monama, who is now deceased, to deal with the matter.

When Monama made enquiries from Sarlie & Ismail Inc, he was told the husband was represented by “other attorneys”.

It was not clear how Monama handled the matter going forward but he told the wife that matter had been resolved.

The wife only became aware that the matter had not been resolved in May 2022 when the husband wanted to evict her from the property as he was named as the sole owner on the divorce order.

She approached Legal Aid and when the attorneys went to the high court to get the file pertaining to her divorce, it could not be located.

Through her legal representatives, she launched an application for the divorce to be revoked as she was not served with the summons.

She said it was incomprehensible that a forfeiture order was granted in respect of the property.

The court also noted that decree of divorce was riddled with errors, it did not have appearances of the parties, their ID numbers, some of the wording was confusing and improper, and the citation of the court was incorrect.

The wife accused the husband of obtaining the decree of divorce in her absence and on a fraudulent basis.

In his defence, the husband said he was dissatisfied with services by Sarlie & Ismail Inc and he was introduced (by people unknown) to Mr Levin.

According to him, Mr Levin handled the divorce proceedings on his behalf, however, he failed to provide the court with Mr Levin’s first name, his telephone number, or the law firm he worked for at the time.

Moreover, he was unable to provide the court with documents showing when the wife was served with summons from the high court, and there was no documentation showing that the divorce was unopposed.

There was also no explanation why the matter was removed from the regional court and moved to the High Court.

When giving the ruling, acting Judge Leigh Franck said circumstances surrounding the granting of decree of divorce were suspicious.

“Especially considering the fact that the husband has neglected or refused to provide this court with the necessary documentation, that would disprove such averments.”

The judge also said the divorce order which declared a forfeiture of benefits against the wife was too ambitious.

Dissatisfied with the husband’s lack of explanation, the judge revoked the divorce and also declared that wife has a share in the house.

IOL News