While a shotgun marriage is easy to achieve, a shotgun divorce, especially where there are financial disputes, is not that easy to obtain, a man who is suffering from stage four liver cancer found out .
He approached the court on an urgent basis for a quick divorce as he wanted the “stress and shame” of being married to his wife out of his way as soon as possible.
The man approached the Western Cape High Court via an urgent application and said if he did not obtain a decree of divorce imminently, he would continue to be under undue strain on his day-to-day life.
He wanted to move on with his life and have closure with the respondent, his wife. According to him the stress and shame of being married to the respondent affected him already and compromised his health.
The continued litigation was also traumatic to his elderly mother, his children and extended family, who were desperate for them to divorce, he said.
The husband reasoned that all the other outstanding issues in the divorce — such as maintenance and a distribution of assets – could stand over until after the divorce.
The wife, however, vehemently opposed this application. She said her estranged husband was the beneficiary of several trusts and she wanted her share. She accused him of wanting an urgent divorce as part of his tactic of trying to hide his assets from her.
The husband, on the other hand, said the urgency was that his health was deteriorating gradually due to the toxic and invasive treatment he was subjected to. He was not certain, nor could his medical carers give any assurance, that the chemotherapy would be successful.
He did not have time on his side, he said. He was advised that dates on the opposed roll were in November 2024 – the first possible date for the divorce hearing if the court did not urgently come to his aid.
Given the cancer, its stage and the rate at which it progressed, he could not wait for months for this application to be determined. He wished to be divorced as a matter of urgency, the husband argued.
The wife reasoned that the application was an abuse of the court process as it would not change the husband’s physical or emotional status, but it would rather allow him to be in a position to conceal income and assets.
The wife alleged that the applicant has a history of hiding money in the accounts of others, including one of his girlfriends, who is also his accountant.
The husband is said to be a prominent grape and fruit farmer in the Western Cape.
According to the wife, the applicant’s estate is worth R700 million. The respondent alleged that she contributed, directly or indirectly to the growth and/or increase in the applicant’s estate. She said he now had everything while she had nothing, and the court hearing the divorce would be asked to correct the imbalance.
The parties have been living separately since 2020. They agreed that the marriage had irretrievably broken down and they agreed that they were “shackled to a dead marriage”.
Judge Daniel Thulare said the husband was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, but besides his mere say so, there was no expert evidence that he was terminally ill.
“From an inductive reading of the medical reports provided by the applicant, I understand stage four liver cancer to mean that the cancer may be spreading farther than the liver. I do not understand the medical reports to say that the applicant was diagnosed with cancer that cannot be treated into remission and which led to his death.”
While his diagnoses may be life threatening, it is not terminal, the judge said.
He found there was no reason for the husband to jump the queue.
Judge Thulare added that it seemed to him that the husband was an opportunist who tried to use his illness to his advantage to get the “painful” divorce behind him as soon as possible“.
“Well aware that there was no portfolio of evidence to establish a terminal illness, the applicant dragged the respondent to court on an urgent basis,” the judge said.
He added that playing by the rules, including a frank and candid disclosure of the extent of the joint estate and by extension, his available means, would not get him where he wanted to be.
“Some calculated risks should simply be that – expensive,” the judge said, in slapping the husband with a punitive costs order.