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  • 1962-04-13
  • 1 GLR 274-276
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Family law?-Quantum of reasonable maintenance for a wife?-Matrimonial Causes Act, 1950 (14 Geo. 6, c. 25) s. 23.


The wife - petitioner who claims that the husband-respondent failed to provide adequately for herself and four children, applied to the court under section 23 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1950 (14 Geo. 6, c. 25) for an order for reasonable maintenance. The court found that the wife earns G75 per month, and that the joint income of the couple is G300 per month.


APPLICATION by wife for reasonable maintenance for herself and four children.

This is an application under section 23 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1950.1 The wife -petitioner and husband - respondent were married at the Chapel of the University College on the 22nd April, 1955. There are three children to the marriage, Michael 6, John 5 and Kirsty 2 years old. There is one other child Phillipa 8, a daughter of the respondent but not the petitioner, who looks after all four children, Phillipa is at a boarding school but comes home for the holidays and the petitioner pays her fees and transportation.

The petitioner complains that the respondent wilfully neglected to provide reasonable maintenance for herself and the children, and applies for an order that the respondent makes to her such payments as may be just for her maintenance and for the maintenance of the children.

According to her, she earns an average monthly income of G75 as a freelance journalist. Her husband is also a freelance journalist and earns, according to her, an average income of G275. The petitioner claims she needs an average of G140 a month for maintenance, and broke this figure down as follows: school fees, G20; medicine and doctor's fees, G10; food G50; children's clothes G20; travel and entertainment for the children G10. She proposes to take G30 a month insurance for the education of the children. Then she required additional funds for running the house, pay the rent, steward boy, water and electricity. [p.275]

She claims that her husband went to Togoland from July, 1960, to March, 1961 leaving her to do his work as well as hers and that during that period the total amount paid to their joint account was G3,366 16s. 3d. most of which was her earnings. She claimed that apart from two small items worth 10 10s. her husband earned nothing for the joint account during that period. She claims that the sum of G170 was paid into the joint account after that period for work the respondent had done for Reuters while in Lome. She claims that although the respondent was paid for his services in Lome he paid nothing, apart from the two items already mentioned, into the joint account during the nine months he was away in Togoland. The respondent in his evidence admitted he was paid G100 a month while he was in Togoland and that he did some extra work as well but could not tell exactly how much he earned.

The petitioner claims further that respondent withdrew from the joint account a total of G350 while he was in Lome and that was part of the money she had earned. The respondent bought a camera worth about G200 by writing to one of petitioner's clients for it. The camera was sent to him, and as a result the petitioner received no earnings for the work she had done for that client for a period of two months. The petitioner claims that before the respondent went away to Togoland there was an overdraft of G600. While he was away, apart from what he had taken from the joint account and her expenses, she was able to save G300 from what she had earned doing his work and her own, and when the respondent came back the overdraft was still G600.

From May to August 1961, the respondent took from the joint account G916. In addition to this the petitioner had to pay a bill of G306 being respondent's business expenses. The respondent spent on himself a total of G1,122 from April to August 1961. During the same period petitioner claims she spent G939 on herself, the four children, school fees, mortgage on the house, wages and all other expenses. The overdraft shot to G1,000 from G600 within three months after the respondent's return from Lome.

[Her ladyship then considered the evidence of the income and expenditure of the parties and continued:] The attitude of the respondent was very difficult to understand. He gave the impression of underlying currents of bitterness and great resentment. He complained about his wife neglecting the children but when he was asked how often he took the children out he said: "It is true that since I came back I have taken the children out only once and that was last Saturday. I want my wife to divorce me and then I can have my children to look after. It is true that I came back in February or March 1961, about one year now". Under re-examination his explanation was: "It is correct that I took the children out just once since I came back from Lome and that was last Saturday. The reason is that there is disagreement between my wife and me regarding the care of the children". He had to admit, however, that "these disagreements were not at an end last Saturday". This application, however, is under section 23 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1950. It is for an order for reasonable maintenance for wife and children. According to exhibit D the income paid into the joint account from the 1st July, 1960 to the 30th July, 1961 inclusive was G3,366 16s. 3d. This excludes the G100 per month the respondent claimed he earned while he was in Lome from July 1960 to March 1961. The respondent admitted paying nothing out of the G100 he received per month into the joint account. The total [p.276] joint income from July, 1960 to 30th June, 1961 was therefore G3,366 16s. 3d. and G800 (i.e. the eight months' earnings in Lome by the respondent). This gives a grand total of G4,166 16s. 3d.

Exhibit G is a letter sent to Reuters by the respondent who claims: "Our total receipts come to anything between G200 and G400 a month". It was urged on behalf of the respondent that business was not always as good as it was during the period from July 1960 to June 1961. It was urged that exhibits 3 and 4 were better guides on how much was earned as joint income. Exhibit 4 is a statement of account from the 9th January to the 5th March. I agree with the petitioner's counsel that exhibit 4 is no guide. It is the respondent's case that he was on holidays in January and that it affected his earnings. It was also pointed out that he omitted to show the G120 he claimed he received as monthly retainer in his February account.

I agree that exhibit 3 is important in assessing the average joint income. It was tendered by the respondent and was prepared by the petitioner at a time when there was no mention of litigation. The parties then were making an honest effort to cut down their expenses. Exhibit 3 gives the joint income as G300 per month and I accept this as a fair average.

Petitioner claimed exhibit 3 was made before the increase in prices as a result of the 1961 National Budget. I am satisfied that the respondent is guilty of wilful neglect to provide reasonable maintenance for his wife and children.

I hold that reasonable maintenance for the wife is one-third of the joint income less the wife's earnings, i.e. one-third of G300 less the G75 the wife earns a month. According to exhibit 3 the petitioner reckoned she could manage on G85 a month for food, school fees, children's clothes, medical expenses, water and electricity. She claimed this was her estimate before the prices of goods shot up after the 1961 National Budget. I believe, however, that one must cut the coat according to the cloth. Both the petitioner and the respondent must learn to economise until the bank overdraft is paid. I consider G85 a month adequate maintenance for the four children.

I hold that the reasonable maintenance for the wife and children is one-third of the joint income of G300, plus G85 less G75, that is a total of G110. I consider that the petitioner should pay the sum of G20 per month towards the repayment of the overdraft until that account is fully settled and until then the petitioner is entitled to the provision of G90 a month for the maintenance of herself and the four children. The respondent in addition must pay the mortgage of G22 a month on the house and also the bank overdraft. This leaves the husband a good income of G123 a month, i.e. G300- (G90 + G22 + G65) = G300 - G177, which is G123.

Should the respondent be willing that the petitioner takes an insurance policy for the education of the children then he must pay to her an additional G30 a month to make it possible for her to take the insurance policy. This strictly speaking does not come under maintenance, and I leave this to the good sense of both the petitioner and the respondent. I award the petitioner the costs of this application assessed at 50 guineas.


<P>Application granted.</P>

Plaintiff / Appellant

J. Quashie-Idun

Defendant / Respondent

Tagoe for E. N. Moore


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