Divorced spouses can claim their benefits now

Khanyisile Nkosi

Khanyisile Nkosi

Divorced spouses who have been waiting with bated breath to get their divorce payment benefits need not wait any longer.

In a ground-breaking decision last week, Mamodupi Mohlala, the Pension Funds adjudicator, ruled that in terms of the new law passed last month, divorced spouses are now entitled to immediate payment of their divorce benefits.

Previously, non-members of the pension fund had to wait until a fund member resigned, retired or was dismissed or retrenched from work before a portion of their settlement was paid out.

According to the previous law, only a member of the pension fund was entitled to the interest generated from the divorce payment benefit.

Non-members could also not transfer their portion to the pension fund of their choice, they only had an option of taking cash payments.

In a case that brought about change, the complainant, who got divorced in 2003, argued that she was entitled to immediate payment of the divorce benefit as per a clause in her divorce order which stated that her divorce payment be paid to her on the finalisation of the divorce proceedings or when the benefit accrues - whichever occurs first.

The respondent, the Mine Employees Pension Fund, argued that they were not obliged to pay the benefits to the non-member until the benefits accrued in terms of the fund's rules.

In the ruling, Mohlala said the complainant was entitled to her share and so were all the non-member spouses who previously could not claim what was due to them.

Naleen Jeram, the deputy adjudicator, said all divorced spouses whose divorce orders were granted before last month could now claim their share.

He said his office has dealt with hundreds of complaints from spouses who were either unhappy with the value of the divorce benefit paid or the fact that no growth or interest was added to the benefit from the date of divorce to date of payment.

It is estimated that more than 200000 divorced spouses are still waiting for their divorce settlements.

"The effect of the ruling is that all spouses awaiting payment of their divorce benefits, regardless of when the divorce order was issued, may now approach their funds seeking payment of the benefit, or they may transfer the benefit to another fund," said Jeram.

The office of the pension fund adjudicator can be contacted on 011-884-8454.