Ex-cricketer in maintenance row
The ex-wife of a well-known cricketer who took him to court over maintenance opens up about their marriage and the messy fall-out after their divorce
SHE could never understand it. On the cricket pitch her husband was always the picture of calm. Nothing – not even the heckling of a foul-mouthed Aussie or an unplayable delivery from one of the world’s best fast bowlers – could rattle him. But as soon as he arrived home it was like a switch flipped.
“I never knew what to expect when he walked into the house and in what mood he’d be,” Sonja* says. For the sake of their kids she was determined to make their volatile marriage work but after more than two decades it all came to an end.
Sonja hoped the split would bring an end to all the rows and bitterness but she was in for a nasty surprise. The big fight really started only after their divorce a few years ago as she struggled to get her ex to pay up to support her and their two kids.
Because it’s an ongoing maintenance issue YOU can’t reveal the names of the cricketer or his ex-wife. But she’s speaking to us hoping to make other divorced women aware of the games some men play to avoid their legal obligations.
She claims that even though her former husband’s business has done well he was reluctant to pay her what he should have.
“He never paid on time – mostly he didn’t pay at all,” Sonja says. “I lay awake at night trying to figure out how to keep my household going. I’ve had to borrow money from friends to stay afloat.”
She eventually sued him for maintenance and a court recently found in her favour. The retired cricketer has been given 24 months to pay all overdue maintenance – and if he offends again in the next three years he could face a year behind bars or be hit with a hefty fine.
Sonja says it wasn’t an easy decision to take the father of her children to court but eventually she didn’t have a choice.
“I needed to maintain my reputation and creditworthiness. At the beginning of this year I had to take out a student loan for one of our children.”
She welcomes the court’s verdict but says it’s not the end of the story.
“He’s subpoenaing me and my eldest child at the moment.”
Apparently he’s hoping to appeal to the court to reduce his maintenance payments as well as what he owes for the older child’s tertiary education.
“He never paid his kids’ school fees nor our eldest’s varsity fees. When I confronted him he said he never approved our child’s chosen course of study.”
When YOU approached the cricketer about the ongoing maintenance issue as well as Sonja’s claims about their tumultuous marriage he declined to comment.
His only response was to point out a clause in their original divorce papers stipulating one party isn’t allowed to speak to the media without the other’s permission. Sonja’s response is that the same divorce papers also contain a clause stipulating his responsibility to pay maintenance. And, she says, he’s been quite willing to renege on that.
THERE was never much romance between them, Sonja says, not even in the very beginning. They’d known each other for only three months when he moved overseas to play cricket. When he was abroad his softer side seemed to come out and he wrote her the most beautiful letters while he was away, she recalls.
They got married a few months after his return to South Africa but their marriage was stormy from the start, she says.
Despite the upheavals at home he was always controlled and reserved in public, Sonja adds. “For example, he’d never hold my hand. Looking back, I see many different personalities in him.”
She says after his retirement from cricket she’d sometimes watch him on TV calmly discussing the game he’d dedicated his life to and think, “Is this the man living in our home?”
Despite settling on maintenance when they divorced, he later took her to court several times to try to lower the amount the court had decided on, she says.
According to Sonja, her ex has used every trick in the book to slow down the legal processes between them.
“At first he said he didn’t have money for maintenance. Then he had himself sequestrated. Almost every time we were due to appear in court he’d change attorneys or show up at court the next day saying he’d got the date wrong.”
Having to go back to court constantly has negatively affected her career. “And with all the lawsuits I’ve almost been bankrupted by lawyers’ fees.”
Over the years she’s had to come up with plan after plan to support her family.
She recalls her eldest child once asked her why she’d ever married his father. “I told him I’d thought at the time he’d be a good dad and never cheat on me.
“A few years ago my eldest started refusing to see his dad. He told me, ‘Mom, do you know what it feels like to know Dad is my father?’ That really got to me.
“It’s extremely hard for me and my kids. My youngest now also refuses to see his father. He’s told me seeing his dad is too painful for him.”
SONJA says although both her kids are good at sport they’ve developed a psychological block toward it. “My eldest was good at tennis but his father interfered so much with the coaches and referees that our child became ashamed and stopped playing. My ex-husband put so much pressure on him that my child started hating that sport.”
Her journey so far hasn’t been easy and she can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
Sonja says living in this constant state of bitterness and turmoil has left psychological scars she doubts she’ll ever overcome.
“The damage has been done,” she says. “I’ve been left emotionally numb. I don’t have any feeling left. I can see when something’s beautiful but I can’t feel it anymore.
“When I get angry about something I recognise that I’m angry but I don’t feel it. It’s the same when I’m sad or happy. I have no feeling.” *Not her real name.
‘At first he said he didn’t have money for maintenance. Then he had himself sequestrated’