The Supreme Court has referred a spousal maintenance case back to the Magistrate’s Court for a re-hearing as soon as possible.
Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said he would allow the appeal in part.
In his report on the case, Mr Justice Paulsen said this was an appeal from a decision of the Principal Magistrate at Neiafu of February 20. The magistrate ordered that Tonga Kupu pay Lotolangi Kupu spousal maintenance of $20 per week and child maintenance for five of their seven surviving children of $20 per week.
Tonga Kupu asked that the amount of maintenance be reduced to $70 a week.
Tonga and Lotolangi Kupu were married in 1996 and had eight children of which five children were the subject of this proceeding.
After their marriage the parties lived in their own home at Lapaha, Tongatapu and Tonga had a commercial operation growing squash and pumpkins.
In 2013, marital difficulties arose and the respondent and the children moved to live with the respondent’s mother at Makave. There were attempts at reconciliation. In September 2017 the appellant considered that the relationship had been restored and he had his tractor and truck shipped to Vava’u to re-join his family. He leased land to farm and has been growing crops.
The parties lived together until September 2018 where Tonga grew crop and his wife ran a small grocery shop.
The parties’ marital problems continued and in September 2018 the wife obtained restraining order against him.
Tonga has been living on his leased land since then.
Tonga provided food for his family until December 2018. He paid for three children to go to New Zealand for a vacation in December. He has again provided some food. He pays the school fees of one child.
In his report on the case, Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said it had been argued that the Principal Magistrate failed to give proper consideration to the evidence as to the parties’ respective means and that it was unreasonable to require him to pay an amount of $120 per week.
He said the order that Tonga Kupu pay Lotolangi Kupu $20 per week for the maintenance and support of each of the five youngest children of their marriage was upheld. It would remain in force until the children left school or turned 18.
However, the order that he pay Lotolangi Kupu spousal maintenance of $20 per week be set aside and re-heard in the Magistrate’s Court on the first available date.
The main point
- The Supreme Court has referred a spousal maintenance case back to the Magistrate’s Court for a re-hearing as soon as possible.
- Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said he would allow the appeal in part.