Our country boasts one of the highest divorce statistics in the world. Almost one half of all marriages end up in the divorce court! Imagine how much pressure these divorce procedures places on our legal system. Apart from being an emotionally traumatic experience, divorce is an expensive exercise. Our legal system has come up with a solution by creating additional courts that convene more often than the High Court and that are less expensive to approach. Let’s have a look at the procedure of a legal and relatively speedy divorce by means of the Regional Divorce Courts.
Our country boasts one of the highest divorce statistics in the world. Almost one half of all marriages end up in the divorce court! Imagine how much pressure this places on our legal system. Apart from being an emotionally traumatic experience, divorce is an expensive exercise. Our legal system has come up with a solution by creating additional courts that convene more often than the High Court and that are less expensive to approach. Let’s have a look at the procedure of a legal and relatively speedy divorce by means of the Regional Divorce Courts.
What are the grounds for divorce?
Before you start worrying about the grounds for divorce, you should consider whether you have made all reasonable attempts to salvage your marriage. Please note, when the court is of the opinion that marriage partners should make another attempt at reconciliation, they are allowed to send the parties back for counseling or some form of treatment.
A divorce can be granted on ground of Irreconcilable Differences or on grounds of Mental Illness. (Remember, it is of no account who is to be blamed, all that matters is that there should be proof that the summons contains symptoms of a marriage deteriorated beyond all hope of redemption).
What are irreconcilable differences?
Irreconcilable difference involve being estranged for an uninterrupted period and not living together as man and wife, or if one of the parties has committed adultery and the other party finds it impossible to continue with the marriage, or where one party has been proclaimed a habitual criminal and has to serve a extended prison sentence.
It does not, however, exclude other facts and circumstances that might indicate irrevocable disintegration. (Abuse of spouse and or children, alcohol and drug abuse, no respect or love left, breakdown of communication, etc.)
When does mental illness constitute grounds for divorce?
Another valid ground for divorce is where one of the parties is mentally ill or in a state of unconsciousness. In both cases the law prescribes a minimum period for one party to persist in this state in order for it to be a valid ground for divorce. Expert testimony needs to be presented in this regard.
What do I need to start proceedings?
You would need two certified copies of your ID and your marriage certificate. (If you don’t possess a copy of your marriage certificate, you should apply to the Department of Domestic Affairs for a copy).
Documentation which the court officials will issue and which will include:
- A summons to start proceedings and in which you postulate your claim against your husband, containing the following: Reasons why the marriage has fallen apart irrevocably; the way in which the assets have to be divided; In case of a prenuptial agreement, the stipulations of such an agreement ought to be part of the divorce order; custody; control and access to minor children born from such a marriage; maintenance for said children as well as issues related thereto such as school/ study fees, medical expenses, etc.; personal maintenance where applicable; whether you have a claim to part of his pension or vice versa.
- Addendum A – only applicable where there are minor children born from the marriage. The family attorney looks into custody, control and care of the children to assure the court that the interest of the children is protected.
- Statistics form.
You could apply to court officials for advice/ information/ direction regarding the above-mentioned.
What happens once the documents have been completed?
After completion of the documents (the court officials will help you with this) you receive a case number, which will be indicated on the summons. You pay a further amount of R20,00 (revenue stamp) to obtain the case number. After this you have to approach the bailiff in the area in which you are going to have the summons delivered on your husband. (Court officials will assist you in this regard as well.) The address on the summons must be the physical residential or work address of your spouse.
What does it cost to have a summons delivered?
The costs payable to the bailiff could amount to between R80.00 and R150.00, depending on the location and distance of the physical address. You have to make very sure of the address, seeing that you have to fork out every time the bailiff does not succeed in delivering the summons.
Once the summons has been delivered successfully, the bailiff will issue a report to this effect.
Can I defend a divorce?
When it comes to a dispute such as this, you have to be careful, however. The court is not interested in your mutual bickering about who is to blame for the demise of the marriage, the court needs to know ONLY that the marriage has deteriorated to such a degree that no reasonable chance for a reconciliation exists.
If you do not agree with the proposed division of assets or custody of the children, it would be advisable to defend the case, in which case you do not contest the fact that the marriage has dissolved.
I have just received my divorce papers, what now?
You have approximately one month after the delivery of the summons to contest. If you indicate that you do not want to contest the action, it means that you do not have to do anything further. You don’t even need to be present in court and nothing prevents you from reverting to your maiden name without any further registration or cost, you must just remember to inform banks and business where you are an account-holder.
Where can I find these divorce courts?
Below you will find the contact details and locations of the main Family and divource courts across South Africa
North Gauteng High Court
012 315 7711
Paul Kruger & Madiba St, Pretoria Central, Pretoria, 0002
Family Court Johannesburg Centre
011 639 0300
1655 Albertina Sisulu Rd, Newtown, Johannesburg, 2001
Germiston Magistrate Court
011 873 0500
335 Emily Hobhouse Ave, Pretoria North, Pretoria, 0182
Pretoria Magistrate Court
012 319 4000
Salu Building, M2 Francis Baard Street, Pretoria Central, Pretoria, 0001
South Gauteng High Court
011 335 0000
Pritchard St & Kruis St, Johannesburg, 2001
018 293 0701
Louis la Grange Building, Van Riebeeck Street
Klerksdorp Magistrates Court
018 462 9200
27 Voortrekker St, Klerksdorp, 2571
High Court Of South Africa – Northwest Division
University Dr, Mmabatho Unit 4, Mmabatho, 2790
Durban Family Court
031 332 7576
Magistrate Court, Somtseu Road, Durban
Magistrate’s Office and Law Courts
031 302 4111
Somtseu Rd, Stamford Hill, Durban, 4001
033 345 8211
High Court, 301 Church St, Pietermaritzburg, 3201
Pinetown Magistrates Court
031 710 7800
5 Chancery Ln, Pinetown, Durban, 3610
King Williams Town
043 642 2842
c/o Oak and Reserve Road
041 502 5133
De Villiers Street North End, PE
Port St Johns Magistrates Court
047 564 1112
52 Westgate St, Port St Johns, 5120
Bellville Magistrates Court
021 950 7700
Boston, Cape Town, 7530
Cape Town Family and Divorce Court
021 401 1511
7-11 Parade St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000
Mitchelles Plain Magistrates Court
021 370 4200
First Ave, Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, 7785
Cape Town High Court
021 480 2411
Keerom St, CBD, Cape Town, 8000
Who must I approach at these courts?
There are officials to assist you at each of the Regional Divorce Courts. We suggest you phone beforehand to make an appointment.