THE DIVORCE PROCESS IN SOUTH AFRICA

Divorce proceedings in South Africa is relatively straightforward, however the financial and emotional consequences can be profound, as most divorces are normally lodged in the High Court. The process is administered by Divorce Attorneys usually in High Courts in South Africa. High Courts in South have over burdened court rolls, and Divorce Attorneys normally have to wait a long time for their divorce matter to go to trial when the divorce is contested. The backlog in cases was alleviated for Divorce Attorneys by the Regional Courts Amendment Act, which came into effect in 2010 to amend the Magistrates’ Courts Act, 1944, so as to allow regional divisions of the magistrates’ courts to also deal with divorce cases.

A divorce action is instituted by Divorce Attorneys by the issuing of a summons. A Person can divorce in either the Regional Court of the Magistrate Court having jurisdiction in their area or in the High Court.

For a Divorce Attorney to start the divorce process a Summons needs to be served by the Divorce Attorney through the Sheriff of the Court, which is unique in that, it must be served personally on the defendant by the sheriff of the court.

A court has jurisdiction in a divorce action if one or both parties are:

Domiciled in the area of jurisdiction of the court on the date on which the action is instituted; or

Ordinarily resident in the area of jurisdiction of the court on the said date and has/have been ordinarily resident in South Africa for a period of not less than one year immediately prior to that date.

There are typically two types of divorces, the contested or opposed divorce and the uncontested or unopposed. The latter type of divorce is the best and most cost effective for all parties concerned. An uncontested divorce can be finalized in as little as 4 weeks. If a divorce is contested it may take between 2 - 3 years, but most contested divorces do settle long before they go on trial.