What you need to know about divorce

Arguing couple
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Wondering how much a divorce would cost you and how long the process would take? We spoke to Denise Hefer, a Paralegal who works for iDivorce.co.za on important information one needs to know before entering a divorce.

There has been an increase in the number of divorces in South Africa, divorcelaws.co.za reports. News24 also reports that South Africa’s divorce rate is currently at its highest. Although a lot of people are divorcing, this does not mean divorce is easy.

Divorce can result in a lot of emotional stress and it can be very costly. It is not a decision to be taken lightly.

If you are considering divorce, below is important information you need to know about it.

The first step in getting a divorce is to decide on the type of divorce you want. You would then approach the court or an attorney, or an online divorce specialist, depending which way you want to do it. Once the paperwork is done, the next step would be the issuing of the summons to the defendant. The divorce summons is served personally on the defendant by the sheriff of the court.

Let’s look at the types of divorces
There are three types of divorces in South Africa; uncontested, mediated and contested divorce.

1. Uncontested divorces
In an uncontested divorce, both parties work together to agree on the terms of the divorce, including how to divide their assets, who gets the children, etc. The couple will use the same attorney who will help them sign a settlement agreement which will be presented in court.

Default divorce
A default divorce is classified under an uncontested divorce.
If you serve divorce summons on your spouse and he/she does not respond within the required timeframe as stated in the summons, the court will grant a divorce by default.

However, it is not always guaranteed that the court will give you a default divorce. As the court deems fit, it will or will not grant this. It is left to the discretion of the court.

Do-it-yourself divorce
“The do-it-yourself divorce is a cheaper option; however, it is done for uncontested divorces. It entails both parties agreeing on the settlement terms of the divorce,” says Denise Hefer, an online divorce specialist of idivorce.co.za.

“If it’s contested, your partner might not even sign the divorce papers or even consider the divorce,” says Denise.
The do-it-yourself divorce is done without the help of an attorney. This type of divorce is usually done when there aren’t substantial assets to divide or any children involved. Forms for the divorce can be obtained from a local magistrate’s court or on an online divorce site such as idivorce.co.za.

“The good thing with this kind of divorce is we do all the work for, and it is a cheaper option. You won’t need to pay attorney fees or even stand on queues. And even if you require an attorney, the option is available at a minimum cost,” says Denise.

2. Mediated divorce
This type of divorce requires a couple to hire a mediator to help them negotiate and come to a mutually-acceptable agreement of how to end their marriage as amicably and cost-effective as possible.

In case of children involved, The Family Advocate under the Department of Justice can help serve as a mediator. The good thing about it is that is free of charge to the public.

3. Contested divorce
This kind of divorce is when the parties are unable to come to an agreement on important issues such as child custody, maintenance and division of marital assets. It can be very costly and time-consuming.

Types of courts for divorce
“It’s your residential address that will determine your court jurisdiction. The sheriff is appointed according to defendant’s address,” says Denise.

Duration of divorce
“It is very difficult to determine the duration of a divorce. it depends on which court’s jurisdiction you fall under. Some courts are overloaded, and it can take from three weeks to even 12 weeks to get a case number.

If the divorce is uncontested, it can be finalised in a period of four weeks, however, a contested divorce can take as long as three years.

Division of assets
The way your assets will be divided will depend on the matrimonial property systems. Whether you are married in community of property, out of community of property with accrual and out of community of property without accrual.

If you are married in community of property, that means your spouse will get half of everything you own.

” Most people aren’t aware that if you are married In Community of Property, you are even entitled to your spouse’s pension fund”, says Denise.