Cost of Divorce in South Africa 2023/2024

Cost of Divorce in South Africa 2023/2024
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When you get married, people say “till death do us part”, but do you know how much it costs to get divorced? The divorce rate across South Africa is high and it is time to get serious about the cost of divorce. Most people think it will be a fraction of their life savings to get divorced, but the truth is it can cost a lot more than you think to end a marriage. This post looks at the cost of divorce in South Africa, and how much it will cost to get divorced.

The cost of divorce in South Africa is a common concern when dealing with a divorce case. However, the cost depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the divorce, the assets to be divided, and the spouse’s income – if he or she is employed. There are also several rules and regulations in South Africa that govern the overall cost of a divorce.

The cost of divorce in South Africa has been revealed to the public in an effort to give those who are considering separation the ability to see the full picture of what they are about to embark upon. In a country that is ranked among the top ten countries that file for divorce in the world, it was revealed that the average divorce costs R7,000– R100,000. This is the full breakdown:

Uncontested divorce

  • Lawyer fees: R8,000 – R20,000
  • Court cost: R500 – R1,000

Contested divorce

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  • Lawyer fees: R20,000 – R100,000 or more
  • Court cost: R1,000 – R5,000 or more

The Law

The South African law refers to Divorce as the cessation or cancellation of a marital union. In South Africa, a decree of divorce could be granted by the court on the law grounds of either malicious desertion of adultery, or on one of the two grounds introduced in 1935 by the Divorce Laws Amendment Act which is terminal insanity for a minimum of seven years, or detention of the defendant spouse for a minimum of five years. This was before the coming into action of the Divorce Act in South Africa on the 1st of July, 1979.

The denunciation of the defects of the old divorce law led to an investigation by the South African Law Commission, whose findings led to the enactment of the Divorce Act of 1979, and the formulation of pragmatic rules for the termination of marriages was its primary objective. The former grounds of divorce were replaced with the ground of irrevocable breakdown of the marriage.

Costs of a Divorce

The cost of divorce in South Africa fluctuates depending on the situation and service providers. In a situation of an uncontested divorce, where both parties mutually agree on the divorce terms, the cost can be anything from R7,000 to R20,000. But if otherwise, the costs go up.

Divorce Process

The process of divorce in South Africa consists of the following steps:

  • Schedule a consultation with your divorce attorney.
  • Draft a divorce summons. The court issues the summons on behalf of the person (the Plaintiff) instigating the divorce action.
  • The Sheriff delivers the summons to the other spouse (the Defendant).

Then, the defendant acknowledges the contents of the divorce summons, and this is known as a plea. The defendant goes ahead to provide a counterclaim document, which provides what the defendant wants the divorce order to determine. However, if the defendant does not deliver a plea and counterclaim, the court may issue the order of divorce based on the conditions requested in the summons, and this is known as an uncontested divorce.

The plaintiff then delivers to the court a document responding to the defendant’s plea known as the plaintiff’s plea to the defendant’s counterclaim. The documents are altogether called the pleadings.

This ends the plea part of the divorce process in most cases.

The plaintiff then applies for a trial date. The documents to be used by either party in a trial must be revealed to the other party before the court date. And this is known as a discovery process.

In a situation whereby the parties have reached a divorce agreement, the divorce will be taken to trial and the court will decide.

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Legal fees

The costs in a divorce can be determined by the attorney that is appointed. An experienced senior attorney with family law as an area of specialization may charge between R1000 and R5000. In an uncontested divorce, anything between R500 and R1000 can be the cost. The cost usually is determined by the complexity of the divorce settlement agreement. In a contested divorce, the costs vary and depend on the conduct of the parties and may consume hundreds of thousands of rands in fees and disbursements. The court hearings also increase the amount, and that depends on how long a case takes to settle.

Child Support Costs

Child support cost in South Africa depends on the logical needs of the child on a monthly basis. The needs determine how much each parent will contribute. Usually, a child is granted one part of the family common expenses and an adult or older child is granted two parts.

The contribution is easily determined using this formula applied in practice: (Parent’s gross income)/(Total gross income of both parents) X (Child’s needs)/1 = (Parent’s contribution)

Moreso, the child’s maintenance is not only measured in financial terms. Caring for the child on daily basis is an indirect way of contributing to the maintenance of the child.

However, there may be a need for maintenance to be adjusted frequently, and that depends on the varying needs of the child or the financial state of the parents. A new application can be filed requesting that the maintenance court makes a fresh maintenance order, amend an existing order, set aside an existing order, decrease a current order or change an existing order if there is a need for a change in maintenance.

Conclusion

Navigating the complexities of divorce in South Africa can be emotionally challenging and financially burdensome. The costs associated with divorce, whether contested or uncontested, involve legal fees and court expenses. Uncontested divorces generally result in lower costs, with lawyer fees ranging from R8,000 to R15,000 and court costs typically amounting to R500 to R1,000.

On the other hand, contested divorces can significantly escalate expenses, with lawyer fees spanning from R20,000 to well over R100,000, depending on the complexity and duration of the case. Court costs for contested divorces may range from R1,000 to R5,000 or more.

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