Your Questions About the South African Divorce Act Answered

Looking to better understand the basics of the South African Divorce Act? Did you know that half of South African marriages do not last beyond 10 years? According to alarming data released by Stats SA, the trend of married couples calling it quits is on the rise. Whether it is because of finances, adultery, abuse, addiction, or the advent of social media, one thing we can be sure of is that in this day and age of instant gratification, many couples are no longer prepared to take the time to try to sort their problems out.

Unfortunately, the breakdown of a marriage can be emotionally and financially painful, but with the right knowledge, you can avoid unnecessary delays and costly mistakes that could impact your future wellbeing. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Divorce Act.

What are the Grounds for Divorce in South Africa?

While divorce law in South Africa is relatively straightforward, the process can become quite complex – it all depends on your circumstances. According to the Divorce Act 70 of 1979, in order to file for a divorce in South Africa, it must be proven that the marriage has broken down on one of the following three grounds: Irretrievable Breakdown, Mental Illness, or Continuous Unconsciousness. Once grounds have been decided upon, both parties will hire their separate divorce attorneys, and the divorce process will begin.

Can You Get a Divorce Without Your Spouse's Consent?

Every marriage has its own unique set of problems, and if one spouse believes that the relationship is broken beyond repair, then there is nothing stopping him/her from filing for a divorce. However, if a spouse does not want to get a divorce and refuses to sign divorce papers, then the divorce will be considered contested. What this means is that the divorce process could take a few more months than an uncontested divorce, but it will be granted, with or without the agreement of the other spouse.

How Long Does Divorce Take Once the Papers Are Signed?

A contested divorce, where the parties cannot agree on the terms of the divorce, can take many months, or even years. Fortunately, however, most contested divorces are settled long before having to go in front of a judge. An uncontested divorce, where both parties agree to the terms of the divorce, can be finalised in as little as six weeks from date of signing the divorce papers.

What Does the Divorce Act Say About Maintenance of Children After Divorce?

A divorce can be full of twists and turns, and becomes even more complicated when there are young children involved. Fortunately, when it comes to children, the law is fairly clear-cut. Every parent has a mandatory responsibility to provide financial assistance to their children’s everyday living expenses. The Divorce Act does not specify a set amount to be paid each month, as child maintenance is determined by the child's monthly expenditures and the amount the parents are realistically able to afford. The court will assess factors, such as income, financial responsibilities, and the child’s age and requirements, and will then make a decision on the amount to be paid each month.