Divorce Litigation - Divorce Litigation Explained

People outside the legal fraternity will often refer to “divorce litigation” when speaking about the dissolution or break-up of a marriage. The subject also often crops up when the media exposes, discusses, and speculates about the disputes, terms, conditions, and ultimate settlements of contentious divorces of rich and famous personalities or celebrities in South Africa and abroad.

Do they, however, clearly understand what divorce litigation is, as well as two fairly similar terms that actually refer to quite distinctly different aspects of the legal separation and settlement process – mediation and arbitration?

The Language of Law

Legal terms and processes, commonly described as “legalese”, are typically daunting to those without legal training, since the legal system of any particular country is quite complex – too complicated for some. Many tend to view the language of law in much the same light as the “fine print” on a contract that one is always warned to read before signing any type of legally binding document.


In a nutshell, litigation is a process of settling disputes that pertain to various contentious issues upon which both parties cannot or refuse to agree. Typical divorce litigation matters include division of assets and property, child maintenance and child custody. Financial or material support for a spouse or the amount or extent of the support in question may also form part of issues litigated in the court, which will make as just and fair a decision as is possible – a court ruling.

Because there is conflict, dissension and dispute between the divorcing parties when matters are to be settled through litigation, contested divorces are rather much more expensive than would otherwise be the case. Each contesting party requires the assistance of an attorney and/or an advocate, who is qualified to litigate on their behalf in court.

If the separation is amicable and uncontested or the couple can reach an agreement about a settlement via mediation or arbitration, then litigation can be avoided. It takes less time to finalise the divorce, and the costs are usually a great deal lower.


Mediation is designed to enable a mediator to help parties find a way of settling any issues about which they may differ, or in circumstances where they are otherwise on reasonable terms with one another and prepared to compromise.

The divorce process takes less time because the parties are mutually willing and able to agree on a settlement before their legal representative applies for a court date. Parties are more empowered and actively involved during mediation than they would when litigation takes place in court.

Specialising in Divorce Matters

There are numerous broad and niche types of legal areas in South Africa; hence there are attorneys who specialise in each discipline. Riëtte Oosthuizen Attorneys, a reputable legal firm based in Alphen Park, Pretoria, specialises in Family Law and Divorce Law, which are particularly extensive and multi-faceted legal areas in this country, because of South Africa’s exceptionally diverse population, cultures and cultural practices.

Riëtte Oosthuizen Attorneys are qualified and trained to efficiently and effectively deal with the multitude of matters pertaining to divorce – from the very first stage and step, right to its conclusion – in the best interest of clients and their dependants, litigation and/or mediation included.