Understanding the Divorce Act: The Grounds for Divorce and Child Maintenance

Every year, more and more dreams of marital bliss are shattered as couple’s throw in the towel. In fact, the latest statistics released by Statistics SA indicate that fewer lovebirds are tying the knot, and that an increasing number of marriages in South Africa do not last more than 10 years. Whether it is because of finances, adultery, abuse, addiction, social media, or the demands of our ever-changing society, a divorce is no walk in the park.

While the divorce procedure in South Africa is pretty much straightforward, separation can be incredibly stressful, time-consuming, emotionally taxing, and not to mention expensive. Regardless of the undercurrent that has arisen in your marriage, your divorce may be your first encounter with the legal system. Understandably, the prospect of dealing with an attorney, judge, and all the legal jargon can be intimidating. To minimise any oversights, we have put together a basic guide to understanding the Divorce Act.

We Have Gone From the “Fault” System to the “No Fault” System

Prior to the South African Divorce Act, 70 of 1979, divorce in South Africa was not as common as it is today. Formerly, there were four grounds for obtaining a divorce: adultery, malicious desertion, incurable mental illness, and imprisonment for at least five years. Essentially, grounds for divorce were based on “the fault” system, which placed all the blame on one spouse, leaving the other spouse completely innocent.

However, after years of discontent, the South African Divorce Act was amended to a “no fault” system. The “no fault” system allows a marriage to be dissolved on the following three grounds only: irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, mental illness, or continuous unconsciousness.

Maintenance of Children is First and Foremost

In South African divorce law, the court considers the wellbeing of children first and foremost. If there are children, maintenance must be agreed on. Section 7(2) of the South African Divorce Act deals with the payment of maintenance, and if a couple is unable to find common ground about who will take care of the children, the Court will make a decision that is in the children’s best interest.
So, what can a working parent expect to pay each month? Subject to the parent's income and monthly expenditures, if you are paying for one child, you will pay up to 12% of your gross weekly income. If you are paying for two children, you will pay up to 16% of your gross weekly income. If you are paying for three children or more, you will pay up to 19% of your gross weekly income. The duty of maintenance payment will only come to an end when the child turns 18.
If you are looking for a proficient and compassionate divorce attorney in Pretoria who exclusively specialises in divorce law and family matters, then you need to partner with Riëtte Oosthuizen Attorneys. However, if you are interested in learning more about the Divorce Act in South Africa, visit our blog. You will find everything you need to know to ensure a speedy and amicable divorce.