Understanding unopposed divorces in South Africa

Even if both parties agree to a settlement, divorce in South Africa can be expensive.

Uncontested divorce – where both parties agree to the divorce, division of assets and/or custody of dependants – is by far the most affordable type of divorce in the country. This is because you do not need legal representation in a formal trial. What’s more, your uncontested divorce agreement can be drafted and filed conveniently online using a DIY divorce service.

How does an uncontested divorce work in South Africa?

When both parties agree to getting a divorce and the specifics (such as how assets will be divided), the divorce process works like this:

  1. Both parties sign a settlement agreement detailing every aspect of the divorce, including a list of all assets and the agreement that has been reached for each. The agreement also contains contact schedules for the non-custodial parent if minors are involved and any maintenance agreement (i.e. expected dates of payment and how old dependants must be before maintenance will stop).
  2. The complete settlement agreement is attached to the summons and processed by the court, which serves the defendant divorce papers. The defendant has 10 days to contest the divorce. After this probation period, the divorce is set on the unopposed roll to be handled.
  3. The plaintiff must appear in court (in a contested divorce, both parties need to appear).
    Barring complications, the judge will make the agreement an ‘Order of Court’. This means that if either party in the divorce violates the terms they may be eligible to pay a fine or even undergo imprisonment. This final divorce order is typed up and is usually available for collection within two weeks, after which it can be taken to Home Affairs so that both parties’ official marital status can be changed.

What are the benefits of having an uncontested divorce?

  • It is the least expensive type of divorce to complete
  • It can be finalized quickly (in as few as 4 weeks)
  • It permits doing a DIY divorce online, saving time and bureaucratic admin

When is a DIY uncontested divorce a good idea?

A DIY uncontested divorce is a good idea if:

  • Your divorce is simple (few substantial assets, no children)
  • You don’t mind doing some of the admin yourself
  • You have not been married long (fewer points of agreement to reach)

If you want to finalize your uncontested divorce faster, use an online service that will spare you having to obtain physical copies of appropriate forms in court.

See related resource: What is an uncontested divorce.