Divorce Law


Our firm has, through our years of practice, come to the fore as one of the prominent family law specialist firms. While we deal with a wide array of legal matters, family law remains a large part of the firm. We attribute our ongoing success with family law matters to our proficiency in the founding statutes upon which the laws governing family law are based, our ongoing and constant revision of the updated legal principles and case law governing such and our warm and amiable presence with our clients.

However, given the long standing history of the firm, it is not surprising that the firm not only precognises itself of changes in the law and of binding decisions in case law, but also that our firm has caused changes to family law in our practice and by way of case law decisions.

Whether you have come to the conclusion that you wish to be divorced or you have become embroiled in proceedings of this nature, we are able to assist.

What is most commonly asked of our offices when we receive calls of this nature has been compiled below, and our answers to same, to assist you in understanding the process better:

FAQ’s Regarding Divorce

Who pays the costs of a divorce?

No. The maintenance provision of a divorce decree can be subsequently amended and thereby varied through the Maintenance Court.

Contact our offices for more information on this process and the various options available in each instance.

How long will it take?

A divorce can take anything between three months to years and any practitioner who tells you otherwise is likely not being truthful with you.  This is because it also depends on, amongst other things, the relief you are claiming as well as the stance of the opposing party as well as if the matter is opposed and how stringently so.

 Rest assured however that our every effort will be made to ensure that your matter is finalised as expediently as possible in the circumstances.

What happens if parties are simply unable to reach consensus in regard to the division of their assets?

The inability of reaching consensus in dividing assets should not be seen as a deal breaker. It is common for parties to litigate or settle on the remaining issues in dispute, whilst agreeing to refer the issue surrounding the distribution of assets to a receiver and liquidator. Essentially he takes control of the estate and would distribute same in accordance with certain powers and duties that is incorporated in a Court Order.

 Mr Pravda has acted as a receiver and liquidator in many family law matters and is commonly appointed by various law firms to act independently in distributing estates.

Who will get custody of my children?

In South African law, there is no reference to “custody” per se, but rather to “care and contact”, as outlined in the Children’s Act. A single party may sue for and be awarded “primary residence” of the children, which means that that party becomes the primary caregiver to the children, whilst the other party may exercise contact with the children as is agreed and / or reasonable as prescribed by the Office of the Family Advocate.

 The Office of the Family Advocate is a government body comprising attorneys, social workers and advocates who are tasked with making enquiry into the best interests of the children involved, and would interview and consider the views of the parties embroiled in the divorce as well as the children in certain instances, in order to make an informed finding and recommendation on how best the children’s interests would be served.

 Contact our offices for more information on this process and the various options available in each instance. 

What happens to his / her Pension Fund?

In terms of the provisions of the Pension Funds Act, a party may claim a half portion share of their spouse’s Pension Fund Interest and the Fund would accordingly be endorsed. There are circumstantial variations on this however and we invite you to contact us should you require more information. Recent amendments to the Pension Fund Act entitles a non-member spouse to be paid out within sixty days.

Are there alternatives to litigation?

Yes. It has become increasingly prevalent for parties to consider alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation. Mediation can only be achieved in instances whereby both parties maintain an objective, pragmatic and non-confrontational approach with a common goal of resolution.

 Mediation can also assist in settling certain issues, whilst litigating on others which invariably limits costs.

 Mr Pravda is a qualified mediator and specialist family law practitioner who has been the driving force in the firm.

How much will it cost?

Just as the time fluctuates and is dependent on circumstances of your particular matter, so too does the cost. A simple, straightforward and unopposed divorce in the Regional Court which could be finalised in under three months would vary in cost from a more complex matter involving multiple disputes and which could continue for some years. That being said, our costs and charges are agreed through our mandate with you and we would always endeavour to keep your costs low.

How does a maintenance claim work with a divorce?

The pleadings in the divorce (legal documentation exchanged including the summons and subsequent replying documents) would incorporate and address the maintenance claim.

 This does not mean that while the divorce action is proceeding, you are left destitute and without maintenance. A claim for spousal and / or child maintenance as well as a contribution towards costs can be made by way of an interlocutory application (an application brought while your divorce action is proceeding) and can even be made simultaneously with your divorce summons. In High Court, the application is known as one in terms of Rule 43, whilst in the Regional Court it is brought in terms of Rule 58.

Can I choose the Court?

Yes, the Regional Court and the High Court both have inherent Jurisdiction to hear Divorce matters. Choosing your Court can be dependant on a variety of factors and each Court has its own influencing advantages and / or disadvantages. Contact our offices for guidance on which Court might be best suited to your matter.

What is the process?

If your matter proceeds in the normal course, the first step is to arrange a consult with your attorney. Once you have given your attorney all of the required information, a Statistic Form and, if necessary, a form relating to minor children would be completed with you. Thereafter your divorce summons would be prepared and submitted to the Court for “issuing” (where it gets a case number and a Court file opened). Once the document is returned to your attorney, it will be dispatched to a Sheriff’s office for service on your spouse, in accordance with your instructions. Once summons has been served, the defendant will have 10 working days within which to defend, if he / she elects to oppose the matter.

 The further process thereafter begins the court process of pleadings being exchanged and would be explained in detail to you with your attorney. Contact us should you have any queries in this regard.

Can fault be a crucial factor in deciding the distribution percentage?

Through the changing mores of society, less emphasis is placed on the fault principle. The mindset of our Courts in the modern era is that adultery and deceit plays a less significant role in determining an equal division and more relevance is placed on the duration of the marriage and, at times, the extent of a party’s contribution.

 It is no longer necessary to delve into extensive and embarrassing hearings to determine the reasons for breakdown of a marriage. A party who wishes to be divorced would generally be guaranteed such a result.

Can a spouse claim that the other forfeits the patrimonial benefits of the marriage?

Yes, although the task is onerous and the onus rests on the party who claims to prove. Section 9 of the Divorce Act sets out in detail the circumstances under which a party can seek to claim a forfeiture of benefits, thereby depriving the other to the patrimonial claim of the matrimonial estate. Our firm would be happy to assess your matter and guide you accordingly.

What do I need to bring?

Your marriage certificate original, if possible. If you do not have it, try to get a copy of it. Your ante-nuptial contract, if applicable. Birth certificates for your children are not a requirement but you may bring copies of same. A copy of your and, if possible, your spouse’s ID (or at least their ID number). Details of your spouse’s employment information, if available to you. Any other information or documentation that may be relevant, if you have access to same (pension fund documents, payslips, bank/investment and other account information, motor vehicle description and information, property description and information).

 Divorce is a difficult and sensitive time for most and we are here to help you get through this time with the least emotional suffering and with the knowledge that your matter is being dealt with in your best interests at all times.