In an effort to prepare you and help you understand the procedure better, the Specialist Divorce Lawyers at Martin Vermaak have set out an explanation of the different basic steps in the Divorce Process in the South African Court System. Often, when you have some understanding of the various steps and stages, it can help to reduce the fear of the unknown and prepare you for the way forward.
One of our Specialist Divorce Lawyers will consult with the Client and obtain a complete overview of the case by asking a great many questions. This Divorce Lawyer will also require certain documentation from you. It cannot be stressed how vital it is to answer all the questions the Lawyer asks with complete honesty and as many details as you can possibly provide.
After this consultation, the Client will leave and the Lawyer will work on the first draft of the legal documents. This draft will be shown to the Client to read and check and, it is only when the Client is in agreement with the contents of the documents that they sign them.
Filing of Pleadings
Once the documents have been signed, they are delivered by the Messenger of Martin Vermaak Specialist Divorce Lawyers, first to the applicable Court to obtain a Case Number and then to the Sheriff concerned – this is decided upon according to the jurisdictional area applicable. These documents are known as the Combined Summons and Particulars of Claim. They are served personally upon the Spouse of our Client, who then has ten working days to respond.
Once the ten days have passed and a response has been received, the Divorce Lawyer then applies for a Trial date and has the matter set down on the Opposed Court Roll.
This is an interesting process. It can actually take place at any stage of the Divorce Procedure – meaning it could happen during the Preparation Phase or even just before or during the Trial. However, it’s normal and most acceptable place would be after the Filing of the Pleadings and before Discovery.
Lawyers will usually organise what they call a Round Table Discussion so that both sets of Divorce Lawyers and both Spouses can be present around the same table to discuss the details of different Settlement options. When this is successful, it means that a Settlement has been reached to which both of the Spouses agree and consider fair and just.
After this the Divorce Lawyer on Record will draft a document called a Settlement Agreement which sets out in writing all the details that have been discussed and agreed upon by both Spouses. This is then signed by both Spouses in the presence of the Witnesses concerned. To reach a Settlement at this point will make things a lot easier and less expensive. Our Specialist Divorce Lawyers experience much success in the proper handling of a well timed Settlement Agreement.
The Divorce Lawyer asks the Client to bring them specific documents – a lot of documents – so as amass as much information as possible. The Client will be asked for bank and credit card statements; property documents; emails; pension data; and many other documents. The Lawyer of your Spouse will do exactly the same thing. The Lawyers then share their collected information so that they have in their possession not only the information about their own Client but also the information about their legal opponent’s Client.
This helps the Divorce Lawyers understand the focus of their Legal Opponents and also ensures that neither Spouse hides anything in order to gain an unfair advantage. When this is handled by Specialist Divorce Lawyers who know exactly what to look for and where to look for it, their Clients usually receive a more equitable deal.
Most matters don’t get to this stage as Settlement usually takes place at some point prior to Trail. However, in the unlikely event that the case proceeds to Trial, the length of the Trial – i.e. how many days it is expected to be in Court – is usually decided by the amount of matters under dispute by the two Spouses. Some Trials might last a day whereas others could go on for several days – and in some cases even longer. Specialist Divorce Lawyers have the necessary expertise to contain the Trial so that it doesn’t last longer than absolutely necessary.
Price has a great deal to do with duration as even one day in Court costs several thousands of Rands for each Spouse. The most contentious matters that mostly make it to Court through lack of settlement are: Division of Assets; Maintenance Matters; and Care and Contact of the Minor Children.