Divorce is never easy, but it can be less stressful when you understand the process involved. In South Africa, the divorce process can either be uncontested or contested. An uncontested divorce is one where both parties agree to the terms of the divorce, while a contested divorce is one where there is no agreement and the court must make a decision on what it deems fair based on the circumstances of each case and the law.
Navigating the Divorce Process
The contested divorce process starts with a Summons and a particulars of claim, which is served on the defendant. This document sets out the Plaintiff’s claim in the divorce, including the proprietary consequences, maintenance, and arrangements in respect of the minor children. The defendant has 10 court days (working days) to deliver a notice of intention to defend, and if they do, they must also deliver a plea and a counterclaim. The plaintiff will then deliver a plea to the counterclaim.
In the Particulars of Claim, Plea, and Plea to Counterclaim the battle lines are drawn, and the issues for adjudication are defined and delineated. The exchange of pleadings is the first phase of litigation, and up to this point, the parties are still drawing their battle lines.
The next phase of the litigation is the trial preparation stage. This includes the discovery stage, where the parties exchange documents to be used at trial. Parties can inspect documents, request further documents and issue subpoenas to obtain documents the other party fails to produce. Requests for further particulars can also be made to elaborate on the allegations made by the opponent in the pleadings.
The pre-trial conference is the last substantial step before trial. Here, the attorneys get together to try and limit issues for trial and discuss the ins and outs of how the trial is going to be conducted. The divorce trial takes place before a judge or a regional court magistrate, who then makes a decision. The outcome of the matter can be appealed if necessary.
It is essential to note that the divorce can settle at any stage after summons, and such settlement can even be reached on the day of trial!
Understanding the divorce process can help you navigate it better, and having an experienced divorce lawyer by your side can make all the difference. Contact Vermeulen Attorneys for divorce advice and assistance from our team of highly trained and competent divorce lawyers.