Divorce Process In South Africa (2023)

Divorce is the legal process through which a marriage is legally terminated, and the legal rights and obligations of the spouses are resolved. Divorce is usually initiated by one or both spouses who have decided that they no longer wish to continue their marriage. In many countries, including South Africa, divorce is granted based on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

The divorce process in South Africa involves a court proceeding in which the parties must establish the grounds for the divorce and reach an agreement on the division of their assets, debts, and other issues, such as child custody, visitation rights, and child support. The court will also issue a decree of divorce, which legally dissolves the marriage and specifies the terms of the settlement.

Divorce Process in South Africa

Here are the general steps involved in the divorce process in South Africa:

  • Jurisdiction: Before starting the divorce process, it is important to ensure that the South African court has jurisdiction over your case. In general, the court will have jurisdiction if either you or your spouse is a South African citizen, or if either of you is domiciled or resident in South Africa.
  • Grounds for divorce: To obtain a divorce in South Africa, you must show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. This can be demonstrated in several ways, such as by proving adultery, abuse, or irreconcilable differences.
  • Filing of papers: To initiate the divorce process, one spouse (the plaintiff) must file a summons with the court. The summons must set out the grounds for divorce and other details such as custody arrangements for children, spousal maintenance, and division of property.
  • Service of papers: The summons must be served on the other spouse (the defendant) by a sheriff of the court or by registered mail.
  • Response: The defendant has the right to respond to the summons by filing a notice of intention to defend. If the defendant does not respond within the specified time frame, the plaintiff can apply for a default judgment.
  • Settlement negotiations: Before the matter goes to trial, the parties may attempt to settle on the issues of custody, maintenance, and division of property. If a settlement is reached, it will be incorporated into a consent paper and presented to the court for approval.
  • Trial: If the parties are unable to settle, the matter will proceed to trial. Both parties will be allowed to present their case to the court, and the court will decide on the issues in dispute.
  • The final decree of divorce: Once the court has made a decision, a final decree of divorce will be granted. This will dissolve the marriage and set out the terms of the divorce settlement.

How Much Does Divorce Cost In South Africa?

The cost of a divorce in South Africa can vary widely depending on several factors, such as whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, the complexity of the issues involved, and the amount of time it takes to resolve the case. On average, an absolute divorce can cost anywhere from R10,000 to R50,000 or more.

Besides, here are some of the potential costs to consider:

  • Court Fees: In South Africa, court fees for a divorce can range from a few hundred to a few thousand rands depending on the specific court and the type of divorce.
  • Legal Fees: If you choose to work with a divorce lawyer, you will need to pay legal fees, which can vary depending on the complexity of your case and the amount of time your lawyer spends on your case.
  • Mediation Fees: If you and your spouse choose to work with a mediator to try to resolve your issues outside of court, you will need to pay mediation fees.
  • Other Costs: Other costs to consider include fees for appraisals, property valuations, and other professional services that may be needed during the divorce process.

What Are The Benefits Of Divorce?

Divorce, while not ideal, can have several important benefits and consequences, both for the individuals involved and for society as a whole. Some of the key reasons why divorce is important to include:

  • Ending a dysfunctional relationship

In many cases, divorce may be necessary to end a relationship that is unhealthy, abusive, or simply not working. By providing a legal means of dissolving a marriage, divorce can help individuals to move on from a difficult situation and find happiness and fulfilment elsewhere.

  • Protecting individuals’ rights

Divorce can also help to protect individuals’ legal and financial rights, particularly in cases where there are significant assets or children involved. A divorce settlement can establish custody arrangements, divide property and assets, and ensure that both parties are treated fairly under the law.

  • Promoting gender equality

Divorce can also have a positive impact on gender equality, particularly in cases where women may have been traditionally disadvantaged. By providing a legal means for women to leave unhappy or abusive marriages, divorce can help to promote women’s autonomy and agency.

  • Reducing stigma

While divorce was once considered taboo in many cultures, it has become more socially acceptable in recent years. By reducing the stigma associated with divorce, individuals may be more likely to seek help when they need it and to pursue healthy, fulfilling relationships.



The divorce process in South Africa is governed by the Divorce Act, which sets out the requirements and procedures for obtaining a divorce. To obtain a divorce in South Africa, one of the parties must be domiciled in South Africa or must have been ordinarily resident in South Africa for at least one year before the filing of the divorce petition.

Albeit divorce can be a difficult and emotional process, it can as well have important benefits for individuals and society as a whole. By offering a legal means of ending a marriage, divorce can help individuals to move on from difficult situations, protect their rights and assets, and promote greater equality and freedom. Moreover, it is important to seek professional assistance to carry out the process of divorce properly.