Divorce Law Demystified
Divorces do not have to be the nightmares we see on television
Divorce includes both a legal aspect as well as a human aspect. We are not dealing with two parties fighting over a car accident, we are dealing with a husband and wife who need assistance to distinguish between what the parties are legally entitled to, what the parties want and lastly what it is that they need to do to get through this chapter of their lives. It is an attorney’s job to make sure that these three aspects are all aligned, and a suitable arrangement is reached.
As an attorney, I always try and distinguish what the parties are in dispute over as it is usually something simple that when resolved makes it possible to settle a divorce without incurring a fortune in legal fees.
My advice usually to couples who are contemplating divorce is the following:
- Book a consultation with an attorney – regardless of which direction your divorce is heading.
- Trust your attorney and disclose everything – people often feel they cannot disclose any hidden savings accounts, in case it gets included in the division of the estate. Your attorney is there to guide and advise you. By keeping information from your attorney, they are unable to negotiate a settlement with the bigger picture in mind.
- Be open to negotiate – We have a saying in the profession that a ‘good settlement, is when both parties feel like they have been wronged’. This is because there is always animosity (despite how hard the parties try). Be it the pots and pans or claiming half of a pension, the key is to be open to consider solutions rather than demands.
- It is vital that your divorce decree is 100% correct – It is very difficult to change the terms when a divorce is finally concluded. You may in some instances vary the order, but you cannot add terms that were never agreed upon at the time. This is unfortunate as often I will have clients that organised their own divorce, without an attorney (DIY divorces) and after many years realise that they should have claimed a portion of their partners pension and are now unable to claim due to the court order being incorrect.
- Make sure you have your original marriage certificate – Before the courts will grant a divorce, they require the original marriage certificate. If the parties have misplaced it, they will need to visit Home Affairs to obtain a newly printed one.
Once you are divorced, keep the following in mind:
- Ensure you have a copy of your divorce decree.
- Contact your ex-spouses Pension/Retirement/Provident Fund to ensure that any order in respect of same is executed. This is not done automatically, and the onus is on you as the person who will benefit to bring the order to their attention so you can receive payment.
- Make sure any other assets are split between the parties as per your divorce decree. Furniture, jewellery, bank accounts, cars etc. Try get this done as soon as possible.
- If the order says the matrimonial house is to be sold, arrange to meet with an estate agent in your area. Your attorney can refer you to one if you need help. Your attorney can also refer you to a conveyancing firm of attorneys to assist with transferring the property should you require assistance.
- After a period of 6 months (if you have the luxury of time), visit home affairs and confirm that your marital status has in fact been changed. You can also have your surname changed back to your maiden name if you prefer.
Embrace this new chapter in your life. Divorce does not mean failure, it merely means you are about to embark on a new journey.