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Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in South Africa

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Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in South Africa

Divorce and Family Law Attorneys deal with different areas of private law. 

As Family Law Attorneys, Divorce Attorneys work with the law relating to family structures and the dynamics around the family. 

Family Law Textbook

Family Law Attorneys Practices Law in The Following Areas: 

  • Divorce
  • Domestic Violence
  • Child Maintenance
  • Spousal Maintenance
  • Domestic Violence
  • Adoptions

  • Estate Planning, such as the drafting of wills and antenuptial agreements. 

Divorce Attorneys protect and enforce the rights of their clients relating to the financial aspects of the divorce, together with parental rights and responsibilities if there are minor children involved and child and spousal maintenance claims. 

What Is the Difference Between a Divorce Attorney and a Divorce Lawyer? 

In South Africa, the terms “divorce attorney” or “divorce lawyer” are used interchangeably. However, it generally refers to a qualified and admitted legal practitioner formally acknowledged in Court as either an Attorney or Advocate.

However, the generic term “lawyer” refers to legally trained people who are not necessarily admitted as Attorneys or Advocates. 

This may include people with a legal degree or other legal qualifications. Although they still have not been admitted as Attorneys or Advocates in the High Court of South Africa.

How To Choose The Best Divorce Attorney For Your Needs 

Deciding to launch a divorce action is one of those mammoth decisions that will impact heavily on the rest of your life and determine how it will be.

There are many Attorneys in South Africa. When you select a Divorce Attorney, you need to ensure that the law firm and Divorce Attorney you choose handles many divorce and family law matters. I.e., experience counts in law. 

It serves no purpose to consult with a Conveyancer or a Labour Attorney about a divorce matter.

If you are a High Nett Worth Individual, do not go to Divorce Attorneys specialising in unopposed divorces. 

HNWI Yacht

There is a vast difference in how an unopposed divorce must be dealt with – compared to a complex divorce where the spouses may have shares in different companies, and there are trusts involved, etcetera.

You must also realise that you need to feel comfortable with the Divorce Attorney that you instruct. 

A good Divorce Attorney will give you different options yet point you in the direction of choice with the best possible outcome.

Making The First Phone Call to The Divorce Attorney 

Many people fear picking up the phone and making that first call to a Divorce Attorney. They put it off for days, even weeks until the pressure builds, and they either give up and don’t make the call, or they make the call, but in such a stressed way that they don’t hear much of the information, they were seeking.

If you need to make the call to get a divorce consult, write a list of things you need to know. 

Check your diary to see which dates and times you’re available, and make sure you have funds to pay for the consult.

Now Make the Call 

Ask the name and status of the person with whom you are speaking. Remember that no one will give you legal advice over the phone, and they probably won’t be putting you through to an attorney.

For a divorce consult, tell the receptionist it’s a divorce; if asked, tell them how you are married and how many children there are, give them your phone number and email address and make the appointment. You don’t have to tell them any more than that.

You certainly don’t have to go into any detail whatsoever until you meet your Attorney and start answering their questions. 

So that’s it. That’s the first move. You picked up the phone and made an appointment, and nothing terrible has happened to you.

When you go along to this first consult, please remember that you’re under no obligation to return or proceed with the divorce.

The First Consultation with The Divorce Attorney 

The purpose of the first consultation with a Divorce Attorney is so that the Divorce Attorney can explain to you, your legal position relating to your divorce.

When the consultation is finished, you should understand your legal rights and obligations. 

Always prepare for the first consultation with your Divorce Attorney by having the following information documents available: 

  • Details of your marital regime. If you are married with an antenuptial agreement, take a copy of the antenuptial agreement with you for the consult.

  • A spreadsheet of your income and expenses. 
  • A spreadsheet of your assets and liabilities.
  • Details of any company in which you or your spouse is a director or shareholder, and similarly, details of any trust documents where you or your spouse are trustees or beneficiaries of the trust.
  • FICA compliance – such as proof of your residence.
  • Marriage certificates and Birth Certificates.

It is not necessary to have all the documents available at the first consultation, but your Divorce Attorney will be able to advise you better if they have all the facts. 

In What Courts Does a Divorce Attorney Practice? 

Divorce and Family Law Attorneys generally appear in the Regional Courts, High Courts, Domestic Violence Courts, Maintenance Courts, Children’s Courts and occasionally in the Supreme Court of Appeal or even the Constitutional Court.

Martin Vermaak has personally and often appeared or litigated in these High Courts: 

  • North Gauteng High Court
  • South Gauteng High Court
  • Pietermaritzburg High Court
  • Kimberley High Court
  • Durban High Court

Martin Vermaak has appeared often in many Magistrate’s Courts, including: 

  • Randburg Magistrate’s Court
  • Pretoria Magistrate’s Court
  • Soweto Magistrate’s Court
  • Germiston Magistrate’s Court
  • Verulam Magistrate’s Court
  • Durban Magistrate’s Court
  • Cape Town Magistrate’s Court
  • and many more.

Do Divorce Attorneys Settle Divorces? 

Very few divorces will end up in the Divorce Trial Court for a hearing.

Most Divorces Will Be Settled by The Divorce Attorneys Long Before Trial 

Divorce word written on wood block

In some instances, the Divorce Attorneys will refer the clients for mediation. In most cases, the Divorce Attorneys will have a so-called “round table” meeting to attempt settlement of the divorce.

Some divorces are settled before the institution of the divorce action. Most divorces are settled long before trial, and some divorces will be settled on the day of the divorce trial.

We generally do not propose a settlement meeting before the discovery process has been finalised, except if our client knows the estate’s true value (s). 

Major Causes of Divorce as Seen By Divorce Attorneys  

There are many reasons why people decide to go ahead with a divorce. These Major Causes of Divorce include the following:

  • Laziness
  • Lack of Communication
  • Unmet Expectations
  • Financial Problems
  • Infidelity
  • Abuse
  • Jealousy and Insecurity
  • Religious Beliefs and Cultural Differences

Do Divorce Attorneys Work for Free? 

While Divorce Attorneys provide free legal services, it is generally done in terms of the Legal Practice Counsel’s pro bono scheme.

In terms of this, every Practising Attorney in South Africa under the age of 60 years is required to do 24 hrs pro bono work per year.

How Much Does a Divorce Attorney Charge? 

Divorce Attorneys generally work at hourly rates, which differs substantially in terms of the complexity of the work, and the experience of the Divorce Attorney.

Divorce Attorneys are not allowed to handle divorces on a contingency basis, i.e., no win, no fee.

However, some Divorce Attorneys are willing to wait until the divorce is finalised before they get paid. This is not something that often happens in practice, and it will typically only happen if the estate(s) is(are) substantial.

Make sure you understand how and when your Divorce Attorney will charge you before you proceed to instruct them.

Who Pays the Divorce Attorney? 

Usually, the spouse who instructs the Divorce Attorney is the person that pays for that Attorney.

The Court may make an order for the one spouse to pay the other spouse’s legal costs – but this would only be after the matter is finalised. The Court will usually grant an order favouring the “winning” spouse.

Final Thoughts on Divorce Attorneys and Family Law Attorneys 

A Divorce Attorney or a Family Law Attorney can play a significant role in how your life will be after the divorce – for many years to come. 

The outcome of your divorce will deal with the financial result and, if you have minor children, with your parental rights and responsibilities.

Choose your Divorce Attorney carefully, but if you do not get along, or if you do not trust your divorce attorney with your future, quickly obtain a second opinion!

Read More: 

The Divorce Process in South Africa

How to obtain a Protection Order (Explained) 

Types Of Courts for Divorce and Family Law in South Africa

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