Divorce in South Africa

The documents and information available on this website refer to the dissolution of civil marriages and unions by divorce in South Africa in terms of the Divorce Act (70 of 1979).

Marriages solemnised in terms of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (120 of 1998) may be dissolved in terms of civil law but some of the consequences are determined by custom and tradition. Other religious marriages, such as traditional Muslim or Hindu marriages are dissolved in terms of the rites and rituals of the religion.

Grounds for Divorce in South Africa

In order to obtain a divorce in South Africa, you need to satisfy the court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Irretrievable breakdown’ means that the marital relationship has reached such a state of disintegration that there is no reasonable prospect of the restoration of a normal marital relationship.

The following reasons may be considered as an indication that the marriage has irretrievably broken down:

  • The parties no longer feel any love or affection for each other;
  • The parties no longer communicate as husband and wife nor afford each other marital privileges;
  • The parties have not shared a common home for a long period;
  • A spouse became involved in an extramarital relationship;
  • One spouse abandoned the other;
  • One spouse abused the other; and/or
  • One spouse has been institutionalised for mental illness for at least 2 years.

The Divorce Process

A divorce is instituted by action proceedings, which means that you need to start the process by issuing a summons. Our online application form addresses the requirements for the summons in further detail.

In an uncontested divorce by agreement, the summons is accompanied by a Deed of Settlement, which we will prepare for you. This document deals with the settlement terms agreed to between you and your spouse.

Once the Clerk or Registrar of the court issues the summons, it needs to be served on your spouse personally, by the Sheriff.

Should minor children be born of the marriage, the papers will also need to be served on the Family Advocate for endorsement.

The matter will then need to be set down for hearing. The Plaintiff is required to attend the court hearing and the Magistrate will ask certain questions to confirm the information in the summons and particulars of claim.

Once the court is satisfied, an order will be granted incorporating the terms of the Deed of Settlement.