Divorce support group FAQs

Whether you initiated the divorce, or were the one to be told that the marriage is over, divorce is a difficult time for all concerned.  It is often a long and lonely process, and having access to people who really understand offers some comfort.

Our Divorce support forum is where users share their experiences and offer advice. Take a look at the questions most frequently asked and see how others have dealt with their situation.

For more expert advice visit the Family Law Expert and the Divorce Support Expert.

Q: How does joint custody work?

How does joint custody work?  Will it also mean that the kids stay with both parents? For example: stay with mom from Monday to Thursday, and from Thursday evening until Sunday evening with dad?

A:Shortly, it means all decisions regarding the children must be made jointly by both parents. Simply, it means that no decision with regards to the children can be made without the other parents' knowledge and agreement. That is called joint-parenting with the primary residence being with one parent (usually the mother). The over-nighting of the child depends on their age. I know that my attorney had an issue with my son (then 4) over-nighting with his father however, as his sibling was older, it was unfair to allow one and not the other. Ask your attorney to explain the visitation of the children to you - it is up to you to agree to the amount of time they spend away from their home base, based on their emotional status.

Q: My ex's partner is interferes in issues concerning my son what can I do?

Have any of you had problems with ex's partner interfering in matters of parenting with no right to do so? My ex's boyfriend emailed me telling me that all matters relating to my son must go through him. He also threatened to lay charges against me if I don't adhere to his instructions.
Unfortunately there is no law yet that allows me to stop him doing this, or at least trying to do it, since a Peace Order does not allow for harassment, a Protection can only be obtained if there is a domestic relationship between one and the respondent, and the Protection From Harassment Bill of 2010 has yet to be promulgated. Only way for me to legally stop him interfering would be to approach High Court. Anyone else had to deal with similar interferences from ex's partner, how did you deal with it?

A: Just write a letter and have it stamped by the police and instruct them to deliver it to him, instructing him that he has no legal rights to your child and stipulate what he can and may not do to your child etc. This was advised to me by the police.

Q: What rights do I have when a customary marriage is over?

What are my customary marriage rights? My boyfriend paid lobola in 2010 and we have an 8-month-old baby together, but currently not living together. He's in KZN and bought us a house in his name in Centurion. Recently we're having problems that lead to separation and he sent me a fax that he gives me 3 months to move out of the house as he cannot afford to pay the bond. I'm currently unemployed and he only gives me R1000 pm for child maintenance. I went to PTA family court to report him and they told me I have no case as we are not legally married, I can only go for child maintenance. Please advise me of what to do as I cannot afford to pay the rent and where will I go with this the baby as I'm unemployed.

A: Sadly the information you were given is right. In order for a customary marriage to be recognised it has to be registered. If it were not registered then it is not recognised and you are not protected by any laws other than customary laws.And yes, all you can claim for is maintenance towards your child. That would mean taking all expenses related to the raising of your child, and have him pay a certain amount of it in relation to your respective incomes. If the total costs for child = R1000, and he earns twice what you do, he would pay 2 thirds and you would pay 1 third. Not sure what the process is, but see if there is still a possibility of having your marriage registered, then you may claim.

Q; My ex uses my house as a half-way stop, how can I get him to stop doing this?

I've been divorced for 2+ years and the ex took a job in another province prior to divorce and has ended staying there. He occasionally flies the kids to him for school holidays and flies down every 5 weeks for a weekend visit to see them. On several occasions he would let himself into the house (using the eldest sons keys), and when I return from work I would either find him asleep in MY lounge with the remnants of lunch served from my fridge etc lying on table. I asked him to stop just coming into the house and also told the kids it was not on. He continued to do so and used my eldest son as a pawn in this. The eldest finally broke down about 6 weeks ago with the pressure we are both putting on him and is now in therapy and on anti-depressants. He arrives today to fetch the kids for the easter week, however he has only booked himself into a B& B (he has family here so he could've stayed for free with them) and says he will fetch the kids after breakfast daily and return them maybe in time for me to give them dinner. He then proceeded to ask me if he could spend the days here with the kids (while I'm at work, I'm in retail which never closes!!) and I said no which was greeted with disdain from him and a hurt look from my eldest. Am I being unfair to say no? I want to get on with my life and with him in the house (which he still treats as his own) I can never get past the anger. He is not short of money and earns a HUGE salary which would allow him to have only the best. I would never arrive at his house if I ever went to his province and ask to use it as a day camp and raid his fridge etc but in the same vein I don t want to put pressure on two boys who have still not come to peace with the divorce. Help please.

A: It's always so complicated when the kids are involved. No. You have to work out something whereby he never enters your home. He collects the kids OUTSIDE your place. Remember, he does not occupy any special place in YOUR life as far as trespassing or breaking and entering is concerned, he is in the same position as any stranger from the street. He clearly does not realise this, or chooses not to. I know it's difficult to put your kids in the firing line but he must be told that he would not let just anyone into your home and even though he is the father, it does not entitle him to enter the home. Is it not possible to take the key away from your son? His actions towards you are completely disrespectful towards you and arrogant in the extreme.  Do not make it easy for him to abuse you. Keep him at arm's length.

Q: My child is being alienated from me, what can I do?

I'm the visitation parent and see my kids every second weekend. After seeing my kids yesterday and knowing that they are going to be with me this weekend, my one son tells me that his father has now given him a choice on my weekends whether he wants to go to me or another family member, being his side of the family. My other son wants to see me as per usual. I suddenly was smsed last night that my older son has decided that he doesn't want to see me anymore. When I saw them yesterday they were equally excited to come to me today - both of them. So I'm guessing that my older son is being " brainwashed"  to be told that coming to me is an " option"  and that he doesn't need to. It clearly states in the divorce agreement that I have rights to them every second weekend - surely then if he was a good parent, he would encourage a relationship with me instead of hindering it. Has anyone else had this problem? I know my ex has a lot of hatred and anger towards me because of the fact that I stood up to his abuse and divorce him and he now has no one to stroke his ego.

A: Based on my own experience as a child with divorced parents, I'm not commenting on your ex instigating or allowing your son to make up his mind, but rather your child's mindset. You said his sms said he doesn't want to see you anymore - did it come from dad or his cellphone. Did he mean for ever, or just this weekend?

Depending on the circumstances I just think you should take your older son's age into account -if he is a teenager that is. The every 2nd weekend thing became a problem for me when I was in high school, all of a sudden there were all these activities that I missed out"  on when I had to go to my dad - whether these activities are deemed unimportant by an adult is irrelevant, they were important to me at that stage.

The thought that the only reason I'm not allowed to be with my mates over a specific weekend is because of an agreement made 10 years ago made me pissed at everything, including my mom. So, I eventually asked my dad to compromise, he had to understand I had my own life now, if there was something important over a weekend we skipped that one and I went the next. NO biggie. It had nothing to do with me not loving him, quite the opposite, rather my dad realising it was pointless forcing me to be there.

Important thing parents should know by now, logic is wasted on a child or rebellious teenager. Don't look for hidden meaning in something that could be as simple as him rather wanting to go to the mall with his mates, than visiting you.

Q: My 6yr old is stealing, what can I do?

I consider divorce as one of the most destructive events in any person's life, especially so for children.  Up to now I thought my kids have adjusted well to the divorce, although I would prefer it if discipline could be maintained. All in all they're fine, doing good in school etc.

So, what do you do when you hear that your 6 year old took R250 from Mom's cupboard, invented a whole story of a friend at school giving her the money. What do I, or can I do as a weekend dad to turn this situation around.I see an underlying problem, so maybe she hasn't adjusted as well as I thought. How do I discuss it with ex, how do I explain to her that I think she should give a bit more attention to our kids, leave church and friends for weekends, instead of every second night etc, without it turning into a blame game. I don't want to fight with her - I only want her to see the error of her ways. Whatever she's doing, something is wrong.

My ex told me briefly last night about it being her money and not someone at school, so thats a relief at least. I just got a mail from ex explaining what happened, she spoke to LO, she first got the same story, then that I gave it to her and then eventually that she took it from the cupboard. It looks like my ex is on top of it, she reckons that LO cried a lot when she explained to her why stealing is wrong etc. Her punishment is no tuck money tomorrow. My worry is she did this during the holiday at my place as well, all of a sudden I had no change in my wallet, and a while later she had R27 in coins, and she also tried to convince me her mother gave it to her. She only admitted the next day that she took it from my wallet.

A: Just my two cents worth here, but I think the punishment is very light for such a " severe"  crime. The consequences have to be such that she is deterred from ever doing this again, no matter how tempting it is, the consequences must outweigh the benefits of misbehaving. I have learned this the hard way with my son. If the punishment can be laughed off, the crime will happen again, but if the punishment is tough, I have a model child.

Q: My friend's husband came on to me, should I tell her?

I hardly ever go to couples get together as I don't have a partner anymore, this weekend my friend begged me to come over. One of my friend's husbands was hitting on me, at first I thought he was making fun of me as they know that I'm divorced. The place felt so uncomfortable for me stay another second, I had to leave. I was asked why I am in such a rush, I had to excuse myself. How do I deal with this?  Should I just distance myself from my friend as her husband is a jerk, do I tell her and think that I'm trying to break them up and end like me. I spent the whole of yesterday trying to analyse her reaction when if tell her that. I had to call all the lady friends who were there and the other one said her husband saw that. Isn't this sick?

A: I believe the wife will automatically take her husbands'' side and you will lose her friendship for sure. I also believe that the other married girlfriends will be keeping an eye on you, even though you are totally innocent of flirting and wrongdoing because they will see you as a potential threat The guy who hit on you is a real creep and you really want to avoid him big time.

Q: My ex husband is not paying maintenance, what can I do?

I haven't received maintenance since December last year. My exes defence is that he hasn't got a job although he can get a job at the drop of a hat (Web designer, I.T tech) etc. He is basically not working in order to not pay maintenance.  To also mention here that his partner runs a business and when looking on the website I noticed that he is the director of the business. What happens then? I on the other hand haven't been able to send my daughter to crèche since then. I am trying to earn money on the side but starting off something as you know takes time - I also work permanently.  It's getting to me now as my daughter needs interaction with children and she is such a clever girl I don't want her to miss out on any more schooling.  Begging doesn't help, pleading doesn't help? I feel lost today.

A: There a various ways to obtain arrear and future maintenance payment. If your ex-spouse is employed and contribute towards a pension or provident fund, you can apply to have the arrear and future payments deducted from the fund. There is quite a lot of free legal assistance available to you at the courts themselves. It will take some waiting around and questions, but “family court” is generally very helpful to single mothers. They do have assistants at all of the courts to advise and assist Mum’ s so if you want to do this as cost effectively as possible, go to your nearest court and ask the Family Court clerk for guidance. If you can afford to, you can also go to an attorney who will be able to get a Garnishee order for you if a maintenance agreement is being defaulted on but to save the cost of the attorney, I would go to the court directly and get assistance there.

Q: My ex wife is not allowing me to see my child, what can I do?

The Divorce Decree stipulates that the child will stay with mother and must visit me fortnightly and on Holidays. The problem I have currently is that the ex-wife refuses to let the child visit me. The last time I saw my child was 1year 3 months back. I went to social workers for help, to no avail. I need help asap.

A: The amended children's act states that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities. Parental alienation is a very real and unfortunate problem and should on no account have anything to do with paying maintenance and withholding payment of maintenance is illegal. This is a very long time for not seeing your child and this should be addressed with the Children's court. You have the right to see your child and your child has the right to have a relationship with both parents. Unless there are valid concerning reasons for the child to be with you, the mother cannot withhold access.



Q: My husband insists that I move out of the marital home, should I?

My husband insists that I move out of marital home with the kids, and the kids want to live with me. He knows I cannot afford to pay the rent although I work. He emotionally and verbally abuses me.
Can I claim so that he pays the rent?

A: Of course you can, it's called maintenance. He has to contribute to looking after the kids. You'll have to pay you portion of the rent and your share of the kids rent, clothes, groceries etc. But he also needs to pay his fair share of those same costs.

Q: What is the difference between a rule 43 and rule 32?

From what I understand a rule 43 application is through the high court for urgent relief of maintenance, access, custody etc. Can one apply for a rule 43 if their divorce is going through the lower courts? Is the rule 32 application similar which is done at the lower courts similar as the rule 43 which is done through the high court? Is it just as fast?

A: The Rule-32 is the cheaper option, but could be over ride by a rule-43 as the high court can override rower court orders, but a lower court cannot override a high court order accept in the case of maintenance and DVI issue. If custody had been awarded in a lower court a HIGH court can change it, but if a high court award custody then the lower courts do not have to power to change it. The lower court does have the power to make an interim order to override the high court order relating to custody, but only in the case where there is a high court date set for the final order.

Q: How do I proceed with divorce?

I have been separated from my wife for the past 5-6 yrs we have been married in community of property with two daughters aged 25 and 20. I need to proceed with divorce.  What are the difficulties I am going to encounter when starting that journey of divorce, and what are my chances of getting uncontested divorce?

A: An uncontested divorce can only be achieved when both parties have reached a fair settlement. The best way to do this is to discuss this with your wife and, if both parties agree, then this should be fairly simple.

If you initiate the divorce proceedings you will also have to be the one who appears before the judge. Your scenario should be fairly simple since both children are over 18 and you have been separated for an expanded period of time. Things that you should include in your settlement are the reasons for divorce, splitting of assets and so forth. If you wife is able to make a living on her own without your support then she has a slim chance of getting maintenance from you.

There are only two ways to do this, you and your wife can decide and do this together with one lawyer or if she is difficult you will have to sue her for a divorce. This can take long, especially if she is not in favour of the settlement. If a settlement is reached, your lawyer will inform you regarding the court date. Once she received the letter for divorce from your lawyer she has 10 clause days to respond with acceptance or not. If not then you have 10 days to respond ... this goes on till a settlement is reached. This is the basics. If a settlement is reached it can take anywhere from 4 weeks to a few months for a court date.

Q: What is a reasonable amount of maintenance for a 10 year old?

What is a "reasonable" amount of maintenance for a 10 year old? I pay for schooling, medical, extra-mural activities and R4 900 towards my son's monthly costs.  I am satisfied that my son lives a good lifestyle.  Am I entitled to ask what my ex spends the maintenance for my son on?  I want to make sure he is the one benefiting from the maintenance.

A: It all depends on your son's expenses and each of your salaries. For e.g. If your son's schooling (and aftercare etc) is R2000/month (that's what mine is) - and your ex wife earns half of what you earn - then her portion is R666.66 and yours is R1333.33. The same formula applies for all other expenses - rent, food, electricity, petrol, maid, clothing etc. If you are happy that your son is well taken care of with what you already contribute, and you feel it's in HIS best interest... then don't rock the boat. Remember, what you pay is proportionate to your salaries.

Q: What is the right age for kids to sleep over?

My divorce agreement states that my kids are allowed to sleep over from school going age, the one is now in grade one and my little one is 4 years old. I see them every weekend either Saturday or Sunday, but they don't sleep over as my ex says the little one is too young - I am engaged and my fiancé stays with me. She has 2 kids and they also live with us. What is too young, and how can I change this?

A: School going age is grade one. You could start by taking the little one in Gr. 1 for weekends - it's your right - and soon enough the 4 year old will want to stay over for a night too. It is your right. My kids are now teens, but have been staying over (hard as it was) with their father since the youngest was 3 and the eldest 5. It's his right to have his kids for weekends.

Q: When is the right time to introduce my new partner to my kids?

When is the correct time, if ever, to introduce kids to a new partner in your life? I feel so guilty all the time, I know they want me and their dad to get together again - I've got sons, and they are extremely protective over me, as soon as I even speak to another male, all their radars are up!

A: Your concern is legitimate and there is no right or wrong time really, it's more the who and the how. If you are dating lightly and bring regularly different men to be introduced to your children they may start feeling resistant and threatened. However, introducing a person you have been seeing for a while and feel comfortable to introduce to your children should not become an issue.
It is important from the start though to reassure your children that no one is going to take the place of their father and under no circumstances should a new partner take the role of their father. Explain as well that it is not because they see you in the presence of a man that it means that this person is going to move in.
Remember, as parents, all we truly are, are role models. Put yourself in their shoes and how they are perceiving the situation. The chances are, if the situation feels uncomfortable for you, it will be uncomfortable for them. If the situation feels right, it is more likely that it will be accepted as such by them as well. Follow your intuition as well. There is nothing like a mother's intuition. If you are concerned about their reaction to being introduced to a new friend, may you not deep down be concerned that this may not be the right person after all. Trust your children as well as they are often very good judge of character.
Right now their world as they knew it has been shattered. Allow them to trust the changes taking place into their life and always remember that without a proper explanation, it'll be hard for them to trust a situation that they don't know. Talk to them. Let them know what is going on and reassure them that nothing will ever happen without anything being discussed as a family first.

Q: Can I ever find love again?

My divorce has just been finalised after we were separated for a year. I haven't dated anyone since. I have no idea where to even begin. I have 2 small children (8 & 4) and have no idea how to handle this whole dating issue. I don't go out much except when I take the kids out or sometimes dinner with friends. How would my children feel seeing me with another man? I'm feeling so lonely and have no idea what to do.

A: Take some good advice while you are feeling so lonely and so short after the divorce you are "guaranteed" to make the wrong choices. Possible date someone not worthy of you or below your standards.
I've been single now for two years,  single dad and I must say I am extremely happy being single. Preferring to be single right now, spending time with my kids.
The point is when you have healed and are happy to be single. Then you see the world for what it is. I won't date just anyone I will only date a lady that meets my standards. That is when I feel like it again. So give yourself a little time to just become whole again.




(Health24, updated May 2011)

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