How to get a DIY divorce in South Africa

A DIY divorce can only occur when both parties are interested in an uncontested divorce.
A DIY divorce can only occur when both parties are interested in an uncontested divorce.

Parent24's #dignifieddivorce series is here to help parents navigate the legal and emotional implications of a divorce.

Getting a divorce is traumatic enough, and adding lawyers and the financial burden can make it worse. 

Especially as South Africa's complex and ever-changing Covid-19 lockdown regulations keep us mostly housebound and uncertain of the immediate future. 

If you're needing a quick and inexpensive divorce then perhaps a DIY divorce is the best way forward.

Why do people use a DIY divorce service? 

With a DIY divorce, the agreeing parties fill in an online questionnaire, a lawyer reviews the submission and once it is confirmed that everything is correct, the relevant documents are returned - sometimes within 48 hours. The couple can then go to court with the correct paperwork.

We spoke to the professionals at for some insight into the process.

What is a DIY divorce?

A DIY divorce can only occur when both parties are interested in an uncontested divorce. 

The major features a couple must agree on for an amicable DIY divorce, are:

  • whether or not to get divorced;

  • the split of assets;

  • maintenance (if any) and the amount;

  • the custody and maintenance of minor children

As a result of this, there are restrictions around who would find a DIY divorce useful. If you can't agree on the terms of the divorce, then the DIY route isn't for you.

If you aren't in agreement about the key aspects of your divorce, then it is best to use mediation or the services of a divorce lawyer.

If, through mediation you come to an agreement on the basics of your divorce, then it is possible to continue using a DIY divorce service.

What does it cost? 

A DIY divorce is often a cheap, quick and easy way of getting a divorce. It is expensive to use a lawyer (from around R500 to R3 000 per hour) and it is hard to know how long the consultation process will take.

Costs can easily mushroom and it can be hard to control, especially when you're doing something unfamiliar that you are emotionally invested in.

It is also possible to do your divorce entirely by yourself, but it is a complex process that needs to be perfect; you want the forms to be filled in and submitted correctly so you don't have to extend the process of getting a divorce.

So it's often a much more cost-effective method, with a basic, uncontested divorce costing under R1 000 in some cases. 

ALSO READ | What are the grounds for divorce in South Africa?

How does it work? 

In order to make the process fast and affordable, templates are used to save expensive attorney time. The couple fills in an online form to capture all of their details and an attorney then looks through the information and will let them know if more information is required.

Once the attorney is happy that the documents are suitable for submission, they send them to the divorcing pair for review. Once everyone is happy, the attorney sends details through on how to submit the documents and explains the next steps.

In order to process your divorce, you'll need to take the documents to court and pay for the sheriff to serve them on your partner (costs are from R150). After the documents are served, a court date can be set.

In an uncontested divorce, only the plaintiff - the person who started the process - needs to appear in court. 

For those who need additional support, it is possible to add consultations with a lawyer, and even someone to go to court with you, for an extra fee.

How long will it take?

How long the process takes varies, depending on where you are in the country. But, barring complications, the judge will make the agreement an order of court in about a month.

Follow Parent24's #dignifieddivorce series here


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