What it costs to get a divorce in South Africa

With more South African women opting to start divorce proceedings, focus has increasingly shifted to cost of divorce – both emotionally and financially, says Lee Hancox, head of channel and segment marketing at Sanlam.

“Sometimes there’s the temptation to rush into a ‘quickie’ DIY divorce that seems cheaper and faster – perhaps you want to get out of the emotionally stressful scenario as fast as possible,” she said.

“This can be risky. Particularly if you’re not a legal expert, what you may be putting into your divorce agreement could be called into question when you get into a divorce court, or, worst-case scenario, could be to your detriment in the long run. ”

Hancox said that there’s also the risk of one partner being savvier than the other. So, the divorce agreement could be drafted to the benefit of one and the detriment of the other.

You may not realise this until it’s too late, with ramifications that could end up costing you far more than if you’d had an attorney and financial planner involved from the start, she said.

Cost of divorce

Hancox cost of a divorce varies depending on the circumstances and service providers.

She noted that an uncontested divorce (one in which both parties work together to amicably agree on the divorce terms) can cost anything from R7,000 to R10,000.

However, if the divorce is contested and the spouses cannot agree this goes up exponentially, she said.

“An attorney’s fees start at around R2,000 an hour, an advocate can cost even more, and court hearings also add up depending on how long a case takes to settle.

“Another option is mediation, where an objective third-party individual works with the spouses to temporarily set aside differences to come to a settlement agreement. Mediated and contested divorces can take years to resolve.

“An uncontested divorce can be done in a matter of weeks. This is obviously directly proportional to the expense. How you were married – in community of property (everything is split 50/50) or out of community of property with an antenuptial contract – plays a big role in determining how simple divorce proceedings may, or may not be.”

Other expenses resulting from a divorce

Aside from the direct costs involved in the divorce proceeding itself, Hancox said there are many other ‘less obvious’ expenses. These include:

  • Running two households. Setting up a new home brings about all sorts of expenses, from the deposit and rent to rates and taxes, internet installation and furnishings. If you were renting with a former spouse, you also run the risk of losing your deposit when you move out;
  • Taking over your cell phone contracts and other services you may need, which your spouse had been paying for prior to the divorce;
  • Extra childcare or day-care expenses, in certain cases;
  • Setting up your own medical aid and possibly moving your child across to your plan. This can be costly as the price of medical aid is much higher for a primary member than when you were a dependant;
  • Taking out insurance policies, like short-term insurance for your new home;
  • Moving your child to a different school, if you’re moving to a new neighbourhood. This can be extremely expensive if you’ve already paid for a full year at one establishment which may have a policy of refusing refunds if a child is moved. You could effectively end up paying double the fees;
  • Bond registration costs if you’re purchasing property;
  • A life insurance policy, specifically to cover maintenance obligations. Not having this could lead to uncomfortable situations. For example, if your ex passes away, maintenance is a preferential claim on the estate, which means your ex-spouse’s beneficiary may be forced to sell assets in order to free up cash to cover this claim;
  • Consider making changes to your retirement planning, especially if your ex is entitled to half of your pension

Read: Here’s how old the average South African is when they get married – and when they get divorced

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What it costs to get a divorce in South Africa