Cape Town divorce lawyer Bertus Preller writes South Africa’s first Book on Divorce and Separation for the general public, published by Random House Struik

CAPE TOWN, WC, SOUTH AFRICA, August 7, 2013 /EINPresswire.com/ —

Everyone’s Guide to Divorce and Separation by Bertus Preller will help with the following crucial aspects: your rights when you get divorced in South Africa, and the monetary aspects relating to divorce (including the consequences relating to assets and the divisions thereof, spousal maintenance and support, parental rights and responsibilities of children, how to implement a parenting plan, how much child maintenance will likely be required, and how to file for maintenance and child support, the procedures to obtain a protection order when there is domestic violence or abuse, an unmarried father’s rights and how to acquire parental rights and the law on cohabitation, same-sex marriages, and how to draft a proper cohabitation agreement.
In the Foreword of the book, Judge Denis Davis says the following:

“Bertus Preller has filled a very significant gap with this timely book, in that in plain language, he provides a comprehensive guide to the broader community through the thicket of law that now characterises this legal landscape. Having said that, many lawyers, particularly those who do not specialise in the field, will also find great assistance in this work. Early on in the text, Mr Preller makes a vital point – litigation is truly the option of last resort in the event of a matrimonial dispute. The adversarial process which is the manner in which law operates is not at all conducive to a settlement of issues, particularly custody of minor children, which have a long-lasting and vital impact on the lives, not only of the antagonists but also the children who have not, in any way, caused the problem giving rise to the forensic battle. Often in my experience on the Bench, I have wondered how such vicious and counter productive litigation can be allowed to continue. Lawyers will point to clients, whose disappointment in the breakdown of the marriage now powers such adverse feelings to their erstwhile partner, as the core reason for the ‘legal fight to the finish’. Whatever the context, however, it is important that arcane and often incomprehensible legal jargon be made accessible to those affected by the law. In this way, ordinary citizens can ensure that their rights work for them and at the same time they are assisted to grasp fully the implications of the obligations that the law imposes upon them. – Judge Dennis Davis”

The book is on the shelves of all major book stores on and also at Amazon.com

About the Author:

Bertus Preller is a Family and Divorce Law Attorney and Mediator at Bertus Preller & Associates Incoss in Cape Town. He acts in divorce matters across South Africa He matriculated at Grey College, studied at the University of the Free State and the University of Johannesburg and was admitted as an attorney in 1989. He has nearly 25 years of experience in law. He was appointed as a part time mediator and arbitrator in 1996 by the CCMA. He has also been quoted on Family Law issues in various newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times and magazines such as Noseweek, Keur, Living and Loving, Longevity, Woman and Home, Women’s Health, You, Huisgenoot and Fairlady and also appeared on the SABC television show, 3 Talk, Morning Live and on the 5FM Breakfast show with Gareth Cliff. His clients include artists, celebrities, sports people and high net worth individuals. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, child abduction and Hague Convention cases and domestic violence matters and international divorce law. He is also the founder of iDivorce an online uncontested divorce service.

Tel: 021 422 2461

 

Follow Bertus Preller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bertuspreller
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To visit the book’s official website go to: http://www.divorcelaws.co.za

Divorce Attorney Cape Town
Bertus Preller & Associates Inc.
+27214222461

Interview with Bertus Preller, a celebrity divorce attorney based in Cape Town

Business Times Interview – by Adele Shevel

Maria Shriver’s doing it; Tiger Wood’s wife did it. Making the decision to terminate a marriage is a tough one, and the chances are it’s followed by an even more traumatic lead-up to the divorce.

Shriver and Woods are very wealthy, their husbands hugely successful, and high profile infidelity was peppered into the mix. But it’s not only the rich who need to ascertain the financial situation of their husbands.

Women are encouraged to gather as much financial information about their husband’s financial affairs before the divorce proceedings commence, to establish the magnitude of the estate.

Bertus Preller, a celebrity divorce attorney at Abrahams and Gross in Cape Town provides guidance as to how to get your affairs in order before making that final call.

“It’s extremely important for any woman to know what’s going on in her husband’s financial affairs. It’s difficult when you don’t have access to his share portfolio or balance sheet, but one must reasonably expect to get an idea of financial affairs.”

An attorney cannot negotiate on behalf of a client without knowing in advance what the estate is worth.

In many divorce settlements, the wife ends up seeing what the estate is worth after it takes place.

  • Make copies of your husband’s bank statements, credit card statements and get hold of the short-term insurance policies as well as copies of pension funds and retirement funds. This will provide input on the extent of assets available and the value of the estate.
  • Build a clause into the settlement agreement to say if any assets that come to light after the divorce settlement, the wife is entitled to 50% of those assets and the husband will have to pay the legal fees involved in this process.
  • A more accurate sense of assets will come to light if the divorce is contested as parties are required to disclose any information to do with financial affairs. The husband can be required under oath to make full disclosure of his assets, and it is perjury if he doesn’t.
  • Women are advised not to leave the matrimonial home if children are involved, because it provides a sense of stability for the kids. It’s better for the husband to leave. If he makes himself guilty of abuse, the wife can get a restraining order to evict him from the property. In some instances, the husband can be restricted from accessing certain parts of the home.
  • Where the parties are married in community of property the wife is entitled to half the pension or retirement annuity fund. In a marriage out of community with the accrual, the pension fund will be regarded as part of the husband’s assets for purposes of calculating the accrual.
  • In terms of the Divorce Act, the wife (if married in community of property) can choose to ask for the pension fund money to be paid in cash, or transferred to a pension fund of her choice.  Normally pension funds pay out the wife’s portion in 3 to 6 months after the divorce. Wives of employees for the SA government have had to wait for her husband to resign or die before she could access her portion of his pension. But this might change — a judgement issued this month said it was unconstitutional for the wife of a government employee not to be allowed to access his pension following a divorce.
  • Make a list of your monthly income and expenses, as if you’re going to live on your own with your children. It’s important because you get situations where the wife is not working or earns much less than the husband and doesn’t have the money to fight a divorce battle.  She can bring an application pending a divorce, for interim maintenance, which means contributing maintenance before the divorce is finalised. She can also apply for contribution to her legal expenses. If interim-maintenance is granted and the husband does not comply with the court order, he is in contempt of court.
  • In some instances the wife can apply for emergency monetary relief in the magistrate’s court pending the institution of an application for interim maintenance by utilizing the provisions of the domestic violence act because the husband has blocked the use of credit.
  • Interim maintenance falls away once the divorce order is granted. There have been situations where the wife has been granted very favourable interim maintenance terms, so she stalls the divorce in order to continue getting a hearty amount of money each month.
  • The granting of interim maintenance divorce cannot be appealed. The only way the husband can minimize this is if he goes back to court and explains and proves that his financial situation has changed so much that he’s entitled to a reduction. But this does not happen easily.
  • Many battles in a divorce surround the children. Normally the wife is the parent of primary residence and the husband the parent of alternate residence. Increasingly, there’s a shared parenting approach with children staying with the mother for a week and then the father for a week and each party takes care of the children during that period.  “We see a lot of children used as a weapon. I tend to immediately get a parenting plan in place, and register that with the family advocate and stipulate that if issues arise with parenting and the children they need to go to a psychologist or a social worker”.
  • In matters where money is not fought over, it may make financial sense to go to one lawyer who can work for both parties. But a divorce that is acrimonious requires that each party needs a lawyer to assist.
  • A few mediation organizations exist where people can see a mediator to resolve disputes, to settle with both parties. The mediator doesn’t have the authority to issue and award damages but he can facilitate the process. If an abusive husband is involved, mediation is unlikely to work.  But it can work if the divorce is not acrimonious. Parties have to pay. “Sometimes this route can be more expensive than an uncontested divorce, depending on the amount of sessions that the parties have to attend” says Preller.
  • Where a couple owns a property together, they need to decide whether both parties want to keep the interest in the property, sell the property and split the proceeds, or whether one wants to buy out the other. The decision has financial implications because of transfer duties and tax.
  • It’s important to consider instances where the husband has no assets. A policy should be taken out in the event that the husband passes away and there is no money to help cover maintenance, in case of his death.

“The decision to divorce is a business decision. You need to look at what happens until the children turn 21, that there’s maintenance, medical cover for them, a school education and whether it’s government or private school and tertiary education,” says Preller.

About Bertus Preller

Bertus Preller is a Family Law and Divorce Attorney based in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. and deals with Family and Divorce matters across the country.Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His clients include celebrities, actors and actresses, sportsmen and sportswomen, television presenters and various high net worth individuals.

His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, International Divorce Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

Bertus also has a passion for gadgets and technology and he co-pioneered the development of technology in which the first book in the world was delivered to a mobile phone utilizing sms and java technology and also advised a number of South African book publishers on the Google Book settlement class action and negotiated contracts with the likes of Google and Amazon.com.

He specializes in Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

Financial Tips for Women Facing Divorce

Financial Tips for Women Facing Divorce

Financial Tips for Women Facing Divorce

While neither gender has an exclusive lock on money management skills, the financial deck is stacked against women. Women earn about three-quarters of what men earn. In a divorce, they get less of the assets and more of the children. They live longer, and one in eight elderly women lives in poverty, compared to one in 12 men, according to  figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the same may apply in South Africa. Unfortunately, many women view money and money-related tasks as necessary evils, not opportunities to even the odds.

The divorce rate is beginning to tick upward for couples who have been married for several years, decades or longer.

Recent media reports tell the tale, and it’s easy to point to the divorces of long-time couples like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Al and Tipper Gore and others for evidence of what many now consider a growing trend across the world.

Older women who have been in long-term marriages must nowadays confront unique financial issues when they’re facing divorce. Just as younger brides have their own set of concerns to mull over; older women have to pay special attention to a number of financial matters specific to their age and the often sizeable assets that have accumulated over the course of a lengthy marriage.

For example, women who have been married for some time and facing divorce must be particularly vigilant about protecting their:

1.         Business

Even though it may seem incredibly unfair, a divorce can ruin your business –unless you have taken the appropriate steps to “divorce-proof” it (ideally while you were still single).

How can a divorce ruin your business? Consider this:

If you nurtured a business, and it increased in value while you were married, the amount of increased value must usually be included as part of the marital assets that will be divided between you and your husband, unless of course if you got married out of community of property without the accrual. It doesn’t matter who operated the business or how it’s titled.

2.         Retirement funds

Divorce requires the careful scrutiny of all retirement annuities and pension funds. It’s essential for your divorce settlement agreement to clearly spell out how these assets will be split and how those funds will be transferred.

Many women often make the mistake of assuming that a divorce order will fully protect their rights to their portion of their husband’s retirement annuity or pension fund. This is usually not the case, and the settlement agreement need to be drafted in a particular way to include these assets.

3.         Insurance

Most women pay careful attention to their health insurance needs. But, don’t forget: In your new role as a single woman, you’ll need to consider life, property/casualty and disability insurance, as well. What’s more, if you will be receiving child maintenance you will want an insurance policy that protects you financially in the event something happens to your ex-husband.

4.         Short-term and long-term financial stability

Following your divorce, you’ll need financial stability in the short-term, and you’ll have to take the right steps to plan for financial security into your retirement years.  For starters, you must create a budget that will allow you to maintain your lifestyle, pay off debt and increase your savings.

But, what happens if the divorce settlement doesn’t provide enough income to pay your expenses? In that case, you will need to start immediately liquidating assets to maintain your lifestyle.

5.         Assets that he concealed

What happens when you find out 2 years after the divorce of certain assets that your husband did not disclose and which would have had an impact on your initial divorce settlement? A good divorce attorney will know how to deal with issues such as these in a divorce settlement agreement, to allow a claw back to claim any assets that your ex might have hide.

The following steps may be recommended for women in a divorce:

  1. Set a financial goal — be as diligent about money as you are about fitness or your career or about anything else.
  2. Train yourself to be financially independent — don’t allow yourself to become reliant upon your partner’s decisions, and become involved in long-term financial planning.
  3. Buy your own home — don’t wait for Prince Charming to come along and do it for you.
  4. Fund your retirement annuity — an important step for everyone, not just young women.
  5. Opt for long-term planning over crisis management — get serious about money now; don’t wait for trouble to strike.
  6. Start investing — do it now, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  7. Don’t fear risk — women are especially prone to conservative investments; be willing to seek aggressive growth when appropriate.
  8. Don’t go it alone — work with a financial planner to educate yourself and to feel more secure in your decisions.
  9. Know that it’s never too late — remember that you can start late and finish rich.

About the author:

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

Grounds for Divorce in South Africa

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE IN SOUTH AFRICA

Dissolution of marriage and grounds of divorce

A marriage may be dissolved by a court by a decree of divorce and the only grounds on which such a decree may be granted are the irretrievable break-down of the marriage as contemplated in section 4; the mental illness or the continuous unconsciousness, as contemplated in section 5, of a party to the marriage.

Irretrievable break-down of marriage as ground of divorce

A court may grant a decree of divorce on the ground of the irretrievable break-down of a marriage if it is satisfied that the marriage relationship between the parties to the marriage has reached such a state of disintegration that there is no reasonable prospect of the restoration of a normal marriage relationship between them.

Section 4 (2) of the Divorce Act lays down three circumstances which a Court may accept as evidence of irretrievable breakdown of a marriage and these are that:- the parties have not lived together as husband and wife for a continuous period of at least one year immediately prior to the date of the institution of the divorce action. The Defendant has committed adultery and that the Plaintiff finds it irreconcilable with a continued marriage relationship the Defendant has in terms of a sentence of a Court been declared a habitual criminal and is undergoing imprisonment as a result of such sentence.

This does not mean however that:- the man and wife have to live in separate buildings but the Courts are in general not willing to (even on a undisputed basis), hear the case if the parties are still living in the same house on the date of the application. There must be a reasonable explanation, but even then some judges have refused to grant a decree of divorce. if the Plaintiff is a party to an adulterous relationship it is not fatal for a final divorce order and it may be proof of a real break-down of the marriage. It is correct to disclose the adulterous relationship to the Court. if irretrievable breakdown has been proved, that the court still has discretion to refuse the divorce. See Levy v Levy 1991 (1) SA 614 A where the Appeal Court had decided that a court had no discretion to deny a divorce where the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage has been proved.

Court’s discretion

In terms of section 4(3) of the Divorce Act the Court still has discretion not to grant a divorce order but postpone the proceedings sine die or even dismiss the claim if it appears to the Court that there is a reasonable possibility that the parties may become reconciled through marriage counselling, treatment or reflection. The Summons also usually contains the averment that further marriage counselling and/or treatment will not lead to any reconciliation. This evidence must also be tendered to the Court even on an unopposed basis.

The Court must therefore be satisfied that the marriage has really irretrievably broken down and that there is no possibility of the continuation of a normal marriage, before a final divorce order will be granted.

The court may postpone the proceedings in order that the parties may attempt reconciliation if it appears to the court that there is a reasonable possibility that the parties may become reconciled through marriage counselling, treatment or reflection.

Where the parties live together again after the issue of Summons, it does not necessarily end the underlying cause of the action. If the reconciliation after a few months is seemingly unsuccessful, they can proceed on the same Summons. It is now confirmed that the marriage has really broken-down irretrievably even after the parties have tried a final time to become reconciled. Where a divorce action which is not defended is postponed in order to afford the parties an opportunity to attempt reconciliation, the court may direct that the action be tried de novo, on the date of resumption thereof, by any other magistrate/ judge of the court concerned in terms of section 4(4) of the Divorce Act. The notice of set down should be served on the defendant.

A customary marriage may be dissolved only on account of an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage and only if the High, Family or Divorce Court is satisfied that the marriage relationship between the parties has reached such a state of disintegration that there is no reasonable prospect of the restoration of a normal marriage relationship between them.

Mental illness or continuous unconsciousness as grounds of divorce:

A court may grant a decree of divorce on the ground of the mental illness of the defendant if it is satisfied that the defendant, in terms of the Mental

Health Act 18 of 1973; has been admitted as a patient to an institution in terms of a reception order; is being detained as a State patient at an institution or other place specified by the Minister of Correctional Services; or is being detained as a mentally ill convicted prisoner at an institution.

A divorce order may also be granted if such defendant has also for a continuous period of at least two years immediately prior to the institution of the divorce action, not been discharged unconditionally as such a patient,

State patient or mentally ill prisoner; and the court has heard evidence of at least two psychiatrists, of whom one shall have been appointed by the court, that the defendant is mentally ill and that there is no reasonable prospect that he will be cured of his mental illness.

A court may grant a decree of divorce on the ground that the defendant is by reason of a physical disorder in a state of continuous unconsciousness, if it is satisfied that the defendant’s unconsciousness has lasted for a continuous period of at least six months immediately prior to the institution of the divorce action; and after having heard the evidence of at least two medical practitioners, of whom one shall be a neurologist or a neurosurgeon appointed by the court, that there is no reasonable prospect that the defendant will regain consciousness.

The court may appoint a legal practitioner to represent the defendant at proceedings under this section and order the plaintiff to pay the costs of such representation.

The court may make any order it may deem fit with regard to the furnishing of security by the plaintiff in respect of any patrimonial benefits to which the defendant may be entitled by reason of the dissolution of the marriage.

For the purposes of this section the expressions ‘institution’, ‘mental illness’, ‘patient’, ‘State patient’ and ‘reception order’ shall bear the meaning assigned to them in the Mental Health Act, 1973.

The circumstances under which a court may grant a divorce order on the basis of mental illness or continuous unconsciousness is as follows:-

  •  In the case of mental illness the Defendant must have been admitted, in terms of the Mental Health Act, 1973 (Act No 18 of 1973), as a patient to an institution in terms of a reception order, for a period of at least two years and in any case two psychiatrists (one appointed by the Court) must satisfy the Court that there is no reasonable prospect that he will be cured of his mental illness.
  • In the case of unconsciousness the Court will only grant the order if the Defendant was unconscious for a continuous period of at least six months immediately prior to the institution of the action and also after hearing the evidence of two medical practitioners of whom one shall be a neurologist or a neuro-surgeon appointed by the Court who must declare that there is no reasonable prospect that the Defendant will regain consciousness.

In such cases a curator ad litem must be appointed to protect the interests of the Defendant (patient) and to assist the Court.

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

Online Divorce in South Africa

In today’s society, with the constraints and pressures of everyday life why should obtaining a divorce have to make everything grind to a halt? The answer is simply it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to. Hundreds of people every month throughout South Africa are seeking ways to reduce the amount of time it takes and the costs involved in obtaining a divorce and turn to online divorce services such as eDivorce to assist them in this process.

By using an online divorce service the average divorce can be completed in just 4 weeks and cost (excluding sheriff fees) from as little as R 950.00 in comparison to Attorney fees that can be in excess of R 10 000.00.

To start the divorce process is easy, if you are involved in an uncontested divorce. Simply go to http://www.edivorce.co.za and register. Then fill in a questionnaire that will take about 20 minutes and your divorce documents will be generated in less than 24 hours.

The system generates the following documents:

  • Combined Summons
  • Particulars of Claim
  • Consent Paper – Settlement Agreement
  • Parenting Plan
  • Annexure A for the Family Advocate
  • Government Statistics Form (Form 07 – 04)
  • Step-by-Step letter, explaining the process

The eDivorce process has two Divorce Plans from which you can choose:

The Silver Plan – R 950 + Sheriff fee of between R 100 – R 150

  • All your divorce forms – completed for you by the eDivorce platform and checked by divorce experts.
  • Step-by-Step Guide -Written in plain English and easy to follow.
  • Fast Service – Documents delivered within 24 – 36 hours guaranteed.

The Gold Plan – Managed Divorce Service – R 5 000 all inclusive:

  • The price you pay is fixed from the start of your case and includes everything you will need.
  • All your required divorce documents-Prepared and completed by divorce specialists.
  • 7 day a week service- We are open when it is convenient for you. All documents filed at court for you – We deal with all the filing and admin.
  • Settlement Agreements are catered for- We can help you, with or without children.
  • Get a Free Will – For both Husband and Wife if you need one.
  • Divorce in 4 to 6 weeks -Fast service guaranteed.
  • Attorney supervised – All services supervised by an Attorney.
  • Appearance at Court – We appoint an Attorney or Advocate to appear with you on your behalf with you at Court.
  • Professional and Trustworthy.
  • Save over R 3000 – Fixed fee for all the work.

eDivorce is a technology platform enabling members of the public to draft their own legal documentation for purposes of initiating and concluding uncontested divorce proceedings through either the High Courts or Divorce Courts in South Africa.

In matters where there is disputes over the children, it will be better to see an attorney.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has amended the Magistrate’s Courts Act of 1944 giving powers to Regional Courts to now deal with divorce cases as well. President Jacob Zuma announced the commencement of the Jurisdiction of Regional Courts Amendment Act which came into effect on 9th August 2010, the National Woman’s Day. The Regional Courts were established in 1952 to deal with divorces, serious criminal offences and mete out harsher penalties. The amendments increase access to justice to members of the public, in particular, women and children who go to courts daily for the resolution of family related disputes relating to divorce; maintenance; adoption; and matters relating to custody of minor children.

These amendments are good news for people utilising the eDivorce process, a DIY online divorce service at http://www.edivorce.co.za for the mere reason that it offers parties in a divorce action the opportunity to conclude their divorce in their area of residence, faster and with wider access to the courts. Previously divorces in South Africa were handled by just a few Family Courts and the High Court and through the implementation of the new system; it will be not only more cost effective but also quicker as a result of the spread in the workload.

  • There are now 62 more Regional courts to deal with same workload that the 3 former divorce courts.
  • This will assist in reducing case backlogs both at the High Courts and Magistrates Courts.
  • Proceedings in the High Courts are complex to the extent that attorneys and advocates are usually instructed resulting in high litigation costs.
  • Regional courts have a reduced scale of costs in relation to the High Court, and simplified proceedings which include the use of mediation in resolving civil disputes.
  • Registrars and assistant registrars appointed at each regional court to provide assistance to member of the public.

The Courts are located in the diagram below:

Province New seat of civilRegional Court Areas in respect of which the civil Regional Court has jurisdiction
EasternCape East London East London, Komgha and Mdantsane
Grahamstown Albany, Adelaide, Alexandria, Bathurst, Bedford and Somerset East.
Graaff-Reinet Graaff-Reinet, Aberdeen, Cradock, Hofmeyr, Jansenville, Middelburg, Pearston and Willowmore.
King William’sTown King William’s Town, Cathcart, Fort Beaufort, Keiskammahoek, Middledrift, Peddie, Stutterheim, Victoria East andZwelitsha.
Mthatha Umtata, Bizana, Butterworth (Gcuwa), Elliot, Elliotdale (Xhora), Engcobo, Flagstaff (Siphaqeni) , Idutywa, Kentani (Centane), Libode, Lusikisiki, Maclear, Matatiele, Mount Ayliff (Maxesibeni), Mount Fletcher, Mount Frere (Kwabacha) , Mqanduli, Nqamakwe, Ngqeleni, Port St Johns (Umzimvubu), Qumbu, Tabankulu, Tsolo, Tsomo and Willowvale (Gatyana)
Port Elizabeth Port Elizabeth, Kirkwood, Motherwell and Uitenhage.
Queenstown Queenstown, Albert, Aliwal North, Barkley East, Glen Grey (Cacadu) (Lady Frere), Herschel, Hewu, Indwe, Lady Grey, Mo;teno, Mpofu (Seymor) (Stockentrom), Ntabethemba, Sterkstroom, Steynsburg, St Marks (Cofimvaba), Tarka, Venterstad, Wodehouse and Xalanga (Cala).
Humansdorp Humansdorp, Hankey, Joubertina, and Steytlerville.
Free State Bethlehem Bethlehem, Ficksburg, Fouriesburg, Frankfort, Harrismith, Lindley, Reitz, Senekal, Villiers, Vrede and Witsieshoek.
Bloemfontein Bloemfontein , Bethulie, Boshof, Botshabelo, Brandfort, Clocolan, Dewetsdorp, Edenburg, Excelsior , Fauresmith, Jacobsdal, Jagersfontein, Koffirfontein, Ladybrand, Marquard, Petrusburg, Philippolis, Reddersburg, Rouxville, Smithfield, Trompsburg, Thaba Nchu, Wepener and Zastron
Kroonstad Kroonstad, Heilbron, Koppies, Parys, Sasolburg, Viljoenskroon and Vredefort.
Welkom Welkom, Bothaville, Bultfontein, Hennenman, Hoopstad, Odendaalsrus, Theunissen, Ventersburg, Virginia, Wesselsbron and Winburg.
Gauteng Ekangala Ekangala, Bronkhorstspruit and Cullinan.
Johannesburg Johannesburg. [Can also go to Kliptown Regional Court]
Kempton Park Kempton Park, Benoni, Boksburg, Daveyton and Tembisa.
Kliptown (Canalso go to JohannesburgRegionalCourt) Armadale, Chiawelo, Comptonville, Devland, Dhlamini, Diepkloof, Dobsonville, Dobsonville Gardens, Doornkop, Dube, Emdeni, Jabavu, Jabavu Central Western, Jabulani, Klipriviersoog, Klipspruit, Klipspruit West, Lenaron, A.H., Lougherin A.H., Lufhereng, Mapetla, Meadowlands, Meredale, Mofolo Central, Mofolo North, Mofolo South, Molapo, Moletsane, Moroka, Moroka North, Naledi, Naturena, Nomzamo, Noordgesig, Orlando, Orlando East, Orlando Ekhaya, Orlando West, Phiri, Pimville Ext & Zones, Power Park, Protea City, Protea Glen, Protea North, Protea North Ext.1, Protea North Ext.9, Protea South Ext.1, Racecourse, Riversdale, Senaoane, Stesa A.H, Slovoville, Slovoville Ext.1, Tladi, Zola, Zola Ext.1 and Zondi.
Oberholzer Oberholzer and Westonaria.
Pretoria Pretoria, Atteridgeville, Mamelodi, Soshanguve and Wonderboom.
Randburg Randburg and Alexandra.
Roodepoort Roodepoort, Krugersdorp and Randfontein.
Germiston Germiston and Alberton.
Vereeniging Vereeniging, Meyerton and Vanderbijlpark.
Springs Springs, Brakpan, Heidelberg and Nigel.
KwaZulu-Natal Durban Durban, Chatsworth, Inanda, Lower Tugela, Ndwedwe, Pinetown, Umbumbulu, Umlazi and Ntuzuma.
Empangeni Empangeni (Lower Umfolozi), Eshowe, Hlabisa, Kranskop, Mahlabatini, Mapumulo, Mtonjaneni,Mtunzini and Nkandhla.
Newcastle Newcastle, Dannhauser, Dundee, Estcourt, Glencoe, Klip River, Madadeni, Msinga, Utrecht and Weenen.
Vryheid Vryheid, Babanango, Ingwavuma, Ngotshe, Nongoma, Nqutu, Paulpietersburg, Piet Retief and Ubombo.
Pietermaritzburg Pietermaritzburg, Bergville, Camperdown, Impendle, Lion’s River, Mooi River, New Hanover, Polela, Richmond, Umvoti and Underberg.
Port Shepstone Port Shepstone, Alfred, Ixopo, Mount Currie, Umzimkulu and Umzinto.
Limpopo Giyani Giyani, Bolobedu, Malamulele, Sekgosese, Tshitale and Vuwani.
Lebowakgomo Thabamoopo.
Sekhukhune Sekhukhuneland, Nebo and Praktiseer
Modimolle Waterberg, Ellisras, Northam, Phalala, Thabazimbi and Warmbaths.
Polokwane Pietersburg, Bochum, Mankweng, Mokerong, Potgietersrus and Seshego.
Tzaneen Letaba, Lulekani, Namakgale, Naphuno, Ritavi and Phalaborwa.
Thohoyandou Thohoyandou, Dzanani, Hlanganani, Messina, Mutale, Sibasa, Soutpansberg, Tiyani and Tshilwavhisiku.
Mpumalanga Eerstehoek (Elukwatini) Eerstehoek, Carolina, Ermelo, Piet Retief and Wakkerstroom.
Evander Highveld Ridge, Amersfoort, Balfour, Bethal, Delmas, Standerton and Volksrust.
KwaMhlanga Kwamhlanga, Mathanjana, Mbibana, Mdutjana and Mkobola.
Middelburg Middelburg, Groblersdal, Kriel, Moutse and Witbank.
Mbombela Nelspruit, Barberton, Belfast, Lydenburg, Mapulaneng, Mhala, Nkomazi, Nsikazi, Pilgrim’s Rest, Waterval-Boven and White River.
Northern Cape De Aar De Aar, Britstown, Carnarvon, Colesberg, Hanover, Noupoort, Philipstown, Richmond and Victoria West.
Kimberley Kimberley, Barkly West, Hartswater, Douglas, Hopetown, Jan Kempdorp and Warrenton.
Springbok Calvinia, Fraserburg, Garies, Namaqualand, Port Nolloth, Sutherland and Williston.
Upington Gordonia, Groblershoop, Hay, Kakamas, Kathu, Keimoes, Kenhardt, Kuruman, Olifantshoek, Pofadder, Postmasburg and Prieska.
North West Brits Brits and Warmbaths.
Ga-Rankuwa Odi and Pretoria.
Klerksdorp Klerksdorp, Bloemhof, Christiana, Schweizer-Reneke and Wolmaransstad.
Mmabatho Molopo (Mafikeng), Atamelang, Ditsobotla, Mafeking, Lehurutshe, Lichtenburg, Mafeking, Ottosdal and Zeerust
Potchefstroom Potchefstroom, Coligny and Ventersdorp.
Rustenburg Rustenburg, Bafokeng, Koster, Madikwe, Mankwe, Marico and Swartruggens.
Temba Moretele
Vryburg Vryburg, Delareyville, Ganyesa, Kudumane (Tlhaping-Tlharo), Kuruman and Taung.
Western Cape Atlantis Atlantis, Clanwilliam, Hopefield, Malmesbury, Moorreesburg, Piketberg, Van Rhynsdorp, Vredenburg and Vredendal.
Bellville Bellville, Bluedowns and Kuils River.
Cape Town Cape and Goodwood.
George George, Heidelberg, Knysna, Mossel Bay, Riversdale, Thembaletu and Uniondale.
Mitchells Plain Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.
Oudtshoorn Oudtshoorn, Beaufort West, Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Murraysburg and Prince Albert.
Somerset West Somerset West, Bredasdorp, Caledon, Grabouw, Hermanus, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Strand,Tulbagh, Wellington and Wolseley.
Worcester Worcester, Bonnievale, Ceres, Laingsburg, Montagu, Robertson and Swellendam.
Wynberg Wynberg, Athlone, Phillipi and Simon’s Town.

For further info and how to conclude your divorce through the online eDivorce process at a fraction of the normal cost, visit http://www.edivorce.co.za or email info@edivorce.co.za, you can also call the eDivorce hotline on 0835334428

Shared Parenting

What is Shared Parenting?

“An arrangement whereby children freely enjoy the love and nurture of both parents and their wider family following separation or divorce …it does mean that sufficient time is spent with each parent for the child to view each parent as a parent rather than an aunty or uncle.”

(ASP definition of Shared Parenting as adopted by CAFCASS in 2004)

Shared parenting is an arrangement after divorce wherein both parents continue to have a strong positive presence in their children’s lives. Shared parenting entails that a child spend equal or significant amounts of time with each parent.

As a divorce and family law attorney I see a huge shift towards a more collaborative approach between parents to share equal time with their children after divorce.

Shared parenting arrangements may differ to suit various situations. Time between each parent may be split 50/50 or the children may live with one parent for example, four days every week and the rest of the week with another parent.

After divorce, shared parenting is a preferred alternative to asking the children to choose where they want to live. Many children prefer shared parenting rather than the traditional arrangements. With shared parenting, the children still has the chance to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents.

There are many benefits to shared parenting. It allows a child to have both his/her parents present in his/her life and although the child has to switch between two homes, shared parenting reassures the child that both parents care for them. This arrangement is more beneficial to a child than when they live with only one parent because often the latter creates a distance both physical and emotional between the child and the “absent” parent.

Studies show that children of divorced couples who retain meaningful relationships with each parent are the ones who find it easier to deal with the breakup of their parents. Research also shows shared parenting is possible despite intense conflict between parents if the parents focus on what is best for their children.

Almost half of the children in the U.S. are deprived of the lifelong benefits of two parents who share the parenting throughout the first 18 years of their children’s lives.

The Benefits of Shared Residence and Shared Parenting

  • Removes the need for a child to choose between the parents
  • Allows both parents to love and nurture the child in much the same way as they did prior to parental separation and therefore promotes the continuation of family life
  • The child does not feel rejected by the non-resident parent and does not blame himself
  • Confirms to the child that he still has two parents who love and wish to care for him
  • The child derives emotional and psychological security from having two fully engaged parents
  • The child is no longer brought up to believe that the resident parent is the real, better or main parent and that the non-resident parent is a lesser parent or to be rejected
  • Re-affirms the responsibility of each parent to care and provide for the child
  • Sends a clear message to the resident parent, schools, doctors and the courts that both parents are equal and that all decisions relating to the child should be based on this principle
  • The child is more likely to grow up in a well-adjusted manner
  • Reduces parental hostility as it requires both parents to negotiate and make joint decisions

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

Bertus Preller

B.Proc; AD Dip L Law

Family Law Attorney

A:1st Floor, 56 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town, 8000

O: +27 (0) 21 422 1323

F: 086 572 8373

C: +27 (0) 83 443 9838

E: bertus@divorceattorney.co.za; W:  www.divorceattorney.co.za; Twitter: www.twitter.com/edivorce;

Facebook: www.facebook.com/divorceattorneys; Skype: divorceattorney

Grounds for Divorce in South Africa

Dissolution of a civil marriage by divorce in South Africa

Three grounds for divorce were introduced by the Divorce Act:

  1.  irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (section 4);
  2. mental illness of a party to the marriage (section 5);
  3. continuous unconsciousness of a party to the marriage (section 3).

Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage

Section 4(1) – court may only grant a decree of divorce on the ground of the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage if it is satisfied that the marriage relationship between the parties to the marriage has reached such a state of disintegration that there is no reasonable prospect of the restoration of a normal marriage relationship between them.  There are thus 2 requirements:

(a)   marriage relationship must no longer be normal;

(b)   there must be no prospect of the restoration of a normal marriage relationship between the spouses.

The legal definition of “normal marital relationship” should be sought in the concept of consortium omnis vitae.  When either spouse or both of them behave in such a way that the consortium omnis vitae is terminated or seriously disrupted, it can be said that a normal marriage relationship no longer exists between the spouses.

Schwartz v Schwartz:  in determining whether a marriage has reached such a state of disintegration that there is no reasonable prospect of the restoration of a normal marriage relationship between the parties it is important to have regard to what has happened in the past, that is, history of the relationship up to the date of trial, and also to the present attitude of the parties to the marriage relationship as revealed by the evidence at the trial.

Swart v Swart:  a marriage has broken down if one spouse no longer wishes to continue with the marriage.  The formation of an intention to sue for divorce is the subjective element in the method of determining marriage breakdown.  However, in order to assess the probability of a successful reconciliation being effected, the court also has to consider the reasons that prompted the plaintiff to sue for divorce, and the parties’ conduct.  Only when the court has determined that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation, will it find that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and grant a decree of divorce.  The court looks at the objective scantiness and surmountability of the reasons why a divorce was applied for to ascertain whether the marriage in question can still be saved.

Coetzee v Coetzee:  in order to succeed in a divorce action based on irretrievable breakdown, the plaintiff must prove that there has been a change in the pattern of the marriage from which breakdown can be deduced.  The inherent problem in this conception is that a divorce cannot be obtained in a marriage which was unhappy from the start and remained unhappy throughout.

Guidelines for irretrievable breakdown of marriage (section 4(2))

The guidelines are merely examples of instances where the probability is high that a normal marriage relationship no longer exists and that there is no reasonable prospect for the restoration of a normal marriage relationship.  However, these guidelines are neither exhaustive nor conclusive.

(1)   parties have not lived together as husband and wife for a continuous period of at least one year immediately prior to the date of the institution of the divorce action

Since the legislator requires an unbroken period of at least one year, it is clear that if the period was interrupted by periods of resumed cohabitation, the plaintiff would have to present more evidence to the court than the mere fact that they have lived apart for a year.

The consortium between the spouses must have been terminated. Even if the spouses have continued living together under the same roof there is no reason why the plaintiff cannot show that the consortium between them has been terminated.

If the plaintiff wishes to rely only on the spouses having lived apart for a year without adducing any further evidence in support of the divorce action, he or she would have to produce proof that the full period of a year has elapsed.  If the spouses still share the same dwelling, the plaintiff would have to prove the particular point in time at which the consortium came to an end.

(2)   The defendant has committed adultery and the plaintiff finds it irreconcilable with a continued marriage relationship

The test to determine whether the plaintiff considers the defendant’s adultery irreconcilable with the continuation of the marriage is clearly subjective.  If the plaintiff alleges that he or she cannot continue with the marriage, there is no way in which this allegation can be refuted.  There is support for the contention that it is not necessary to convince the court on a balance of probabilities that adultery was committed.  The plaintiff should however place some evidence of the adultery before the court.  A mere allegation that the defendant committed adultery would not be sufficient to ensure the success of the divorce action.

(3)   A court has declared the defendant a habitual criminal and the defendant is undergoing imprisonment as a result of that sentence

If the defendant has not been declared an habitual criminal, the plaintiff would have to adduce evidence other than the mere fact of the defendant’s imprisonment to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  In any event, in terms of section 4(2), a plaintiff may sue for divorce after a year’s separation, regardless of whether or not the separation resulted from imprisonment.

Incurable mental illness or continuous unconsciousness

The criteria

Section 5(1) – mental illness

  1. The defendant has been admitted to an institution as a patient in terms of a reception order under the Mental health Act, or is being detained as a state patient or mentally ill convicted prisoner at an institution;
  2. The defendant has not been unconditionally discharged from the institution or place of detention for a continuous period of at least two years immediately prior to the institution of the divorce action;
  3. There is no reasonable prospect that the defendant will be cured of his or her mental illness.  This fact must be proved by the evidence of at least two psychiatrists, one of whom must be appointed by the court.

Section 5(2) – continuous unconsciousness

  1.  The defendant must be in a state of continuous unconsciousness caused by a physical disorder;
  2. The defendant’s unconscious state must have lasted for a period of at least six months immediately prior to the institution of the divorce action;
  3. There must be no reasonable prospect that the defendant will regain consciousness.  This fact must be proved by the evidence of at least two doctors, one of whom must be a neurologist or neurosurgeon appointed by the court.

The requirements of section 5 need not be complied with in order to obtain a divorce order against a mentally ill or unconscious spouse.  A decree of divorce can be granted under section 4 if the plaintiff can prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  Only in the most exceptional circumstances will a court make a forfeiture order against a defendant whose mental illness or unconsciousness is the reason for a divorce which is granted in terms of section 4.

Special rules which apply in terms of the Divorce Act:

(a)   Section 5(3)

The court is empowered to appoint a legal practitioner to represent the defendant at the court proceedings, and to order the plaintiff to bear the costs of the defendant’s legal representation.

(b)   Section 5(4)

The court may make any order it deems ft in respect of requiring the plaintiff to furnish security for any patrimonial benefits to which the defendant may be entitled as a result of the divorce.

(c)   Section 9(2)

Forfeiture of patrimonial benefits may not be ordered against a defendant if the marriage is dissolved on the ground of the defendant’s incurable mental illness or continuous unconsciousness.

(d)   Maintenance

The plaintiff may indeed claim maintenance from the mentally ill or unconscious defendant if he or she qualifies for maintenance in terms of section 7(2) of the Act.

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in law and 13 years as a practising attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters and international divorce law.

Divorce Questions: Interview with Bertus Preller Family and Divorce Law Attorney Cape Town

Bertus Preller

Divorce Questions: Interview with Bertus Preller Family Law Attorney

Most couples going through the end of their marriage ask the same divorce questions. Regardless of how long people were married, they still need to find a Family Law Attorney and sort through issues regarding property, finances, children, and emotional trauma. Having accurate information is a crucial part of the divorce and healing process.

Family and Divorce Law Attorney Bertus Preller is a Family Law Specialist. A graduate of the Free State and University of Johannesburg, he represents celebrities and other high-net worth individuals in their divorce proceedings in South Africa.

How does one choose a good divorce lawyer?

Everyone differs in what type of attorneys suits them. For instance, do they want an attorney who will parent them or an attorney who will partner with them? Naturally, there are other variables to consider as well, like reputation, credentials, experience, and background. Getting references from contacts a person knows and trusts, especially from one’s accountant, business attorney, estate planning attorney or therapist, is the best way to find a good divorce attorney.

Does the end of a marriage have to turn into a battle?

“No, it does not,” Bertus Preller said. However, there often is some battle over one issue or another-like the division of property or who gets custody of the children. It is normally the battles over control in one area or another that precipitated the divorce in the first place. If a couple could not get along during the marriage, often the divorce is simply an amplification of those problems. “I tend to try to follow a more collaborative approach in dealing with divorce matters, and consider a number of ways to settle issues, whether through mediation or negotiating the best possible outcome for the client. We tend to see a number of ill experienced mediators offering services such as divorce mediation, offering a quick break with less emotional trauma and less costs. This may be a good option, but the reality is that mediation can be more expensive than an uncontested divorce; the other problem is that some mediators have absolutely no understanding of the legal consequences of the patrimonial issues of the divorce. You simply can’t mediate a divorce with a degree in psychology when there are legal issues involved and it frequently happens that one party is in fact at the end of the day in a much worse position”.

How can parents minimise the affect of divorce on their children?

“They can and should leave the children out of their immediate battles at all times,” Bertus Preller said. “Whether during the divorce process itself or long after it has ended. Spouses have no right bringing children into the differences that they have with each other. They should also give the children support and understanding throughout the divorce trauma and always show the utmost respect to the other spouse no matter how hard that may seem.”

How do courts determine the distribution of assets if one spouse is a stay at home parent or earns substantially less than the other?

In a marriage in community of property, it is important to establish the net value of the communal estate at the date of divorce. Then one can establish what each party is entitled to. Often, spouses can’t agree on a division on the joint estate and a Receiver or Liquidator needs to be appointed to divide the assets. When a marriage in community of property dissolves through divorce, each spouse is entitled to 50% of the joint estate, which includes the parties’ pension benefits.

In a marriage out of community with accrual, an auditor often needs to be appointed to determine the accrual. Preller said however he’s been involved in a number of divorce matters where extremely wealthy people were married in community of property. They may not have received the proper legal advice, “or became so focussed on the wedding ceremony that they forget about the consequences of a failed marriage.

We’re getting divorced because my spouse cheated on me. How do I make him/her “pay” for this mistake?

“Seeking vengeance is never the answer,” Bertus Preller said. “There is an old Spanish proverb: ‘Living well is the best revenge,’ is what the injured party should focus on and strive for. There is no win in trying to make someone pay for any betrayal in a marriage. However, in terms of South African law an aggrieved spouse is able to claim compensation against a third party who was the cause of the divorce.

I’m trying to be reasonable, but my spouse and I just can’t agree on major issues like who gets custody of the kids or who should keep the house. What should I do?

“Seek the advice of your attorney,” Bertus Preller said. “A mediation session might help with a respected attorney. This is what you pay your attorney to do: resolve major issues and help you come to reasonable solutions. If all else fails you may have to take your case to court and have the judge decide, but this is not always the best possible way, settlement soon in the proceedings is always the best outcome for everyone”

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in law and 13 years as a practising attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried father’s rights, domestic violence matters and international divorce law.

Parenting Plans, all that you should know

Parental Responsibilities and Rights – Parenting Plans

By Bertus Preller – Family Law Attorney, Abrahams and Gross Inc.

As a family law attorney I am daily involved in drafting, negotiating and implementing parenting plans or parental responsibilities and rights agreements. Parenting planmeans a document created to govern the relationship between the parties relating to the decisions that must be made regarding the minor child and shall contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and child. The issues concerning the minor child may include, but are not limited to, the child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being.

When a divorce is inevitable, a couple must decide who will be awarded primary residency of the minor children or whether the parties will share residencies and who may regularly contact them at reasonable times, how this will be exercised and so forth. Prior to the new Children’s Act 38 of 2005 (the Act), the parental rights were referred to as custody and access. Now those terms have been abolished and have been extended to include ‘parenting responsibilities and rights’, which include the obligation to care for the children and the responsibility and the right to maintain contact with the children.

Where parents were not married to each other, the question of parental responsibilities and rights may arise and an agreement pertaining to parental responsibilities and rights may be reached and certain procedures provided in the Act have to be followed.

Where a dispute arises regarding the implementation of the agreed parental responsibilities and rights, parents may, with or without the assistance of the family advocate, create a parenting plan to detail what is required from each other regarding parental responsibilities and rights. The parenting plan has to be registered with the family advocate and/or be made an order of the court.

Parental Responsibilities and Rights Agreements – s 22

In terms of Sections 19 and 20 of the Act both parents have equal responsibilities and rights with regard to the children. When separating, both parents have to decide with which parent the children are to reside and what the contact rights of the other parent will be.

Unlike before the promulgation of the Children’s Act where one parent had full custody of the children, according to the new Act both parents have full capacity to care for their children after divorce.

However, a situation may arise where parents of a child or children were not married and the question of paternity arises that result in parental responsibilities and rights becoming a dispute.

Section 22(1) of the Act provides that, subject to subs (2), the mother of a child or other person who has parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child may enter into an agreement providing for the acquisition of such parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child as are set out in the agreement, with –

‘(a)    the biological father of a child who does not have parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child in terms of either section 20 or 21 or by court order; or

(b)     any other person having an interest in the care, well-being and development of the child’.

Section 22(2) provides that the mother or other person who has parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child may only confer by agreement on a person contemplated in subs (1) those parental responsibilities and rights that she or that other person has in respect of the child at the time of the conclusion of such an agreement. That is, the biological father or any other person that has an interest in the care, well-being and development of the child may conclude an agreement with the biological mother of the child whereby the latter will confer such responsibilities and rights to the former.

It is provided in s 22(3) that

‘[a] parental responsibilities and rights agreement must be in the prescribed format and contain the prescribed particulars’.

In terms of s 22(4), subject to subs (6), a parental responsibilities and rights (PRR) agreement takes effect only if –

‘(a)    registered with the family advocate; or

(b)     made an order of the High Court, a divorce court in a divorce matter or a children’s court on application by the parties to the agreement’.

Thus where parties have concluded a PRR agreement without the assistance of the family advocate, a social worker or psychologist, such PRR agreement will not take effect until it is registered with the family advocate or made an order of the High Court, a divorce court in a divorce matter or a children’s court where the parties made an application to register the agreement. A new development is that divorce matters may now be dealt with by a regional court and therefore a PRR agreement will take effect when registered at the regional court in a divorce matter.

Before registering a PRR agreement or before making a PRR agreement an order of court, subs (5) provides that ‘the family advocate or the court concerned must be satisfied that the parental responsibilities and rights agreement is in the best interests of the child’.

The family advocate is therefore required by the Act to ascertain that – where a PRR agreement was made by the parties without its assistance and subsequently registered with it – it must satisfy the provisions of s 7 of the Act in addition, in terms of s 9, in all matters concerning the care, protection and well-being of a child, the standard that the child’s best interest is of paramount importance, must be applied. The court is in the same vein required to ascertain, before it makes it an order of the court, that the PRR agreement meets the best interests standard set out in s 7 and that standard is applied in terms of s 9 of the Act.

In terms of subs 6(a) a PRR agreement registered by the family advocate may be amended or terminated by the family advocate on application –

‘(i)        by a person having parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child;

(ii)        by the child, acting with leave of the court; or

(iii)       in the child’s interest by any other person, acting with leave of the court’.

The subsection therefore provides that the child concerned or any person acting in the child’s interest, may, with the leave of the court, make an application to the family advocate to amend or terminate the PRR agreement. Other than that, a person who does not have parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child does not qualify to make an application that the family advocate amend or terminate a PRR agreement registered with it.

In terms of subs 6(b) a PRR agreement that was made an order of court may only be amended or terminated on application –

‘(i)        by a person having parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child;

(ii)        by the child, acting with leave of the court; or

(iii)       in the child’s interest by any other person, acting with leave of the court’.

Subsection 6(b) also requires the court that granted the PRR agreement to observe that, other than the child concerned or any other person with the child’s interests, both acting with the leave of the court, a person with no PRR in respect of the child cannot make application for that court to amend or terminate it.

In terms of subs 7:

‘[O]nly the High Court may confirm, amend or terminate a [PRR] agreement that relates to the guardianship of a child’.

This is by virtue of the High Court being the upper guardian of all minor children.

Parenting plans

Sections 33 and 34 of the Children’s Act make provision for ‘parenting plans’. Many parents, legal practitioners, social workers, psychologists, social services professional and other suitably qualified persons are now faced with the task of acting in accordance with ss 33 and 34 of the Act.

What is a parenting plan?

The Act does not provide a definition of a parenting plan. However, looking at the provisions of the Act and its regulations dealing with parenting plans, one could define it as a written agreement between co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights, outlining in detail their respective responsibilities and rights of care, contact, guardianship and maintenance with regard to a child.

Who should agree on a parenting plan?

Not all holders of parental responsibilities and rights need to agree on a parenting plan and have it registered with a family advocate or made an order of the High Court. Parenting plans should be entered into only if there is a need for it. However, the choice is always there for the parties should they wish to formalise one.

Section 33 of the Act provides for two situations in which a parenting plan comes into play. They are the optional situation and the mandatory situation.

Optional situation – s 33(1)

Section 33(1) of the Act states the following:

‘(1)    The co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child may agree on a parenting plan determining the exercise of their respective responsibilities and rights in respect of the child.’

This situation would apply when the parties want to have a structured parental plan in place but none of them intends to go to court on any issue. You could say they are not experiencing difficulties in exercising their responsibilities and rights but want to have a formalised structure on paper. This optional situation may apply where the parents of the child do not live together and there is no document in place regulating their respective care and contact responsibilities and rights in respect of the child.

Mandatory situation – s 33(2)

The other situation where a parenting plan comes into play is where the parties are experiencing difficulties in exercising their responsibilities and rights. In this case the Act prescribes to them to first try to agree on a parenting plan before going to court. Section 33(2) states:

‘If the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child are experiencing difficulties in exercising their responsibilities and rights, those persons, before seeking the intervention of a court, must first seek to agree on a parenting plan determining the exercise of their respective responsibilities and rights in respect of the child.’

Therefore, all holders of parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child do not need to enter into a parenting plan from the outset as stated. However, should there be problems and one or more of the parties may want to take them to court, before they do so, they should first try to agree on a parenting plan before approaching the court. Should the parties fail to agree on a parenting plan after following the prescripts of the Act, the court may then be approached.

What must the parenting plan deal with according to the Act?

The contents of both optional and mandatory parenting plans can vary, however, according to s 33(3) of the Act:

‘A parenting plan may determine any matter in connection with parental responsibilities and rights, including –

(a)     where and with whom the child is to live;

(b)     the maintenance of the child;

(c)     contact between the child and –

(i)  any of the parties; and

(ii) any other person; and

(d)     the schooling and religious upbringing of the child.’

Furthermore, the regulations to the Act prescribe child participation, bearing in mind the child’s age, maturity and stage of development. Regulation 11, which deals with participation of a child in preparation of parenting plans states the following:

‘(1)    Bearing in mind the child’s age, maturity and stage of development, such child must be consulted during the development of a parenting plan, and granted an opportunity to express his or her views, which must be accorded due consideration.

(2)     When a parenting plan has been agreed [on] the child … bearing in mind the child’s age, maturity and stage of development, [must] be informed of the contents of the parenting plan by the family advocate, a social worker, social service professional, psychologist, suitably qualified person or the child’s legal representative.’

Therefore, before an optional or mandatory parenting plan can be registered with the family advocate or made an order of court, reg 11 must be applied.

Section 34 of the Children’s Act

This section deals with the formalities of a parenting plan that need to be adhered to before it can be registered with the family advocate or made an order of court. It states the following:

‘(1)    A parenting plan –

(a)     must be in writing and signed by the parties to the agreement; and

(b)     subject to subsection (2), may be registered with a family advocate or made an order of court.

(2)     An application by co-holders contemplated in section 33 (1) for the registration of the parenting plan or for it to be made an order of court must –

(a)     be in the prescribed format and contain the prescribed particulars; and

(b)     be accompanied by a copy of the plan.

(3)     An application by co-holders contemplated in section 33 (2) for the registration of a parenting plan or for it to be made an order of court must –

(a)     be in the prescribed format and contain the prescribed particulars; and

(b)     be accompanied by –

(i)    a copy of the plan; and

(ii)   a statement by –

(aa)   a family advocate, social worker or psychologist contemplated in section 33(5)(a) to the effect that the plan was prepared after consultation with such family advocate, social worker or psychologist; or (bb) a social worker or other appropriate person contemplated in section 33 (5)(b) to the effect that the plan was prepared after mediation by such social worker or such person.

(4)     A parenting plan registered with a family advocate may be amended or terminated by the family advocate on application by the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights who are parties to the plan.

(5)     A parenting plan that was made an order of court may be amended or terminated only by an order of court on application –

(a)     by the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights who are parties to the plan;

(b)     by the child, acting with leave of the court; or

(c)     in the child’s interest, by any other person acting with leave of the court.’

Once the parties decide to proceed to try to agree on a parenting plan, they need to have the parenting plan prepared.

If s 33(2) applies, they would need to do it with the assistance of the relevant party. However, for both optional and mandatory parenting plans, the best interests of the child principle apply.

According to s 33(4) of the Act:

‘A parenting plan must comply with the best interests of the child standard as set out in section 7’.

Approval of parenting plans in court

Should parents agree on a proposed parenting plan, the court will usually approve it. If the parents do not agree, the court will decide on a parenting plan after a hearing or trial. The court looks at various factors when coming to a decision, but the most critical issue is that the plan serves the best interests of the child.

Enforcement of the parenting plan

Once the court signs a parenting plan, both parents must adhere to it. For example, a parent may not deny the other parent access if his child support is outstanding.

If one parent does not allow the other to see the child when he has the right to do so, he may be found in contempt of court. If a parent is found in contempt, the court could order jail time, fines or another type of punishment.

Is it possible to alter a permanent parenting plan?

It is difficult to alter a parenting plan after it is final. Usually, it may be changed if the parents agree to the change. If the parents do not agree, the court may make major adjustments, such as whom the child lives with, only if a major change has occurred in the child’s life or the other parent’s since the original parenting plan was final. It is not sufficient that the parent wanting the change thinks that his life has improved so much that the children should now live with him. Should the parents not agree on the change, one of these things must have occurred before the court will order a change in where the child lives

  • the child has gone to live with one parent for an extended period of time with permission of the other parent;
  • the parent who does not want the change has been held in contempt of court or has been convicted of interfering with the other parent’s time with the child; or
  • the child’s present life with a parent has been shown to be physically or emotionally harmful.

A party may ask to change a parenting plan through his attorney or on his own through the family courts, but must remember that whatever changes are made, the court must find them to be in the children’s best interest.

What if a parent wants to move with the child?

All parenting plans must state what will happen if one of the parents wants to relocate with the child. The law requires the parent who wants to move the child to give the other parent written notice before a move. The notice gives the other parent a chance to object to the move and to ask the court to change the existing parenting plan.

Conclusion

The conclusion of a PRR agreement and the registration of a parenting plan, which is subsequently made an order of the court requires the family advocate and the court to take into account the best interest of a child. Section 7 of the Act lists factors to be taken into account to determine the best interest’s standard, which is applied in terms of s 9.

It is important to note that our courts will not be looking for the so-called ‘perfect parent’, as no such type of parent exists. Our courts will opt for a solution that is ‘the least detrimental available alternative for safeguarding a child’s growth and development’. Our courts have also emphasised that the concept of parenting is a gender neutral function, and the mother or father are seen as equally capable to care for a child. The residence and contact regarding children is determined by the High Court with assistance of the family advocate. Agreements concerning the care of children and arrangements for contact by the parent who does not have the residency of the child should be incorporated into the parenting plan.

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in law and 13 years as a practising attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters and international divorce law.

Source De Rebus

DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY CONSULTS IN CAPE TOWN, JOHANNESBURG, PRETORIA AND DURBAN

DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY CONSULTS IN CAPE TOWN, JOHANNESBURG, PRETORIA AND DURBAN

Bertus Preller is a Family and Divorce Law Attorney at Abrahams and Gross Inc. and offers expert advice and assistance in all aspects of divorce, separation and family matters. Due to demand he is also now offering weekly consultations in Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria on all family law related matters. He offers a broad knowledge and years of experience of the whole range of family law issues and consider with you how best to resolve and help you to achieve your aims.

When considering children matters, he aims to assist you in resolving matters in a way that reflects the best interests of the children. His team can help you in preparing agreements to reflect what you would wish to happen should your relationship break down and can help you deal with any litigation arising either from divorce or break down of a relationship.

Whether advising in the context of divorce or separation his team recognise and understands the level of stress and emotional trauma that accompanies the breakdown of a marriage. There approach is to advise and assist in a sympathetic but objective manner. The team are sensitive to the very personal issues involved and are able to recommend suitably qualified professional counsellors/mediators, where appropriate.

DIVORCE

Married couples can dissolve their marriage through divorce. This ends the marriage and the divorced parties can then legally marry again. The divorce process will depend on whether the marriage is a civil marriage or a customary marriage. Civil marriages gets dissolved according to the rules and procedures set out in the South African Divorce Act. Marriages in terms of African Customary Law are dissolved according to the civil law but some of the consequences are determined by custom and tradition. Muslim and Hindi marriages are dissolved in terms of the rites and rituals of the religion.

There are a number of issues that need to be addressed in a divorce, including:

  • custody of the children
  • access to the children
  • maintenance
  • dividing up property
  • Contested Divorces

Contested Divorces are when the Parties involved cannot reach an agreement. A contested divorce can last anything between 3 months to 3 years and can be extremely expensive financially and emotionally draining.
Many Contested Divorce cases still do not go on Trial and are settled long before they end up in Court. It is extremely difficult to assess the costs of a Contested Divorce, for these matters his team would bill at an affordable hourly rate – as do the other Professional Practitioners who will become involved in this matter – for example Advocates, Psychologists, Private Investigators and the like.

The team is extremely flexible on fees when they act  in a Contested Divorce and negotiate our fees with due cognisance of the client’s income and what the client can afford. Client’s also know exactly what they are in for to enable right from the start.

Uncontested Divorces

This is by far the least expensive process to get divorced and recommended if you have been married for a short time, you don’t have children, you don’t have many assets, and you can talk to each other and reach agreement on the settlement. eDivorce is a DIY divorce servive founded by Bertus Preller. The eDivorce process has two Divorce Plans from which you can choose:

The Silver Plan – R 950 + Sheriff fee of between R 100 – R 150

  • All your divorce forms – completed for you by the eDivorce platform and checked by divorce experts
  • Step-by-Step Guide -W ritten in plain English and easy to follow
  • Fast Service – Documents delivered within 24 hours guaranteed

The Gold Plan – Managed Divorce Service – R 6 000 all inclusive

  • The price you pay is fixed from the start of your case and includes everything you will need.
  • Why choose our Gold Plan Managed Divorce Service?
  • No complicated form filling – We will do that for you.
  • All your required divorce documents-Prepared and completed by divorce specialists
  • 7 day a week service- We are open when it is convenient for you.
  • All documents filed at court for you – We deal with all the filing and admin.
  • Settlement Agreements are catered for- We can help you, with or without children
  • Get a Free Will – For both Husband and Wife if you need one.
  • Divorce in 4 to 6 weeks -Fast service guaranteed.
  • Attorney supervised – All services supervised by an Attorney
  • Appearance at Court – We appoint an Attorney or Advocate to appear on your behalf at Court.
  • Professional and Trustworthy
  • Save over R 2000 – Fixed fee for all the work

DIVORCE MEDIATION

The court system is the way disputes are decided, but there are now more effective and very different ways of resolving conflict than just going through our courts. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a mediator facilitates communication between the parties, assists them in identifying the issues to be settled and helping them reach a mutually agreeable resolution for their dispute. We specialize in mediating divorce and family issues.

Mediation can guide a couple through the many complex processes of divorce and can help them to make decisions regarding the division of their assets, custody, visitation rights and child support. We can also mediate and draft a Parenting Plan, offering a framework for divorced parents to help them to stay close to their children after the inevitable separation.

MAINTENANCE

We assist clients in both maintenance claims in regard to a spouse as well as the children. When a couple get divorced, one party is often in a much better financial position than the other. In order for a court to award maintenance to a spouse there must be a need for such maintenance and an ability to pay. In case of maintenance of children both parents have a duty to support their children having due regard to their financial positions.

RULE 43 APPLICATIONS

We assist clients in obtaining maintenance pending the finalisation of the divorce proceedings. A Rule 43 Application is an interim application which is brought mainly in cases of contested divorces in order to obtain interim relief pending finalisation of the divorce. The relief which can be requested include maintenance for the wife, maintenance for the children, interim custody and control or access to the children and interim contributions towards legal costs.

MATRIMONIAL PROPERTY & PROPRIETARY CLAIMS

We assist clients with advice regarding the proprietary claims in their marriage. In a marriage in community of property, division of the joint estate is a natural consequence of a divorce. Forfeiture of benefits of the marriage in community of property can however be claimed by a party. The court would have regard to various factors i.e. the duration of the marriage, circumstances leading to the breakdown, misconduct of one of the parties etc.
Where the marriage is out of community of property specifically excluding the cruel system and entered into after 1 November 1994, on dissolution of the marriage in essence each spouse retains his or her own separate assets. There are, however various other potential claims which may be instituted based on moneys loaned and advanced, universal partnerships etc. Where a marriage is out of community of property without the accrual and entered before 1 November 1984 a redistribution order in terms of section 7 (3) of the divorce Act can potentially be claimed by a successful party. In order to be successful, a party must satisfy the court that he or she contributed directly or indirectly to the increase of the estate of the other.

Where the marriage is out of community of property subject to the accrual system the net assets of each spouse is determined. Any assets specifically excluded from the operation of the accrual in the Antenuptial Contract are excluded from the calculation.

Any commencement value, increase in accordance with the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from date of marriage to date of divorce, is deducted from the accrual to each party’s estate. The net results (estates) of each party are considered and the lesser net accrual deducted from the greater.

The net difference between the parties is then divided in two or in such other ratio as the parties may have agreed in their Antenuptial Contract and the party showing the greater accrual shall pay the other such amount in settlement of the patrimonial consequences of the marriage.

FAMILY – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE INTERDICTS

We assist clients in obtaining protection orders under the domestic violence act in cases where domestic violence has been committed. Domestic violence includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional, verbal and psychological abuse.

It further includes intimidation, harassment, stalking, and damage to property, entry into someone’s residence without consent where the parties do not share the same residence or any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards the complainant.

VISITATION – CUSTODY AND ACCESS

We assist clients in every aspect of obtaining custody, access and/or visitation rights as well as drafting proper parenting plans in terms of the new Children’s Act. We also assist clients to obtain endorsement of Settlement Agreements at the family advocate where children’s rights are at stake.

ADOPTION

Adopting a child in South Africa is a complex matter. We work in conjunction with social workers in private practice who offers personalised and professional services four South African and International adoptions.

COHABITATION AGREEMENTS

In an age when one out of every three marriages fails, parties with a trail of prior relationships and marriages behind them may prefer to live together, rather than get married to each other. These couples and same-sex or heterosexual partners who choose not to get married should sign a domestic partnership ( life partnership or cohabitation) agreement to protect themselves should their relationship come to an end.

PARENTING PLANS

We assist both divorced couples and unmarried couples with formulating parenting plans that is in the best interest of their minor children.

PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS

We assist clients in investigations regarding matrimonial services such as a cheating spouse. We formed an alliance with a reputable private investigation organisation which is based nationally who can investigate any matter notwithstanding whether it is of a matrimonial or financial nature.

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in law and 13 years as a practising attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters and international divorce law.