Today we address this rather frequent topic of discussion. In South Africa, there are two types of divorces that we tend to deal with. Contested and uncontested. In a contested divorce, the parties are unable to resolve the split of assets, maintenance etc. This means that the parties will each choose their own attorney and head to court where a court ruling will decide what is fair and reasonable based on the arguments presented by their respective attorneys.
An uncontested divorce is a situation where the parties have reached agreement on the division of assets, maintenance, custody etc. and are guided through the court process. One party will typically appear in court on the given date and ask for the divorce to be made binding by an order of court - on the basis of the settlement agreement that they have reached.
In mediation, we seek to take the parties to the point of an uncontested divorce. Naturally there are huge differences in terms of time, cost and emotional stress between the two. While an uncontested divorce through mediation can cost as little as R15 000 (split evenly between the two parties), a contested divorce action can run into hundreds of thousands and stretch on for up to two years or more. Typially mediated divorces are resolved to the point of drafting within a month and finalised through the court process three to four months thereafter (depending on magesterial district).
During the mediation, the focus will always be on bringing the parties to an agreement that suits their unique circumstances, addresses their concerns and acknowledges the best interests of any minor children. Make no mistake, mediation requires a dedicated effort from the parties and of course a time commitment to attend mediation sessions.
The outcome speaks for itself. Lower costs, faster resolution and better foundations for co-parenting.
If you're considering a divorce action, mediation should always be your first port of call before embarking on a course of legal action. If legal action is already underway, this is easily paused through your mediator who will communicate on your behalf with the clerk of the court. When a mediated agreement is reached, this is communicated to the clerk of the court who will place the matter on the role as an uncontested divorce.