ag furl o Thrpot andfiThe harsh reality is that many marriages end up in divorce and even the friendliest divorces can be stressful. South African Divorce Attorney, Nazli Williams, shares her top 11 divorce preparation tips.
1. Be Certain that You Want a Divorce
Divorce is a big step with life-changing consequences. Make sure that you feel 100 % ready for this new chapter of your life.
TOP TIP: If you have doubts, consider marriage counselling.
2. Protect Your Children
The best interest of the children should remain your top priority. Make sure that you spend quality time with your children. Don’t put your children in the middle of your battle with your wife/husband. It is okay to feel anger and pain, and to want to protect your children. However, your feelings of despair should not never be channeled to your children who loves both parents.
TOP TIP: Follow the 10 Rules of Co-Parenting by Jeannette Lofas, President and Founder of the Stepfamily Foundation.
3. Uncontested or Contested?
Be prepared to discuss the terms of your divorce at length. Communication, even if via your attorneys, is key. An early settlement could save you a lot of money and years of stress. A defended divorce is expensive and could take years to finalise. Shifting blame and the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage should not be the key focus at this stage; that proverbial ship has sailed. The major terms of the divorce should be at the forefront of discussions which includes discussions about the division of assets and debt, care and contact arrangements in respect of minor children, spousal and child maintenance, if applicable, etc. Are you and your husband/wife willing to sign divorce papers to regulate the terms of your divorce? If so, we recommend the uncontested, “friendly” divorce process. Complete your online divorce application to start the process.
TOP TIP: Read How to get Divorced in South Africa for clarity about the uncontested divorce process.
4. Get Organized
Compile your starting documents and information. You will need the following documents/information:
- A copy of your Identity document;
- Proof of address, Proof of income tax number (example: latest salary slips);
- Copy of your antenuptial contract (if any);
- Marriage Certificate (If you have lost yours, click here for information on the process to obtaining a new copy);
- Information regarding pension/provident funds/retirement funds;
- Copies of any court orders that are currently in operation between you and your spouse.
5. Choose Your Divorce Attorney Wisely
Choose an attorney who specializes in Divorce or Family Law. In a stressful situation, it’s comforting to have an expert on your side. Choosing the right divorce attorney is important and costs should not be your most important consideration. You want someone who is knowledgeable, experienced, and who will remain objective so that the divorce can be finalised efficiently, swiftly and at the least expense to you.
TOP TIP: A good divorce attorney not only knows the law, they also know how to convey information to you in a manner that you can understand. They prioritize the best interests of the minor children and they have a good reputation amongst their peers. They usually receive good public reviews. Research the attorney first and book a consultation with them to get a feel for their personality.
6. Mind Your Money
To avoid uncomfortable surprises, discuss your attorney’s fees with him/her in advance. Ask your attorney to put the fee agreement in writing and make sure you understand how and for what the attorney bills. Remember, a private attorney is a business therefore you will be charged for all work done. With your personal finances, keep an updated list of all your assets, debt, income and expenses, including the expenses of your children. Obtain updated statements and values of all your debt and assets.
TOP TIP: If you do not have your own bank account, now would be the time to open one.
7. Be Informed
Ask your divorce attorney to explain their billing and communication policies in details, and make sure you understand your rights and obligations. Ask if you don’t understand.
TOP TIP: Read the iedivorce blog for up-to-date divorce law information in plain language.
8. Get Emotional Support
It is important to remember that your attorney is most likely trained to only lend legal support to you, not emotional support. Your attorney cares about you and your emotional wellbeing, but their first duty is to protect and advocate for your legal rights. To do that your attorney has to remain focused on the legal issues in your case. They further need to stay alert to issues that would potentially have adverse legal consequences for you. It becomes difficult for an attorney to stay focused if they become emotionally invested, and this could have dire consequences for your case, legally and financially. Therefore it is important not to depend on your attorney for emotional support, and you should not expect it. That said, do not underestimate the importance of a solid support structure consisting of friends, family members, support groups and/or a psychologist. Therapists/psychologists, etc. are trained to provide you with the emotional support that you need during this difficult time in your life. Further, be mindful of what you post on social media during your divorce. Many attorneys use social media to obtain evidence against the other party and this could have dire consequences for your case.
9. Avoid Impulsive Decisions & Demands
Keep the bigger picture in mind. Don’t rush into unrealistic, impulsive demands and decisions out of anger or sadness, delaying the divorce process unnecessarily. Remember, what is fair and reasonable to you is not always the view of the courts. There are no winners in divorce and often neither party is happy with a settlement. Sometimes you would need to give and sometimes you will be advised to take. It is important to listen to your attorney’s advice and to trust their judgment – you are always at liberty to get a second opinion (not on social media!) or to find another attorney.
10. Make Time for Yourself
Divorce can be emotionally draining. A healthy mind and body will put you in a better position to deal with the changed circumstances, heartbreak, anger and sadness of divorce. Don’t neglect your personal wellbeing.
11. Think Ahead
Divorce is an opportunity for change. Don’t dwell on the past. Set goals for the future and thrive.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
Nazli Williams (BCom LLB), the director of Patton Williams Attorneys, is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa, specializing in Divorce and Family Law matters. Her fields of expertise and interest include Divorce Law, Family Law, Domestic Violence Law and International Divorce Law. Her vision is to demystify Family Law processes, helping good people in plain language and with great technology, to achieve remarkable results.