Uncontested Divorce – What Happens on Court Day?
The uncontested divorce papers have been signed, the documents have been served, the Family Advocate has endorsed the parenting plan … and the court date has arrived. What happens next?
This article explains the court day procedure for uncontested divorces, managed by Divorce Attorney, Nazli Williams (iedivorce) from Patton Williams Attorneys, in plain language.
Arriving at Court
The Western Cape High Court, where your divorce will be finalised, starts at 10 am, unless your attorney notifies you of a later time. The court is located in Keerom Street, Cape Town CBD. Your divorce attorney will meet you at court. You do not have to wait in line outside the court building. Go directly to the security at the door and tell them that you are appearing in court. Go directly to Courtroom 16. In an uncontested divorce matter, only one spouse needs to appear in Court to testify – usually the Plaintiff. The Parties must agree up front if the Defendant will be attending Court instead of the Plaintiff. Please make sure that the party who is stated in the Settlement agreement to appear in court on behalf of the parties is the party that arrives at the Court to testify – this will avoid a situation where the Judge is dissatisfied or remove/postpone the matter from the court roll!
- Make sure you know where the Court is located before the court date. Arrive at court at least 15min earlier. Do not be late.
- Make sure you have your attorney’s telephone number at hand to call him/her, should you struggle to find the Court building, get parking or see him/her at Court.
- It is often difficult to find parking in the Cape Town CBD so please consider using an Uber taxi or having someone drop and collect you.
- Do not bring your children to Court with you.
- Follow your attorney’s instructions closely.
- When you enter or exit the courtroom always bow to the judge upon entering and before exiting.
- Please switch off your cellphone when entering the courtroom.
Meeting the Advocate
If an Advocate has been appointed, your divorce attorney will introduce you to your Advocate. The attorney/Advocate will explain the process of testifying in Court. He/she will quickly run through the questions that will be asked in front of the Judge/Magistrate. Usually, we sent the questions to our clients in advance.
Waiting, waiting, waiting…
The actual time in front of the Judge is only a few minutes, but the waiting time can be anything from a few minutes to a few hours. The length of the court roll and the order in which the matters are called will affect the waiting time. At Patton Williams Attorneys we understand that a Court experience, especially in the circumstances can be quite overwhelming, and stressful for some. This is why we prefer to wait with our clients and make 100 % sure that they know exactly where and when they need to sit, stand and speak before they are called to testify.
The matter is heard and the Divorce Order is granted
After the matter is called, you will be sworn in and you will have to testify. Please let your attorney know in advance if you have any objections to taking the prescribed oath. Testifying means that you will have to answer certain questions asked by your attorney in front of the Judge. If it is a female judge address the judge as “My lady”, if it is a male judge address the judge as “My Lord”. The judge will grant the Divorce Order if the papers are in order and if he/she is satisfied that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
Documents to Bring
If you haven’t yet furnished your attorney with your original marriage certificate you would be asked to bring it to the Court hearing.
TOP TIP: Read this article if you don’t know where your original marriage certificate is and need to request a new version.
The Dress Code
Your attorney (or the advocate) will wear a black robe over a black and white outfit, and a bib around the neck. There is no specific dress code for clients, however, it is advisable to dress neatly, and comfortable and to stay away from skimpy, bright or uncomfortable outfits.
More Questions About Uncontested Divorce?
Nazli Williams, director at Patton Williams Attorneys and co-author of What You Should Know Before Filing for Divorce (2020 edition) is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa, specialising in Divorce and Family Law matters. Her fields of 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.