Divorce Attorney Cape Town

The Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children


More and more scientific information is being accumulated about the long-term effects that a divorce has on children. Until quite recently, most of what we knew was about the immediate or the so-called short-term effects of divorce, but long-term studies are providing more insights about the effects of divorce on the formation of intimate relationships and marriages in adulthood.

The major finding that gets the most attention is the slightly increased likelihood that children of a divorce will also divorce one day.

One interesting new report on the long-term effects of divorce on intimate relationships was conducted in Finland and reported in the Journal of Family Psychology (2011). A group of scientists at the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the University of Helsinki conducted a 16-year follow-up study of 1471 teenagers in one Finnish community. Ulla Mustonen and colleagues were surveyed the intimate relationships of these adults at 32 years of age and the role that parent-child relationships may have played in their adult relationships.

In keeping with past research, they found that children with divorced parents were somewhat more likely to be separated or divorced in young adulthood. Additionally, young women whose parents divorced were also less likely to have been married. Surprisingly, parental divorce showed no predictive relationship with divorce for young men.

On the other hand, there were a number of important findings about the ways in which parental divorce really affected young women. Though parental divorce itself did have a direct effect on young women’s chances of divorce, the major effect of divorce on young women was the mother-daughter relationship in adolescence. Parental divorce tended to undermine the mother-daughter relationship; however, when a positive relationship was maintained, this resulted in better self-esteem and satisfaction with social support in young adulthood, which contributed to better intimate relationships.

This finding means that one of the key factors in fostering the long-term well-being of children of divorce is through strengthening positive parent-child relationships. For this study, a positive parent-child relationship was more important for women than men, but the importance of these adolescent relationships should not be overlooked as we think about programs and policies to foster the long-term health of children.

These findings highlight a key direction for future research on the effects of divorce on children. The mere finding that these children may be more at-risk of difficulties should no longer occupy so much of our attention. The important work is understanding the factors within relationships and family process that contribute to these outcomes and identifying opportunities to buffer the negative effects while building on the positive factors. Much progress in improving children’s well-being is possible and deserving of more attention.

Article appeared in Huffington Post

International abduction of minor children a South African Law Perspective


International abduction of minors a South African Perspective

Article 3(b) of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980), which is incorporated into South African law by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Act 72 of 1996 (the Act), provides that the removal or retention of a child is to be considered wrongful if, among others, at the time of the removal or retention, the rights of custody were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

In terms of article 13(b), the authority of the requested state is not bound to order the return of the child if the person, institution or other body in the other state that opposes the return or retention establishes that there is a grave risk that his return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation. In Central Authority of the Republic of South Africa and Another v LG 2011 (2) SA 386 (GNP) the second applicant, the father, and the respondent, the mother, were married and living together with their minor child in the United Kingdom (UK). After several heated arguments the parties agreed to divorce and that the respondent would return to her native South Africa with the child. Alleging that the respondent agreed to return with the minor child to the UK after attending a wedding in South Africa and as she failed to do so she had unlawfully retained the child in this country, the second applicant (with the help of the first applicant, the Central Authority of South Africa) applied for a court order for the return of the child to the UK. The application was dismissed with costs.

Molopa-Sethosa J said the fact that the second applicant was prepared to stay away from the minor child, who was only 17-months-old at the time, for at least six months when the child was in South Africa with the respondent (who was during that time considering whether reconciliation with the second applicant was possible) was not indicative of a close bond between the second applicant and the child. Furthermore, the child would be exposed to the risk of psychological harm if he were to be returned to the second applicant who did not have the best interests of the child at heart. The fact that since the child had been in South Africa his health improved tremendously was of the utmost importance and could not be ignored.

Best interests and views of a child in international abduction matters:

In Central Authority v MR (LS Intervening) 2011 (2) SA 428 (GNP) the court dealt with the best interests of a minor child and her views in an international child abduction matter. After the death of her mother the minor child of some nine years lived with her biological father in Belgium. Subsequently the two relocated to Los Angeles, in the United States of America (USA), because of the father’s professional commitments.

There the two lived with the father’s new wife. After the child visited her maternal grandmother in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, the grandmother prevented the minor child returning to the father in Los Angeles and instituted an ex parte application to keep the child in this country. She sought, pending the final outcome of the family advocate’s investigation, full parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the minor. Meanwhile, the father sought the return of the child to the USA. The court dismissed the father’s application, but ordered the grandmother to pay costs because of the unacceptable way she instituted ex parte proceedings and for not being candid with the court.

Top South African Divorce Attorney shares information on Antenuptial Agreements or Prenup Agreements


Top South African Divorce Attorney shares information on Antenuptial or Prenup Agreements

We tapped the brain of Bertus Preller one of Cape Town’s best divorce and family law attorneys on Antenuptial or Prenup Agreements. Bertus Preller is based in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town and litigates in divorce matters across the country. He 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 as well as ordinary people. He has a deep passion for matters involving children. 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 father’s rights, domestic violence matters.

What is an Antenuptial agreement?

It is a contract entered into by two people, prior to their marriage, in which they stipulate the terms and conditions for the exclusion of the community of property between them. It ensures that one spouse’s creditors cannot hold the other person liable for repayment of debt, unlike when people marry without entering into an Antenuptial Contract, i.e. ‘in community of property’.

An Antenuptial Contract can also include any terms and conditions as long as they are not contrary to public policy. Most of these terms and conditions relate to the division of assets should the marriage be dissolved due to either death or divorce. During the marriage each spouse will retain his/her separate property and would have complete freedom to deal with that property as he/she chooses. This would not be the case if the parties were married ‘in community of property’.

Who needs an Antenuptial agreement?

While antenuptial agreements (“prenups”) are recommended to anyone for whom they make good economic and personal sense.

People who may benefit from prenups include those who:

  • Have assets, even if they are not considered wealthy
  • Owned a business prior to getting married
  • Have children from a previous marriage
  • Will marry someone with a poor financial track record, high-risk business investments
  • Want to avoid the emotional and financial stress associated with a contested divorce
  • Want a quick and inexpensive method of ending their marriage, if it should fail eventually
  • Want to protect their assets in the event of divorce or death

What types of issues can be included in an Antenuptial agreement?

Antenuptial agreements or prenups can include provisions relating to:

  • The rights and obligations of each of the parties regarding property owned or acquired by either, at any time and wherever located
  • The exclusion of property or business
  • Donations made to a spouse
  • The allocation, division and distribution of the parties’ assets and debts upon divorce or death
  • Any other matter that isn’t illegal or in violation of public policy

Should an Antenuptial agreement be considered cast in stone or can it be varied during the course of the marriage?

It is possible to change your Antenuptial agreement on application to the High Court.

What is meant by a Marriage out of Community of Property?

Each spouse retains his or her own assets and liabilities whether acquired before or during marriage. There is no sharing of profits and losses. Both spouses have full and independent contractual capacity. Upon death or divorce, each spouse keeps control over their own assets. This clearly gives parties absolute independence of contractual capacity and protects the estates of each party against claims by the other party’s creditors. There is no provision for any sharing whatsoever. A party who contributed to the other party’s estate whether in cash or otherwise would have a heavy onus to prove that he or she was entitled to anything from that party’s estate on dissolution of the marriage. Where one party stays at home to raise children and does not contribute financially towards the marriage and the other spouse works and accumulates assets, the former may find herself with nothing and no claim to the assets of the latter. The marriage is governed by a contract known as an ante nuptial contract which is concluded by the parties before the marriage. If the marriage occurred after 1 November 1984, the contract had to specifically exclude the system of accrual. In the absence of this exclusion the rules of accrual will automatically apply.

What is meant by a Marriage out of Community of Property with Inclusion of the Accrual System?

The Matrimonial Property Act 88 of 1984 brought with it the “accrual” system which permits a form of sharing, consistent with a primary objective of marriage, but permitting retention of each party’s independence of contract and ability to retain their own unique separate estates. “Accrual” means increase. The accrual system is a form of sharing of the assets that are built up during the marriage. The underlying philosophy in respect of the accrual system is that each party is entitled to take out the asset value that he or she brought into the marriage, and then they share what they have built up together. One spouse’s property cannot be sold to pay the other’s creditors if the other becomes insolvent – in contrast to the case where the parties are married in community of property. It is of utmost importance that a party wishing to enter into an Ante Nuptial Contract must fully understand what it is they are signing. It is for this reason that a standard form contract cannot be used, that consultations cannot be held over the phone or by means of email and that, unfortunately. The important features of an accrual marriage are in essence the following: Each party retains his or her own estate. Each party may accumulate assets and incur liabilities without interference from or assistance of the other spouse. The estate of each party is determinable separately. The monetary value of the smaller estate is subtracted from the monetary value of the larger estate, the difference is split, and the party having the larger estate pays half of the difference between the two estates to the party with the smaller estate. At dissolution of the marriage, the estate of each party is calculated by listing all assets, listing all liabilities, subtracting liabilities from assets and arriving at a net asset value. In practical terms this amounts to a similar division to a marriage in community of property. However there are certain crucial factors of an accrual marriage which add complexity and much more freedom of choice. When drafting the Ante Nuptial Contract, the parties can each decide to exclude certain assets. The effect of excluding an asset will be that it does not feature on the asset statement at dissolution of the marriage and is completely excluded from the calculation. Assets which are not properly described can cause huge problems when the executor or the divorce attorney tries to decide what to do with it in calculating the net accrual value. To exclude either a specific asset, or a commencement value, or both (which must be separate and not derived from the same asset), can effectively ensure that couples share only what they choose to share and keep separate any item or items, or values, which they do not believe it fair to share (for example something acquired before the relationship commenced). Parties not wishing to exclude specific assets may exclude a certain sum of money which is the agreed equivalent of assets which they do not wish to share, and which is termed a “commencement value”. Excluded from the Accrual Certain property belonging to either the husband or the wife may not be taken into account when the accruals are worked out: Any damages awarded to either spouse for defamation or for pain and suffering; Any inheritances, legacies or gifts that either spouse has received during the marriage, unless the parties have agreed in their antenuptial contract to include these or the donor has stipulated their inclusion; A donation made by one spouse to the other. This is not taken into account as part of either the giver’s or the receiver’s estate, with the result that the giver cannot recover part of what he or she gave and the receiver need not return any of it.

SAMPLE OF AN ANTENUPTUAL AGREEMENT WITH ACCRUAL

This agreement is a sample and is of a general nature. Certain additions and ammendments may be required to suit your specific needs.

It is hereby certified that a R10.00 stamp is affixed to the original contained in my protocol register. PROTOCOL NO : _________________________

ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACT

with the

APPLICATION OF THE ACCRUAL SYSTEM

in terms of the

MATRIMONIAL PROPERTY ACT, 1984

BE IT HEREBY MADE KNOWN THAT on this _________________day of ________________________ 2011 before me

(INSERT NAME OF NOTARY PUBLIC) Notary Public, practising at Pretoria in the Province of _______

appeared

FULL NAME: _______________________ IDENTITY NUMBER: ________________ UNMARRIED

-and-

FULL NAME: ________________________ IDENTITY NUMBER: _________________ UNMARRIED

And the appears declared that whereas a marriage has been agreed upon, and is intended to be solemnised between them, they have agreed and now contract with each other as follows :

1. That there shall be no community of property between them.

2. That there shall be no community of profit or loss between them.

3. That the marriage shall be subject to the accrual system in terms of the provisions of Chapter 1 of the Matrimonial Act, 1984 (Act No. 88 of 1984).

4. That for the purposes of proof of the nett value of their respective estates to be as follows: that of (INSERT FULL NAME) to be R 000.00 consisting of :_______ (INSERT DETAILS) that of (INSERT FULL NAME) to be ZERO

5. That the assets of the parties or either of them, which are listed hereunder, having the values shown, and all liabilities presently therewith, or any other asset acquired by such party by virtue of his possession of former possession of such asset, shall not be taken into account as part of such party’s estate at either the commencement or the dissolution of the marriage.

The assets of (INSERT FULL NAME) so to be excluded are R000.00 consisting of : (INSERT DETAILS)

The assets of (INSERT FULL NAME) so to be excluded are NONE

THUS DONE AND EXECUTED at _________________________aforesaid on the day, month and year first aforewritten in the presence of the undersigned witnesses.

AS WITNESSES:

1.

2.                                                      ………………………………………………………

THUS DONE AND EXECUTED at _________________________aforesaid on the day, month and year first aforewritten in the presence of the undersigned witnesses.

AS WITNESSES:

1.

2.                                                      ………………………………………………………

QUOD ATTESTOR NOTARY

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 in terms of the South African Divorce Act 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 in the past our Courts have been unwilling 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 may be proof of a real break-down of the marriage. If irretrievable breakdown has been proved, the court still has discretion to refuse the divorce.

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.  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.

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.

Interview with one of Cape Town’s Best Divorce Attorneys Bertus Preller


Interview with one of Cape Town’s Top Divorce Attorneys Bertus Preller at Abrahams and Gross Inc.

Why do people and celebrities from all over South Africa come to you for divorce and family law matters?

Well, firstly, I guess it is because I care a great deal, I work hard and I am involved personally in my client’s cases. I am only as good as the team behind me and our office staff and junior attorneys really assist in alleviating a lot of the pressure associated with my work

What is a typical day look like for you?

I commence work at 5am in the mornings doing my normal correspondence until 7am, drop my daughter at school at 8 am and start seeing clients from 9am till 3pm by the hour, three days a week other days I will be in Court. Evening times I use to read and blog on Family Law issues, study case law and spend time with my family.

You are also the founder of eDivorce a do it yourself divorce platform in South Africa, can you tell us more about this?

eDivorce is a divorce document generating platform and generates all the documents that you will need to conclude an uncontested divorce in South Africa with a click of a button.

So how does the eDivorce process work?

A user will browse a web page, http://www.edivorce.co.za fill in a questionnaire and the technology platform will then generate all the necessary documents such as the Summons, Particulars of Claim, Settlement Agreement, Family Advocate Affidavit, Notice of Set Down and Statistics Form. A team of experts then checks whether the documents were drafted correctly and release them to the user. The document generation process takes 24-hours and the divorce itself, depending which court you file in takes between 3 – 8 weeks.

How many divorces have you handled so far?

It is difficult to say, more than 400.

What are the reasons why people divorce in South Africa?

There are so many reasons, but the most frequent reasons are infidelity, physical, emotional or verbal abuse, money, in-law problems, life transitions, addictions, childhood baggage, different life agendas, life overload, mid life crisis and controlling behaviour.

Are you not concerned about the high divorce rate in South Africa?

Yes, most definitely. A healthy society is built on a solid marital foundation and it is the reason why I urge my client’s always to reconcile if the slightest possibility exist to make things work. If that is not possible, then my roll becomes clinical and the interests of my client and the minor children come first.

Are people generally up to scratch with their rights in a divorce?

Yes and No. The internet and media have played a significant role in educating people on all aspects of life, so in many instances you will find that a party in a divorce matter will know what he/she will be entitled to claim, but in other instances people seem to lack that knowledge, especially women.

Don’t you get subjectively involved in your clients lives?

In order to be successful you have to look at a case clinically. Like a doctor operating on a patient. You have to distance yourself from the emotional aspects. But yes, there are times that you are touched by the hurt of the parties involved, especially when there are children involved. So to answer your question, I am human after all.

Don’t you think people give up to easy in their marriage?

It is difficult to say. It depends on the facts of each case. In a matter concerning adultery, it is very difficult for instance. People can forgive, but forgetting is rather difficult, so unless there is not a huge effort from both spouses to mend the relationship, it will not work and divorce will be inevitable. But then there are many instances where parties can mend their relationships and where opting for divorce would be wrong. Unfortunately life has become like a remote control, if you don’t dig the channel you simply click and change it, so if you don’t like the relationship you click and move on, I don’t think that is a good thing for society as a whole.

What advice can you give to someone going through a divorce?

When there are children involved you have to set the emotions apart and make decisions in the best interests of the children. Divorce is always an emotional rollercoaster and although how difficult it may sound, you have to think with your brain and not with your heart. Relationships are all about control, like using a remote to change the TV channels, one of the parties constantly changes the channels, the kids, the money etc. and that is where many problems surface.

Bertus Preller can be contacted on email at: info@divorceattorney.co.za or at http://www.divorceattorney.co.za

%d bloggers like this: