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Practical steps to remember in divorce proceedings:

The first step when considering divorce proceedings is to determine which marital regime you are married under. Under South African matrimonial law, there are two main matrimonial regimes. These are marriage in community of property and marriage out of community of property (with or without the accrual system). 

Your matrimonial property regime will ultimately determine how assets will be divided between you and your soon to be ex-spouse. 


Divorces in and of itself can be a costly affair, especially where separating two homes and lives are apparent. These costs can include, to name a few, moving costs, purchasing of new furniture, transfer costs and so forth. In the face of imminent divorce proceedings, reducing any unnecessary spending can place you in a better position financially for the inevitable costs that are associated with divorce.


Under The Divorce Act 70 of 1979, retirement funds form part of a member’s assets. As such, retirement funds form part of the property that will be divided between the spouses as part of the divorce settlement. If you are married in community of property you are entitled to claim your share of your ex-spouse’s benefits from their retirement funds. This can be done by either withdrawing your share in cash in which case you will pay tax on the withdrawal, or by transferring your share to another retirement fund, in which case there will be no tax implications.


Under The Wills Act 7 of 1953, you have a 3-month period after your divorce has been granted to amend your will. This amendment helps you to prevent an unintentional inheritance being granted to your ex-spouse, should you wish to exclude them as an heir.


In the event that you and your ex-spouse are beneficiaries on each other’s life policies, it is advisable to relook at this policy. This is to prevent your ex-spouse from unintentionally inheriting in the case of the policy being activated. 


As divorce proceedings and negotiations can be lengthy, it is important to ensure that your medical aid membership does not lapse. In some cases, a divorce order may specify that one spouse becomes liable for the payment of the other spouse’s membership for a set period of time after the marriage is dissolved. If your medical aid membership lapses you will not be covered and you will also be subject to lengthy waiting periods upon re-application for membership. This could then result in you paying out of pocket for medical expenses for both yourself and your ex-spouse.


Different divorce settlements would require different financial management and investment. Upon the dissolution of your marriage, it is advisable to consult a financial advisor who can provide expert input on how to ensure and secure your future financial wellbeing.