The slight drop in the country’s divorce rate boils down to money: warring couples simply can’t afford a divorce – even before the lockdown, experts say.
Crippling unemployment and the high cost of living make a divorce just too expensive.
“It’s cheaper and easier to stay together than get divorced because there are a lot of fees involved, especially because the economy took a nosedive,” top divorce lawyer Billy Gundelfinger said.
“Most married couples don’t have the finances for divorce.”
According to hopkinssnyman.com, an uncontested divorce in South Africa could cost between R7 000 and R10 000.
“We assess the complexity of a client’s divorce settlement during the initial consultation and then provide our clients a quote within the above-mentioned spectrum,” the firm stated on its website.
“Factors we look at include the complexity of any provisions for minor children or the distribution of any assets and liabilities.”
But Johannesburg-based divorce attorney Beverley Clark said she hadn’t noted a drop in divorces in her own practice.
She said, however, internationally, more and more couples were living together without getting formally married and this could have a knock-on effect and result in less divorces.
Courts also have administrative issues involving the reporting of divorces to the department of home affairs, which could ultimately skew the stats, Clark said.
On the costs involved in a divorce, she said these did not have to be exorbitant.
“People can get divorced sensibly by using mediation and other non-litigious approaches – and that’s what they should be doing.
“It’s very rarely sensible to litigate a divorce and spend a lot of money unless there are serious issues around children and/or finances.”
While there is a slight decline year-on-year in divorces, there is hope young couples are taking time to decide whether or not to tie the knot, with a 6% drop in divorce rates being reported by Stats SA.
Relationship expert and lifeline counsellor Paula Quinsee said more young couples were waiting longer to make a commitment and to get married.
“They are waiting until they are more established from a career and financial perspective. They are also taking their time in terms of life choices, often wanting to experience life first before settling down and getting married. This includes travelling locally and internationally.”
The statistics showed 23 710 completed divorce forms processed in 2019, indicating a decrease of 6.2% from the 25 284 divorces processed in 2018.
The statistics revealed a total of 129 597 civil marriages were registered in SA in 2019, with more than half – 75 519 (58.3%) – being solemnised by department of home affairs marriage officers.
The highest number of civil marriages was registered in Gauteng (32 352), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (21 753) and Western Cape (16 783). The lowest number was registered in Northern Cape (3 692).
The majority of civil marriages in 2019, for both bridegrooms (105 163) and brides (111 464), were first-time marriages, with women generally entering into marriage at younger ages than men do.
There were more wives than husbands who filed for divorce, with husbands getting divorced at a later age than wives.
The province that led a high number of divorces was Gauteng with 6 318, followed by the Western Cape with 6 108, KwaZulu-Natal with 4 033 and the Eastern Cape with 3 137.
In 2019, about 22 084 children aged under 18 were affected by divorce.
Additional reporting Bernadette Wicks
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