International Divorce

A spouse living in South Africa is able to institute divorce proceedings in the local Courts where the other spouse resides outside the country.

In terms of the South African Divorce Act, a South African Court will have jurisdiction where the parties, or either of the parties, live in the area of the Court’s jurisdiction on the date on which the action is instituted, or ordinarily resident in the Court’s jurisdiction on the date on which the papers are filed at Court, or has been ordinarily resident in the jurisdiction for a period of not less than one year immediately prior to the date of filing papers at Court.

If the matter is uncontested, only the Plaintiff should attend Court. 

Where a Defendant lives in another country, the Plaintiff must approach the Court for an “Edictal Citation application”. The law requires that summons in a divorce matter must be served personally on the Defendant, and the Court needs satisfaction that proper service will be done by a Court official in a foreign country. Edictal Citation is therefore a procedure according to which a legal document such as divorce summons is served by a Court official in another country.

The Defendant can also choose an address in South Africa by signing a power of attorney to that effect.

 Where the location of the Defendant is unknown, application must be made to the Court to serve the summons by substituted service (other than by way of personal service) – the summons can be served on a relative of the Defendant, or by means of publication in a newspaper circulating widely in the area that you last knew the Defendant to be.

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