Property Orders in South Africa

In South African law, property orders or property adjustment orders are decrees the court can make about a couple’s home in the event of divorce. If you are married or in a civil partnership and wish to end your relationship legally, understanding the ins and outs of property orders in South Africa will make the process easier.

How do property orders in South Africa work?

A property adjustment order is made by the court in accordance with the Matrimonial Causes Act. Property adjustment orders include orders transferring property from one spouse to the other, orders settling property to protect the interests of a spouse and/or children, and orders extinguishing property rights according to the divorce settlement.

In SA, the courts hold a considerable degree of discretion in handing down property adjustment orders. These are generally handled on a case by case basis. Factors that the courts will consider are the same as for financial provision orders. The courts will also consider:

  • Whether an adjustment order will ensure both spouses have adequate accommodation
  • The needs of any dependants (especially minor children)
  • The need to allow each spouse their share of joint assets in accordance with family law

Property orders and the courts’ powers

In a South African divorce settlement, the courts have the power to order the sale of the matrimonial home. The courts may also defer the sale of a home to a trust for when child dependants reach a specified age.
As is the case for financial provision orders, the court’s ultimate aim is to create a clean break wherever possible in property orders. The ‘clean break’ principle followed by South African law favours the ideal situation of both spouses becoming economically independent as soon as possible post-split.

When can a property order be granted?

Property adjustment orders are made along with financial provision orders and can only be issued on or after a decree of separation, divorce, or a marriage annulment.

If you are looking to save costs and get a DIY divorce, read all our guides to better understand how the division of assets works in the South African context.