By Lee Hancox, 25 March 2020
It has been reported that divorces are on the increase, with more female (51%) plaintiffs prompting proceedings. A total of 55.6% of divorces have children under 18 involved. With children especially, a divorce can get complicated and – in general – even uncontested divorces can take a huge financial toll.
Lee Hancox, Head: Channel and Segment Marketing at Sanlam, says “If you’re facing the prospect of a divorce, it can be a difficult, emotionally taxing time. Remember, you’re far more resilient than you realise, even though it may not feel that way. Sometimes there’s the temptation to rush into a ‘quickie’ DIY divorce that seems cheaper and faster – perhaps you want to get out of the emotionally stressful scenario as fast as possible. This can be risky. Particularly if you’re not a legal expert, what you may be putting into your divorce agreement could be called into question when you get into a divorce court, or, worst-case scenario, could be to your detriment in the long run. For example, when I got divorced my daughter was one year old. We agreed she’d spend some nights at her father’s, only to find out in court that the judge was not comfortable with overnight visitation as she was so young.
There’s also the risk of one partner being savvier than the other. So, the divorce agreement could be drafted to the benefit of one and the detriment of the other. You may not realise this until it’s too late, with ramifications that could end up costing you far more than if you’d had an attorney and
financial planner involved from the start.”
The cost of a divorce varies depending on the circumstances and service providers. Parent24, as a case in point, found that an uncontested divorce (one in which both parties work together to amicably agree on the divorce terms) can cost anything from R7 000 to R10 000. If the divorce is contested and the spouses cannot agree, this goes up exponentially. An attorney’s fees start at around R2 000 an hour, an advocate can cost even more, and court hearings also add up depending on how long a case takes to settle.
Another option is mediation, where an objective third-party individual works with the spouses to temporarily set aside differences to come to a settlement agreement. Mediated and contested divorces can take years to resolve.
An uncontested divorce can be done in a matter of weeks. This is obviously directly proportional to the expense. How you were married – in community of property (everything is split 50/50) or out of community of property with an antenuptial contract – plays a big role in determining how simple divorce proceedings may, or may not be.
Aside from the direct costs involved in the divorce proceeding itself, there are many other ‘less obvious’ expenses. While this may differ from person to person, these were some of the expenses I realised had to be factored into my monthly budget:
Hancox outlines some of the immediate actions to pursue, for anyone who is going through a divorce:
Hancox strongly advises having a trusted financial planner walk the journey with you, “It’s so important to have an objective expert cut through the emotion and help you come up with a plan that feels doable. It’s also good to know you can rely on someone who really has your – and your children’s – wellbeing at heart.”