Can technology be used to have me divorced online? I do not want to go to court or see my spouse again. Is an online divorce possible?
When a marriage breaks down, people naturally would want information on the topic of divorces and the legal process. For this, they usually go online to find answers. This information they seek could include, how divorces works, the process and how long it takes. Of course, if there are minor children involved, parents would want to know what the parental rights and responsibilities are as well. This relates to issues of care, contact, child maintenance etc. Then there is the issue of proprietary rights. In other words who gets what assets or money if there is a joint estate. This article, however, deals with the issue regarding whether or not a couple’s divorce can be done online?
Two main aspects of a divorce process
Broadly speaking the divorce process can be divided into two processes. The first aspect relates to that of instituting the divorce proceedings and getting the matter to court. The second aspect relates to the actual divorce proceedings in court. As can be seen, further below, the divorce process is analogue. The only part of it that can be done online is getting the documentation in order, so that your lawyer may prepare the Summons, Particulars of Claim and so on. However, processing a divorce would entail physically issuing documents at court, serving the summons on the other spouse via the sheriff and attending to court on the date of the divorce. Once the documents have been issued and served, some legal processes thereafter can take place via email. However, physical copies of those documents still need to be filed at court. Therefore, a lot of walking still needs to take place.
The online aspect of the divorce
If you are making use of the services of a legal practitioner to attend to your divorce, you can provide him or her with instructions online. These instructions relate to the names and details of the spouses, the matrimonial property regime, reasons for the breakdown, details of the minor children if any and the assets of the parties if applicable and so on. The legal practitioner (advocate or attorney) would then draft the necessary documentation. He or she would then have to physically issue it at court. Therefore, the only aspect of the divorce that can be done online as stated earlier is instructing your legal practitioner with the relevant information.
Things that must be done physically in a divorce process
Once you provided your legal practitioner with the relevant information either in person or online, the following needs to take place. Firstly, the legal practitioner after drafting the documentation would have to have them issued at court, obtain a case number, and then have it served on your spouse by the sheriff of the court. This would have to be done physically. It cannot be done online or via email unless the court authorises it via edictal citation or substituted service.
Physically attending to court to give evidence
We will presume for this example that your spouse will not oppose the divorce. If that is the case then your legal practitioner would physically have to draft and serve a notice of set down on the relevant court. After your legal practitioner ensured that the court file is in order, then either you or your spouse would physically have to appear before the judge or magistrates to provide evidence as to the details of the marriage and the reasons for the breakdown. If the court is so satisfied, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and the minor children’s best interest are looked after, a decree of divorce would be granted.
Is there such a thing as an online divorce in South Africa?
Considering the above, there is no such thing as an online divorce in South Africa. The only aspect that can be done online is providing your legal practitioner with the necessary details of your marriage, the children, property, and so on. Your legal practitioner would then use that information to prepare the necessary documentation. These documents would have to be issued at court and served on the other spouse. On the divorce day, one of the parties will still have to appear in court to give evidence. As can be seen above, the concept of an online divorce could be confusing. However, if you’re making use of illegal practitioners, who is tech-savvy, the only time you physically need to be available would be on the date of the divorce at court. All other times you can provide the legal practitioners with instructions telephonically, via email, video and so on.