"Good" divorce - is it possible?

We meet. We get engaged. We get married. The bigger the wedding ceremony, the more money spent - the better. In the few years there are children! European countries have on average a 40-50% annual divorce rate and South Africa has on average a 30-40% annual rate.

Becoming an even bigger spectacle if we look at the cost implication of protracted litigation. Clients have been known to sell their houses to afford their lawyers and so often see the self destruction and how lives are being destroyed in the process. It unfortunately doesn’t stop the day the Judge grants the final order of divorce, it mostly continues for many years thereafter especially when there are minor children involved. People in general cannot fight an ugly fight and then a day or two after become model citizens able to co-parent in civility with each other?!

As society accept that when parties go through a divorce that they will become hostile, angry, unreasonable, emotional, vindictive and literally unaware of their circumstances.

As lawyers we see this everyday and we experience those clients who have “won” the battle still so angry, sad and very unhappy. The question begs – so why do we keep practising in a system that amplifies this and completely ignores the family unit? We have an extensive Children’s Act that clearly prescribes and stipulates the “Best Interest of the Child” and “Hearing the voice of the child”, is this lip service at best?

We are trained to litigate or settle the legal disputes. Our clients however come to us with far more complex issues. Just because they come to see us does not necessarily mean that the law we have studied is what they need. We can resolve legal disputes by instituting settlement agreements and by obtaining judgements however, human conflicts need to be healed and no piece of paper does this process justice.

There are alternative methods to better deal with divorces. It will not work for everyone as it requires significant good will and commitment with emphasis on the values of truth and honesty with a strong belief that the children’s best interest are of paramount importance.

For those people who believe that the divorce is only between self and spouse and does not involve the children, immediate family and expended family – Collaborative Divorce Law Practice is the only answer.

When a client consults a lawyer they usually have no prior experience of divorce or the process that follows. They are unprepared for the psychological challenges that accompany the divorce and more importantly the effect their emotions will have on their ability to make decisions.

The Collaborative Process is client driven and specifically designed to assist the parties to take responsibility, understand and acknowledge the entire family’s needs but with the support from their attorneys representing them and working in a team.

It is exhilarating to see parties make their own decisions and rather taking the “high road” instead of the road that is undermining, argumentative, mistrusting and full of fight with each other at every possible juncture.

There now is really something like a “GOOD DIVORCE”

By Sunel Beeselaar
16 May 2013



Connie Theron, Practising Attorney - UCT Law Clinic
“While working at the University of Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic and later at the UCT Law Clinic, I found the pro bono mediation services of Gerrie van der Watt of the Mediation Centre to be highly professional and extremely effective in our divorce matters. It is fantastic that our clients, with little or no financial means, can benefit from such an excellent programme.

The mediators are able to provide a non-threatening environment in which the clients are able to talk openly about issues that matter most to them, but which the Court in a divorce matter may choose not to entertain. Through the mediation sessions, the clients are able to reach an agreement together which ultimately they are both happy with. In cases where mediation did not yield the result of a settlement, the process was still extremely valuable, giving the parties better perspective and highlighting the key issues in dispute.”