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Tag Archive: divorce attorneys

Average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer?

Generally, the average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer should cover a number of hours so that the law firm can schedule and prioritise a new case.

We recommend that you budget 10 to 20 hours as a start.

The actual hourly rate will depend on a number of factors.

Remember that divorce law services are a life-changing service.

A successful divorce is one which saves you from financial and emotional turmoil, putting the future of the family first.

Your divorce lawyer is your guide, and can either champion your position, saving you time, money, and emotional fallout; or achieve the opposite.

After attending to 100s of divorce cases, we recommend you consider this list of factors, before appointing a divorce lawyer:-

  1. the reputation of the firm, as well as the individual professional;
  2. the values of both;
  3. the strategic approach, especially to conflict resolution;
  4. the experience and specialisation;
  5. the appreciation of psychology and pathology;
  6. being a skilled negotiator; diplomatic, yet appropriately assertive (never aggressive);
  7. the level of emotional intelligence;
  8. familiarity of the local court system, and role players;
  9. the complexity of the matter;
  10. the urgency;
  11. the value of the assets and debts;
  12. whether there are any minor children;
  13. whether it is a high conflict divorce;
  14. your spouse’s attorney and advocate;
  15. any personality disorders; and
  16. criminal and abusive elements.

When one appreciates that a divorce case can involve a multifaceted list of fundamental, delicate issues, one appreciates that the divorce lawyer may be an investment in a potentially life changing service.

If you want to stand the best chance of not only surviving the divorce process, but thrive through it, interview a divorce lawyer first.

Go through the above factors with them, and satisfy yourself that the relevant attorney ticks all the relevant boxes. Some may be more relevant than others.

Ultimately, we recommend that you find a divorce attorney who strives to achieve a fair, family first, and future focussed outcome.

Know that a divorce attorney is in a special and privileged position – he or she is your guide through a major emotional and financial life transition.

They need to deserve this responsibility by being qualified to deal with the issues in the best possible way.

When one understand the purpose of divorce law, in that it is a set of rules, to help protect the best interests of the family unit moving from moving one home in to two, you begin to appreciate that the divorce lawyer, and his or her approach, can be a major positive or negative influence on any successful conclusion.

The world needs to move away from turning away from one another, and turn towards one another, and continue to engage, so that resolutions can be reached. A divorce lawyer needs to facilitate this through strategic, and emotionally intelligent management of your case.

At the end of the day, all divorce clients need a champion, like a knight: a ‘gentleman’ who believes in justice, but who can also fight for what is fair.

If you would like to interview us, Call Simon on 086 099 5146 today, or email:, and we will arrange a time to talk within the next day or two.

We’d be happy to share more about our approach, and what makes our way of managing divorce matters unique and valuable.

Related reading:

Source: by Divorce Attorney Cape Town

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International South African divorce – What you need to know


International South African divorce is more common than many people realise. Perhaps you went on holiday abroad. You met the love of your life. You married and settled down in a foreign country. Only things didn’t quite go according to plan and now you are seeking divorce. Or maybe you are a non-South African married to a South African. You live overseas and want to start divorce proceedings against your South African spouse. Or you are in South Africa but your spouse is not. In all these situations, you can divorce from abroad in South Africa or divorce a foreign spouse from here. Cape Town divorce attorneys Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. in Cape Town can help you.

International divorce made simple




  1. You can divorce in South Africa if you are abroad.
  2. You can divorce in South Africa if your spouse is abroad.
  3. You can make child care and contact arrangements (previously called custody and access) in South Africa from abroad, if the child is in South Africa. This is called the forum non conveniens doctrine or “court of most convenience”, which allows the interests of justice to be served in a court (with proper jurisdiction) in another location, if that is more convenient for the parties involved.
  4. You can divorce in South Africa if you are domiciled or ordinarily resident here, even if you are not a South African citizen and both spouses agree to the jurisdiction by consent (see Section 45)



  1. If you don’t know where your spouse is, you can still start divorce proceedings. If you believe your spouse is in South Africa but their whereabouts are unknown, you can apply for substituted service. This allows the court to issue a summons by an appropriate method, such as advertising in a newspaper published where the defendant is believed to be living.



  1. If your spouse is abroad and you want to start divorce proceedings here in South Africa, you can use a legal process called edictal citation. An edictal citation is a summons served by a sheriff (who may be called a “service processor”) or a solicitor in a different country.



  1. In this case the substituted service and edictal citation processes can be combined. You will have to use the means available in the country where you believe your spouse resides to locate them. This can now include social media and email. The processes are not interchangeable. The edictal citation allows the summons to be served in another country. Substituted service makes provision for the divorce to go ahead if the defendant (the spouse) cannot be found, but every effort has been made to find them.



An uncontested divorce is relatively straightforward. The person who brings the divorce proceedings is known as the plaintiff. Conversely, the person on whom the summons is served is the defendant. If the plaintiff lives abroad and the defendant is in South Africa, and agrees to receive the summons from the South African sheriff and appear in court, the divorce can be finalised in approximately four weeks.

Similarly, if the plaintiff is in South Africa and the defendant lives abroad, and both agree to co-operate, the divorce is also considered uncontested and can proceed quickly in the South African courts.

However, divorcing in South Africa is more complex if either spouse is abroad and the divorce is contested – that is the two parties can’t agree on the terms of the divorce. If the party living abroad refuses to act as plaintiff, or the spouse in South Africa refuses to accept service and appear as the defendant in court, the divorce proceedings can take up to three months and the costs will be considerably higher than for an uncontested divorce.



With Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc., an uncontested international divorce, where all parties give consent and co-operate fully, costs R15 000 excluding VAT.

If an edictal citation is required, the cost is c. R30 000, excluding VAT, plus the cost of the international correspondent. Contact Divorce Attorney Cape Town to discuss your specific circumstances.



There are many divorce lawyers in Cape Town. Why should you use Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc.? Simon and his team are experts in divorce, both domestic and foreign. With international correspondents in all major jurisdictions and access to online systems the world over, the professionals at Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. will ensure your international divorce is handled efficiently and sensitively.

Cape Town Family Lawyers, Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. has a reputation for empathy and professionalism, with a personal touch. Every client is an individual, and every divorce is handled with dignity and respect, no matter the circumstances.

Call Simon on 086 099 5146 or email

Read what satisfied clients have to say about Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc.

Further reading:

“On behalf of all abused woman and children The Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation would like to thank Simon Dippenaar from SD Law South Africa for going beyond and assisting our client with a very difficult case.
Family Law requires a very special person, just being a good lawyer is not enough.”

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International child custody


Moving overseas with a child is subject to certain conditions. Don't fall foul of them.

It is becoming increasingly common for couples to marry across borders. International travel is more accessible and over the past decade there has been an influx of immigration into South Africa, resulting in more marriages between partners of different nationalities. Inevitably, some of these marriages will end in divorce. Equally predictably, some parents will want to return to their country of birth with the children of the marriage…in other words they will seek international child custody.

In this post we will look at 1) how you can do that legally and 2) what to do if the other parent has removed your child to another country without your consent.


South African law does not explicitly govern international child custody, and relocation with children post-divorce. All matters concerning children are legislated by the Children’s Act 2005. This progressive piece of legislation takes the focus away from the rights of the parents and places the child at the heart of all decisions. “In all matters concerning the care, protection and well-being of a child the standard that the child’s best interest is of paramount importance must be applied” (Section 9). The Children’s Act does not directly mention the relocation of one parent or the other, nor does it legislate consent procedures. However, Section 18 stipulates that consent of both parents is needed if one or other wants to emigrate with the child(ren).

The wellbeing of the child extends beyond simple contact with each parent. In some cases the move might be in the child’s best interests. For example, if one parent has an employment opportunity overseas that will significantly enhance the quality of life or environment the child experiences, that situation may be considered as good for the child as remaining near the non-custodial parent. South African law has tended to decide international child custody matters on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, the views of the children will be considered, though not necessarily accommodated.

While relocating with a child is not as difficult as you might think, it is still a situation that needs to be handled carefully and with due consideration for the law. Failure to follow the correct procedures could have unwelcome consequences down the line. Furthermore, once a child is settled in an environment, even a foreign one, courts are usually reluctant to disrupt the child’s wellbeing by reversing an earlier decision. So if you are considering moving abroad with your child, or if your child’s other parent is relocating with your consent, it is a good idea to take legal advice regarding international child custody. Cape Town family law firm SD Law will ensure your conduct complies with the Children’s Act, in letter and in spirit. We will look after the interests of the child while at the same time respecting your wishes and those of the other parent.


International child abduction is a much more serious matter and is increasingly common globally, as air travel becomes more affordable. The abducting parent may not think of themselves as such or even realise that their behaviour is classed as abduction.

International child abduction is monitored (note – not governed; it is not a piece of legislation) by the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Hague Convention”). The Hague Convention is an international treaty designed to prevent the removal of a child from their home jurisdiction by a parent (or other caregiver) without the consent of the other parent. It also aims to return a child thus illegally removed to their home country. South Africa has been a signatory to the Hague Convention since 1 October 1997 (ratified in 1996).

The Hague Convention defines the removal of a child as improper if it breaches the custody right of anyone based on the laws of the nation where the child was resident prior to their removal. Where two parents have shared (equal) care of a child (i.e. custody), both parents must give consent for a child to be removed, as also required by Section 18 of the Children’s Act. When there is a dispute about a child’s care between countries that are both signatories of the Hague Convention, the courts of the destination country are responsible for returning the child, if appropriate, i.e. unless there is a risk of a human rights violation such as female genital mutilation, and as quickly as possible. Under the Hague Convention, the return should be effected within six weeks.


Unfortunately, only South Africa, Mauritius and Zambia are signatories to the Hague Convention on the African continent. This can make the return of the child more complex, and naturally many  marriages in South Africa are between nationals of African countries. Therefore the Hague Convention does not apply. The Convention only applies to wrongful removals that occur after the treaty comes into effect between two countries.

The return of a child, whether from a Hague Convention signatory country or other, is a matter for the Central Authority in South Africa (the Family Advocate’s Office). You can approach the Central Authority on your own behalf, but it is strongly advised to use the services of capable family law attorneys to lodge an application to court. The Central Authority can be overwhelmed with child abduction applications and a good divorce lawyer, with deep knowledge of child law, can navigate the pathway more expediently than a private individual. The Central Authority will oversee the process. Your legal representative will seek to:

  • Discover the location of the child
  • Secure the voluntary return of the child if possible, or initiate legal proceedings


With luck, and in most cases, the Central Authority and/or your divorce attorney will be able to locate your child and negotiate their return without involving foreign courts. However, if the matter does go to court, there are factors beyond legislation to bear in mind. Has your child been taken to a jurisdiction where cultural or religious beliefs are different to ours? Some countries have a tendency to grant sole custody to mothers. Others may lean toward awarding care to fathers. If a girl child is promised in marriage at a young age, traditional cultures may defend this practice and resist returning the child to the home country. While you can’t change entrenched beliefs in another jurisdiction, the more you are aware of the issues that may impact your case and the better prepared your legal advisers, the greater your chances of success.


In order to begin the proceedings,  for international child custody, that will hopefully result in the return of your child, you need:

  • Completed questionnaire in English
  • Recent photographs of the child and the parent who abducted them
  • Certified copies of birth certificates
  • Proof of parental rights, such as court orders concerning care and contact (custody and access) and/or guardianship
  • Certified copy of marriage certificate, if relevant
  • Last known details of the child and the abducting parent’s possible location
  • Sworn translations in English of all relevant documentation in other languages (e.g. marriage certificates)


At Cape Town family lawyers, we know that being separated from your child is traumatic for you and them. We will work tirelessly to effect a speedy reunion with as little distress for all parties as possible.

If you are relocating with the full consent of the other parent, we will help you revise your parenting plan to reflect the changed circumstances and protect the rights and interests of the child and both parents. Excellent legal advice regarding international child custody will ensure the best outcome in either scenario.

Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email to discuss your case in confidence.

Further reading:

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