It’s complex, interesting, and often emotional for those family members and affiliates involved.
Family law is the area of law dealing with South Africa’s legal rules that pertain to relationships (content, origin and dissolution) between family members:
- Husbands and wives (including civil union parties)
- Other holders of parental responsibilities and rights and their children
- Relative related through affinity and blood
There are various categories including:
- Matrimonial property law
- Laws of engagement
- The law of civil unions and matrimonial law
- Law of parenting
- The law of divorce
Some of the common issues professional family lawyers deal with in court:
- Maintenance and access issues between guardians and children (District Court)
- Divorce proceedings (Circuit Court)
- Judicial Separation proceedings (Circuit Court)
- Orders of Pension Adjustment
- Drafting of a Deeds of Separation
- Nullity Proceedings
How can I find professional advice on family law?
In South Africa, free legal advice is available through The Family Law Clinic, a non-profit organisation that offers free legal advice for all family law matters, particularly for impoverished communities. The clinics deal with family law issues such as:
- Marital conflict
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
- Abuse of the elderly
- Maintenance issues
- As well as any other issues of family conflict.
To contact a Family Law Clinic, you can email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 851 5504. The organisation also has an informative website that can provide much of the information you may need: www.familylawclinic.org.za/.
If you can afford your own attorney, you can visit a private attorney who specialises in family law. Some even specialise in a particular aspect of family law, such as divorce lawyers or adoption lawyers. One the of the best ways to seek out a family lawyer is through word of mouth, but a simple Google search can also help you find a list of family lawyers in your area.
What skills should I look for in a family lawyer?
The subject matter of family law is usually stressful and complex for the client to deal with, so it is important that lawyers specialising in family law have certain traits and attributes. To practice in the area if family law, attorneys need to be able to act is negotiators and litigators. Other skills a good family lawyer should have include:
- Time management skills
- Being both practical and understanding and empathetic
- Well-developed counselling skills (to help deal with people going through emotional times in their lives).
- A basic understanding of financial matters and accounting (to be able to advise clients and present this kind of information to the court).
- Excellent oral communication
- Good people skills (as you are always in contact with various people)
What should I bring with to a consultation?
Depending on the matter that needs resolving, the lawyer will require different documentation and supporting documentation. You can call ahead to ask what you should bring.
Some common information includes:
- Your marriage certificate if you are married
- Details of your children’s education date of birth, and other relevant information.
- Details of your income and expenditure as a family and as an individual.
For any legal matters affecting your domestic and family life, don’t hesitate to enlist legal help. The longer you leave a problem, the worse it can get. Fortunately there are a number of family law professionals in South Africa who will be able to help you deal with the legalities of your circumstances.