South Africans that get married or divorced must have these proceedings registered at Home Affairs. Once registered with the DHA, the unabridged marriage certificate or divorce decree can be used for an array of legal processes. However, failing to get your marriage or divorce registered at Home Affairs can lead to legal issues.
The implications of not registering your marriage or divorce with the DHA
The registration of a marriage or divorce is particularly important since it makes it easier to obtain maintenance, claim rights to the assets of a deceased spouse, prove rights to a deceased estate, and for wives to enforce their property rights if their husbands take other wives in the case of customary marriages.
Section 4(9) of The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998, states that customary marriages are not deemed invalid if they aren’t registered, but unregistered marriages make it difficult to prove a marriage exists without de facto proof, which is a marriage certificate.
What is a divorce decree, and why do I need one?
A Decree of Divorce is essentially a summary of your divorce settlement. It proves that your divorce was finalised in a South African High Court. This certificate is the front page of your divorce settlement, stamped and signed by the High Court where the decree was issued. Sometimes, this is called a decree absolute or final divorce order.
Obtaining a copy of your divorce decree is complicated if you misplaced the original document. Divorce decrees are also not obtainable online since applications for copies of these documents must be made at the High Court.
To quickly obtain a copy of your divorce decree, you must have details on when and where the divorce was finalised. While it is true that we have helped clients that did not have information on their case number, exact date, and court where the divorce was finalised, the process becomes exceptionally lengthy and pricey without these vital pieces of information. Although a few High Courts in South Africa have very well organised archives, not all of them do, making the retrieval of your documents much harder without basic details.
Furthermore, for those divorces that took place long ago (usually prior to 2000), the physical paper files have been archived in off-site storage, making it very challenging to obtain the documentation. It requires two applications and a much longer wait.
How can I get a copy of my divorce decree?
Apostil.co.za can assist 80-90% of all our clients with obtaining copies of their divorce decrees. This is because we work with all 14 High Courts of South Africa.
To obtain a copy of this document on your behalf, you must supply us with as much information as possible. The more information we have, the faster we can retrieve your file from the archives.
In order for us to help you obtain your decree of divorce, we need the following information:
- Divorce case number
- Court where the divorce was finalised (mandatory – information required)
- Date (day, month, and year) of the divorce
- Names and ID numbers of the plaintiff and defendant (you and your ex-spouse)
Once your file has been retrieved from the archives, a copy of the official document is made. The copy is also stamped by the High Court. If you plan to use the document in a member country of the Hague Convention, the document can also be apostilled for legal use abroad.
Registering your marriage and ensuring its validity in South Africa
In order to legally get married in SA, your marriage needs to adhere to the following rules:
- An authorised marriage officer must formalise the ceremony.
- At least two witnesses must be present.
- Marriages and civil unions must take place in a church or public office or house with open doors.
- If a foreign national is marrying a South African citizen, valid passports for both partners and a completed BI-31 Form (Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage, Letter of No Impediment) must be presented.
- If any persons getting married are divorced, the final decree of divorce must also be furnished.
The persons getting married, along with two eligible witnesses and the marriage officer, will sign the marriage register on the day of the ceremony. The marriage officer is responsible for submitting the signed log to the National Population Register. This ensures that the marriage is recorded and registered in South Africa.
After the DHA registers the marriage, an unbridged marriage certificate can be issued, but this is not always so. For assistance in this regard, refer to our page on Civic Certificates.
Need help getting your marriage or divorce registered at Home Affairs?
Here at Apostil.co.za, we can assist you with registering your marriage or divorce in South Africa. Even if you are outside of the country. Many people wait months to have their marriage or divorce registered and, in the meanwhile, cannot continue with their lives, be it for changing surnames and documentation or applying for visas.
Our service includes doing everything on your behalf (completing the relevant forms, travel, queueing, application forms, submitting, and much, much more).
We can also help get your marriage registered in the shortest time possible so you can apply for other vital documents, such as unabridged marriage certificates. Our team of experts is ready to help you with all your legal document requirements, so feel free to get in touch with us today!