Our expert says:
Family law expert
If a spouse lives overseas, the High Court in South Africa may be approached by way of an application to obtain an edictal citation order. An edictal citation order affords permission to serve divorce documents on a spouse in a foreign country. Edictal citation is a procedure according to which a legal document such as a divorce summons is served by a sheriff (in some countries known as a “service processor”) in a different country. In today’s society people move all over the world for various reasons and very often the country in which a person gets married is not necessarily the country in which they get divorced. Often a newly married couple will get married in South Africa, move overseas, only then to discover that their relationship is not working out, and one of them then moves back to South Africa.
If you want to have a divorce summons served overseas you will first have to convince the court by means of an affidavit that there is no other way to have the divorce summons served, and in that affidavit annex full details of the sheriff to use to serve the summons in the foreign country.
Edictal citation is an expensive procedure to get divorced, as instead of paying R100 to R200 to the sheriff in South Africa, a party may have to pay R3000 to a sheriff in London (±£200 - ±£300). It is also quite a lengthy procedure and process as it involves communicating with people in a foreign country, as well as the posting of documents overseas.
After serving of the summons in a foreign country, a spouse will have a month to defend the action. If he or she ignores the summons or, if he or she defends it, after reaching settlement of the financial terms, the attorney acting on your behalf will enrol the matter for a date that has been pre-arranged with the Registrar of the High Court.
Answered by Bertus Preller
Family Law Attorney
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