How to find a divorce lawyer in Cape Town, South Africa

Death in the middle of a divorce

It happens from time to time that one spouse passes away during the course of a divorce case. This may be as a result of ill-health or suicide or other forms of unnatural causes of death. Due to the huge pressure a spouse experiences in a divorce matter, he or she is not always able to deal with the stress.

I have in all honesty encountered a few situations where people in a divorce case have committed suicide. In one of my cases I was acting on behalf of the female, and we served a divorce summons on her husband. She did advise me when she came to consult me that her husband was unstable and suffered from depression. She furthermore believed that he was having an affair, and one day she followed him to a hotel and saw him entering the hotel with his lover. She confronted both of them at the hotel, and there was an argument.

In the abovementioned case my client advised me after the summons had been served on her husband that he was aggressive and had been threatening her with a gun. Just a few days after my telephonic conversation with her she phoned me and advised me that her husband had committed suicide. This was most unfortunate.

In another one of my cases a client, also a female, instructed me to serve a summons on her husband. After I had drafted the summons, and just before it was to be served, she also phoned me and said that her husband had committed suicide. She instructed me not to proceed with the divorce.

In the abovementioned cases the deceased spouse’s assets would go to his or her heirs in terms of his or her Will, if he or she has a Will. If the deceased spouse was married in community of property to the surviving spouse then the half share of the joint estate would go to the deceased spouse’s heirs. In the abovementioned two cases the parties were married in community of property.

Another case which made headline news in the Cape Town High Court recently was that involving Mr. Stuart Ireland, a perfume tycoon and owner of Prestige Cosmetics – the sole South African distributor of luxury fragrance brands including Dior, Chanel, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Ireland died of a brain haemorrhage at a girlfriend’s house during the course of his divorce trial.

In the abovementioned case, a few days prior to Ireland’s death the Cape High Court had granted him ownership of 24 of the 125 movable assets which were in dispute in the trial. Some of these items were a model airplane and chess set. The dog Jack had been awarded to his wife, much to his dismay. The value of Prestige Cosmetics was over R70 million.

The court found in the abovementioned case that after Ireland’s creditors were paid, the remaining money in the estate would be divided as per the agreement that Ireland and his wife had signed after getting married, and between beneficiaries of his Will.

Divorce is a very emotional procedure and deaths in divorce do sometimes occur. It is important to have a medical check-up if you feel that your health is suffering during the divorce, or to seek counselling to deal with the stress of the divorce.


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