For quite a few years now the Cape Town Southern Divorce Court has had jurisdiction to hear all divorce matters no matter where the parties resided throughout the Western Cape. A client from Bellville or Goodwood or even Camps Bay or any other area could approach you for a divorce, and the Attorney could institute action out of the Cape Town Southern Divorce Court.
However as of 1 October 2010, the jurisdiction of the Cape Town Southern Divorce Court has been limited only to certain areas in Cape Town, such as Milnerton, Cape Town Central area, Woodstock and other areas. A client who resides in Bellville for example can no longer institute action out of the Southern divorce court in Cape Town, but would have to go to Bellville court to do so.
Clients, who reside in the Goodwood area, would have to go to the Goodwood court to institute a divorce action. The Goodwood court would cover areas such as Edgemead, Thornton, Monte Vista, Elsies River and so forth. The diagram below illustrates what areas fall with in the jurisdiction of the Cape Town southern divorce court, and which areas fall within the jurisdiction of the Goodwood court.
Areas such as Mitchells Plain would cover a great amount of divorce matters in the Mitchell’s plain court. Mitchells Plain is one of the largest areas in Cape Town, and I foresee this court being quite busy with divorces. The Bellville courts should also in my opinion cover a great amount of divorces.
The southern divorce court in Cape Town has been at 90 Plein Street over the last few years. Prior to that, this court was in a different building at the offices of the Cape Town magistrate’s court. As of 1 October 2010 the Southern divorce court also has a new name. It is referred to now as Regional court for the regional division of the Western Cape held at Cape Town.
I predict that Wynberg should also deal with quite a few divorces in the future, because just like Mitchells Plain it covers quite a few suburbs. Oudtshoorn, Atlantis, George, Worcester and Somerset West are also areas where divorces will be heard at Regional Court level.
One must not however forget that the option is still open to clients and attorneys to institute a divorce action out of Cape Town high court. Quite a few attorneys practise in the centre of Cape Town, and it would be easier for some attorneys to institute action out of high court, rather than having to travel to areas such as Bellville or Goodwood to issue a summons or serve other documentation. This may well lead to an overcrowding of divorce cases being heard at the Cape Town high court.
All in all, I think that it is only fair that different courts can hear divorces now. This is clearly in the public’s interest, and it will be a lot easier to get divorced. A client from Bellville would no longer have to travel to Cape Town to get divorced, but would only need to go to the Bellville court. There was a huge overcrowding of cases at the southern divorce court, and spreading the divorces to other courts would alleviate the work load of the staff members at the Southern Divorce Court.
written by Cape Town lawyer, Peter M Baker