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Medical Certificates and postponement

Postponements of divorce cases are often argued over in courts. A party may want a postponement for various different reasons. He / She may not have had time to instruct an attorney. They may not be able to attend court for work reasons, or because they are in a different province.

A common ground for asking for a postponement is for medical reasons. If you are medically unfit to attend court, the court would usually allow a postponement. You would however need to prove with a valid medical certificate that you are not able to attend court.

Medical certificates are very often challenged by attorneys in court. If they are not signed properly they won't be seen as valid. They must be signed by a registered medical practitioner. If there are a few doctors who all work together, the certificate must clearly state who the relevant doctor was who signed the certificate.

It is important that the certificate clearly states that the patient is unable to attend court on that day of the hearing. If it does not state that, the point can be taken by the attorney arguing against the postponement that the certificate is invalid.

It quite often happens during a divorce case that a person starts suffering from some sort of depression and argues in court that they are not emotionally able to attend court. In such a case the court would allow the postponement if the medical certificate clearly identifies and explains the grounds of the depression.

Clients often blame their attorney when a matter is postponed, sometimes a few times. The reality of the matter however is that both parties are entitled to be heard. A person is entitled to argue for a postponement. However at the same time it is everybody's right constitutionally to a fair trial.

The courts usually only allow a matter to be postponed a few times at the most if there are valid grounds for the postponement. Nobody can force another person to stay married to them if they don't want to. Everybody is entitled to a speedy trial.

An application to postpone would usually be opposed and the opposing attorney would usually ask for costs if the postponement is allowed. The attorney opposing the application would start off by arguing that the prejudice suffered by his client if a postponement were allowed would not even be remedied by a cost order in his client's favour.

Medical certificates as a ground for postponement come up often. If you are medically ill you should make sure that the medical certificate is properly worded and that it would be accepted in court. If the medical certificate is incomplete or defective a court won't allow a postponement.

This article was written by Cape Town divorce lawyer, Peter M Baker

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