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

Service of the divorce Summons



A divorce summons is different from another type of summons, as it must be served personally on the Defendant i.e. the Sheriff must give the summons to the Defendant in his or her hands. Other types of summonses the sheriff can affix to the front door of a residence or place of employment of a person, but because the divorce summons involves potentially the change of a person’s status the court makes sure that that person definitely has received the summons.

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There are different sheriffs throughout the Western Cape, and some areas in fact have two/three sheriff’s offices. Wynberg has a sheriff for Wynberg South, North, and East, and Mitchells Plain has the sheriff for Mitchells Plain North and South. These areas I would say cover the greatest jurisdiction in the Western Cape. The attorney must make sure before sending the summons to the sheriff that the address on the summons falls within the jurisdiction of that sheriff. For example, a summons that must be served in Bothasig would fall under the Goodwood sheriff, and if the summons is sent to the Bellville sheriff by mistake, they would merely send it back to the attorneys, and even charge for handling the document.

Most Attorneys these days use a postal service by the name of “docex” to post the summons to the sheriff. This postal service is a lot quicker than normal post, and can take one or two days before arriving at the offices of the sheriff. It is also safer to post the summons by “docex”, as a tracking sticker is placed on the envelope, and it is easy to track down a lost document. The sheriff must however also be registered with docex, and some sheriffs are not e.g. the Strand sheriff.

When two clients come to my offices and are in agreement with the terms of the divorce, I normally take them to the Cape Town Sheriff in Barrack Street, to have the summons served on the Defendant. In such a case when the Defendant attends at the offices of the sheriff, the sheriff is authorised to serve the summons no matter where the person resides. This also saves the client a bit of money, as this would cost approximately R60 as opposed to approximately R150 when the sheriff has to drive to a person’s place of residence or place of employment.

Once the sheriff has served the summons, a sheriff’s return of service is typed out and stapled to the original summons. This return of service is posted by the sheriff either directing to the relevant court or to the attorney. It is essential that this document is in the court file before the divorce will be granted.

The actual service of a divorce summons is a very important part of the whole divorce procedure. The attorney should provide the sheriff with all contact details of the Defendant, and maybe even a photograph of the Defendant if you feel that he/she may attempt to obstruct the sheriff from serving the summons.

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