New Magistrates Court Act change makes it easier for South Africans to divorce

New Magistrates Court Act change makes it easier for South Africans to divorce

South Africa will be getting more regional courts to adjudicate civil disputes in December. This increase will make it easier for people to get divorced.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola announced that changes to the Magistrates Court Act will take effect from December 1, 2020. Every regional court has been appointed as a place for the holding of a civil court.

Until recently, regional courts were reserved for more serious criminal offenses and civil disputes, like divorce matters. This change will make it easier for people to access civil law services closer to where they live.

“Up until the end of November only a few of the regional courts could hear civil matters,” said the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services on Tuesday, December 1. “Prior to this change being made, people often had to travel long distances, and at great expense, to litigate and be able to access civil law services offered by the regional courts, including having their applications for divorce heard.”

More seats have been appointed, making it easier for people to take divorce matters and civil disputes to court nearer to their homes.

“Many of the seats are in the historically Black areas and rural villages. As an example, in the former Transkei area of the Eastern Cape, persons would have had to travel to Mthatha for their divorces to be heard.  With the new changes, they can now go to any of the 25 Regional Courts spread around the region. There are, in total, 72 proclaimed civil regional court seats across the Eastern Cape province,” added the Ministry.

In the Southern Cape, people previously had to travel to George to get divorced. Now, they can travel to Heidelberg, Mossel Bay, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay, Riversdale, Swellendam, Thembalethu or Uniondale to access civil law services.

The Western Cape has 32 seats to serve the population.

“Regional courts are vital to ensure access to justice. Enhancing access to justice means taking the courts closer to the people which, in turn, minimizes costs and inconvenience when matters are to be heard. By establishing these civil seats, we are taking justice to the doorsteps of peoples’ homesteads,” said the Minister.

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