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Divorce finances: It takes five years to recover financially after a divorce

This article from iol.co.za about divorce finances illustrates the importance of considering your marital regime carefully and protecting your assets with an antenuptial (or postnuptial) contract.

Emotions — and expenses — often run high during a divorce, but people and their bank accounts can bounce back given enough time. A new study from Fidelity Investments shows that by five years after a divorce, most people feel recovered from the psychological and financial blows.

Don't let divorce bring financial ruin. An antenuptial or postnuptial contract can protect both of you.

You can speed your recovery by taking smart preventative measures, learning from the cautionary tales of those who have gone before.

Another big woe is not being involved in long-term planning and retirement investment, of particular concern for women. While more than 80% of men and women reported being involved in daily finances, only 60% of women said they were involved in long-range planning.

“It’s a learning opportunity. People don’t make the same mistake twice,” said Meredith Stoddard, life events experience lead at Fidelity.

So what can you do now to protect your future self – which works not just for divorce but also if you end up widowed, or simply want a more financially equal marriage?

Here are three tips:

1. Pay attention and get involved

“Knowledge is power, and you should have it from the beginning,” said Emily Pollock, a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres, specialising in matrimonial and family law.

Both spouses need to know basic things about family finances, no matter who handles bills or long-term investing. That means looking over tax returns, knowing about the bank accounts, keeping tabs on everyone’s retirement balance and making joint decisions about big financial moves like buying a house.

Fidelity has a document checklist to help you know what to look for, piece by piece, Stoddard said.

2. Communicate

Talking about money is hard for a lot of people, but if you do not do it, you can get in some bad jams. Fidelity’s study found that 14% of respondents reported the divorce uncovered debt they did not know about, and 10% found hidden assets. This was particularly prevalent among women who had been married for more than 21 years.

“Make sure you have transparency,” Stoddard said. “Chip away at it. Use the resources available. Build a strong support network. It is less overwhelming.”

3. Get a pre- or post-nup

A prenuptial agreement (Antenuptial Contract) where you spell out all that you have and set up a plan for the future split of everything, should there be one, is the most protection you can get for yourself, said Carole Bass, a trusts and estates partner at Moses & Singer.

But even then, people do not pay as much attention to what it says as they should, and there are a lot of unknowns, Bass added.

Sometimes people inherit money during the course of the marriage, or sell a business, and do not pay proper attention to the way the assets are co-mingled with shared money.

Antenuptial contracts, made after a marriage takes place, can solve some of these issues as they arise. Some people employ trusts as well, to keep assets separate. But more issues may crop up as you go.

“Nobody wants to think about marriage like it is a business relationship, but it is,” Bass said. “You should start this out as far as possible, and then it’s easier to have a clear head.”

Reprinted from iol.co.za/Reuters with thanks – 2020-01-15

Seek expert advice

A good divorce lawyer doesn’t only deal with divorce. SD Law & Associates are divorce lawyers with vast experience in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, as well as divorce finances. We can draft an antenuptial agreement for you if you are planning to get married. If you are already married but want to change your marital regime via a postnup, we can also assist with that. Give Simon a call now on on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Further reading:

Post-divorce financial planning

Antenuptial contracts – the accrual system

Three surprising ways divorce can affect your will

Will a post-nup make your marriage stronger?

Posted in Antenuptial Contract, Divorce, Divorce finances, postnuptial contract, Prenuptial | Comments Off on Divorce finances: It takes five years to recover financially after a divorce

Three surprising ways divorce can affect your will

Did you know that January 6 was World Divorce Day?

Going through a divorce? Remember to update your will as well.

When you are going through a divorce and feeling emotionally fragile, it’s hard enough to focus on the practical aspects of child care and division of assets. Your will might be the furthest thing from your mind. However, as this article from the Phoenix Sun illustrates, it’s vitally important to update your will within three months. Read on…

It’s a New Year, and a new you.  This year, nearly one in five married South Africans will make the decision to start afresh and get a divorce. As you put your life back together after a relationship split, don’t get distracted from updating your will to reflect your new status.

Update your will within three months or you may as well still be married to your ex:

The emotional roller-coaster of divorce can take its toll.  The South African courts understand it takes time to get over a divorce, which is why the legal system gives you three months to update your will after you officially get divorced. If you pass away during this time, your ex may not have a claim on your estate.

But if three months lapses without you having updated your will, the courts will consider the wishes of the original will, if your ex was named, they will still benefit.

“That’s problematic if you don’t want your house, your car or your favourite piece of family jewellery to go to your ex,” said Alex Simeonides, the CEO of an Umhlanga-based financial consultant agency. Rather review your will to make sure it reflects the changes in your personal life, he noted.

Your will should reflect your new wishes:

It’s hard to believe that you can feel so differently about the person you once shared your life with.   Reaching a divorce agreement through the courts can be a difficult process that determines how your assets will be divided as well as child custody and visitation arrangements and whether either spouse pays alimony or financial support to the other.

While your will can’t change a divorce settlement agreement, it can ensure the orderly management of your wealth when you aren’t around to exercise personal control. “For instance, your ex-spouse could still have a claim on your children’s inheritance but with a proper estate plan, you can account for the cost of maintenance obligations and protect your children’s inheritance through a trust. This can be accommodated through reviewing and updating your will,” stated Simeonides.

Moving on: 

Right now, you may just want to put the past behind you and move on with your life. Should you decide to remarry, you’ll need to update your will to make sure your new family, as well as your children from a former marriage, are taken care of should you pass away. “Failing to update your will after a divorce may mean that your former spouse gets everything once you’ve passed on, to the disadvantage of your new partner. You can make special bequests in your updated will to meet your financial responsibilities to your former spouse, without impacting your new family,” added Simeonides. That will give you the space to move forward, positively.

Looking ahead:

The process of updating and reviewing your will need not be time consuming, complex or costly and should be done every time you have a life changing event – a birth, marriage, purchase or sale of a property and of course, divorce.

Updating it every three to five years is essential to ensure your will remains current and reflects your wishes and financial circumstances. Put that on your 2020 to-do list as you embrace all the new year has to offer.

Reprinted from the Phoenix Sun 2020-01-14 with thanks.

Let Cape Town Divorce Lawyers help

A good divorce lawyers will include this in the package of support you receive, but it’s wise to put it on your own to-do list so you remember. If you don’t have a will, now is the time to draw one up. It is the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out after your death, which hopefully will be a long time in the future. Because life changes, wills need to be updated from time to time to reflect changed circumstances, such as divorce. For more information, Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in confidence.

Further reading:

Posted in Choosing a divorce attorney, Divorce, Divorce finances, Wills | Comments Off on Three surprising ways divorce can affect your will

How to report abuse – you don’t have to go on record before you are ready

But you can still document the evidence to use later

Report abuse to your doctor and you will have evidence when you are ready to open a case.

If you have suffered sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, or any other type of physical abuse, reporting it can be as traumatic as the experience itself. As the Netflix drama/documentary “Unbelievable” shows, women are not always believed when reporting rape to the authorities. It takes a great deal of courage to discuss events that are extremely intimate and brutal with a total stranger. According to Wikipedia, only one in nine rapes in South Africa is reported. However, this is a meaningless statistic because it is impossible to know how many rapes – or any other crime for that matter – are NOT reported. It is an estimation, but it suggests that many rapes and sexual assaults go unreported, which means that the perpetrators are never charged with the offence, let alone convicted.

If you’re not ready to go to the police, you can still “report” the abuse

There’s a piece of information making the rounds on social media, and we think it is important enough to repeat here. We’ve added some key points. The trouble with failing to report a rape or other assault at the time is that evidence is lost. And without evidence, a report at a later date will have very little chance of leading to a prosecution. However, you can visit your doctor and have the incident documented on your medical records in complete confidence. Your doctor will treat your injuries, take photos, and record the incident in your file. When you are ready, at any time in the future, you can access your file as evidence.

It’s also strongly advisable to seek medical attention for your own wellbeing. The standard of care post-assault includes post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (known as “PEP” – a course of antiretrovirals that prevent you contracting HIV if you have been exposed; you must start PEP within 72 hours and preferably 24); antibiotics (to treat any sexual transmitted infections) and emergency contraception. The doctor will also examine you and treat any tissue damage. Contrary to what some people may tell you, you DO NOT have to report a rape to the police to be able to access PEP.

Your doctor may encourage you to go to the police, but she will not report the incident for you. You are safe from intervention until you are ready. Many women are scared that if they report abuse to anyone before they feel ready to do anything about it they will be “shopped” to the authorities. This is particularly true when the woman has children. But this is not the case. Your doctor will, however, ensure you have all the evidence you need to bring the case in your own time.

You can also talk to your lawyer or a friend

You can also ask an attorney to log your details – date, time, name of perpetrator, etc. They can photograph any bruising or cuts you may have and date stamp the photos. We at Cape Town Divorce Attorneys will provide this service on a pro bono basis and open a file for you to access when you are ready. If you prefer, a close friend can save photos and any other evidence, such as threatening text or voice messages from the perpetrator.

However, we would still advise you to seek medical attention, as a lawyer or friend cannot treat your injuries or provide you with PEP.

It’s your right to choose, and we will support you

While no one should be allowed to get away with abusive behaviour or rape, it is your choice how and when you report it. We encourage you to do so, but will never try to persuade you to open a case before you are ready. If you take the steps outlined in this article you will have the evidence you need when you feel strong enough to file your report. And we will support you fully in that process. We can also help you get a protection order against your abuser, to keep you and your children (if appropriate) safe in future.  Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in complete confidence.

Further reading:

Posted in Abusive Behaviour, Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence | Comments Off on How to report abuse – you don’t have to go on record before you are ready

Child abduction – what if your child has been taken away without your permission?

The Children’s Act allows children to be relocated after divorce – but only with consent

It’s every parent’s nightmare – your child goes on holiday with the other parent and doesn’t come back. This is child abduction – what should you do?

The festive season is meant to be a time of celebration, cheer, and relaxation. But for divorced families it can be a stressful time. There may be conflict over the division of time between parents, and competition in terms of present-giving. One or other parent may opt to take the child or children away on holiday, either to another South African province or overseas, in accordance with the parenting plan or as a requested exception to it. What happens if they don’t come back? If one parent removes a child without the other parent’s consent, it is considered child abduction, even if the parents have shared custody (care and contact).

We’ve written before about relocating with children post-divorce, but what if your child fails to return home at the arranged time, and you suspect your ex-spouse of abducting your child? What can you do about it? The answer will depend on where they have gone.

Child abduction to another South African province

Your ex-spouse comes from another province in South Africa, and after the divorce feels lonely and isolated in the city where you lived together. They go on holiday to visit family, and don’t return home, either due to prior intent or spontaneous decision. While this desire is understandable, it is not lawful. The Children’s Act 2005 does not specifically deal with relocation, but stresses the interests of the children. In case law, relocating with children requires the consent of both parents. The judge will not usually prohibit a parent from relocating, providing the move does not compromise the interests of the child, and, in fact, a parent seeking to refuse consent must give a good reason for such refusal. Mobility is accepted as a fact of life, and the law does not deny someone the opportunity to advance one’s career or otherwise move on in life through relocation, as long as reasonable arrangements are made for contact with the non-custodial parent.

If permitted relocation is so easy, why would anyone choose to act unlawfully? The answer is that human beings do not always behave rationally, especially where their children are concerned. There may be other factors at play, such as a threat of violence or intimidation or a fear that the other parent will abduct the child. In this case the abduction may be seen as a means of protecting the child.

If you believe your child has been abducted, the court will consider several factors: the legal status of the other parent; any court orders you may have regarding care and contact of the child; and the intent of the offending parent. While due process should have been followed, the court may not automatically order the return of the child. You may need to make application to the court, and the court will consider matters such as the environment the child will live in, the child’s needs, the motivation of the relocating parent, and in some cases the wishes of the child.

International child abduction

If your child has been taken overseas without your consent, or has gone on holiday with your permission but has not returned, the situation is clearer from a legal perspective. International child abduction is governed by the Hague Convention, to which South Africa is a signatory. According to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, “the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.” South Africa ratified the Convention in 1996 and it came into effect in 1997. It has been incorporated into the Children’s Act.

If you suspect your child has been abducted internationally, there is a defined process to follow:

  • You make an application to the Hague Convention. This will be heard in the High Court and must be approved by the Family Advocate, although your own family lawyer may also represent you. NB the child must be under the age of 16.
  • If both countries involved (i.e. the child’s original residence and the destination country) are members of the Hague Convention, the member countries must cooperate in finding the child.
  • Speed is of the essence. Cases are usually completed within six weeks but a case can be brought up to a year after a child has been abducted. The faster you act, the greater the chance of finding the child.
  • Each member country has a central authority responsible for tracing the child and securing their safe return. In South Africa the central authority is the Chief Family Advocate.
  • You must provide evidence to the High Court that the child was wrongfully removed. Proof might include your original letter of consent for the holiday, with dates; a copy of your parenting plan, describing holiday arrangements; and/or a copy of the return air ticket.

Countries not members of the Hague Convention

Unfortunately, most countries in Africa are not signatories to the Hague Convention, and another African country may well be the destination of your ex-partner and child. If your child has been removed to a non-signatory state, you will need to obtain an order through normal civil procedures declaring the abduction of the child unlawful and in breach of your parental rights. You then have to obtain a mirror order in the foreign country. There is no designated central authority outside of Hague Convention member states. Unfortunately, this may be time-consuming and is likely to be an expensive process. You will need the assistance of experienced family law attorneys.

Caring for your child on their return

However loving the relationship between your child and the parent who has taken them away, the series of events leading up to their return will inevitably be traumatic for your child. They may resent you for bringing them back from an “adventure”. Or they may be happy to be home in their own bed, but suffer stress from the upheaval and emotional disturbance. The other parent may have tried to alienate the child from you. It is important that you listen to the child and allow them to recover in their own time. They may need to grieve what they see as a loss, or come to terms with a new reality – the other parent is an abductor. Counselling can help.

We’re here to help

At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we’ve helped many parents navigate the difficult scenario of post-divorce relocation. We can help you negotiate changes to your parenting plan, if you need to relocate to another province or country. If your child has been abducted, we will support you in lodging a case with the central authority (Family Advocate) in South Africa or in seeking an order in a non-member state. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in confidence.

Further reading:

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Child care and contact during the holidays…and don’t forget Santa

The festive season can be a difficult time for co-parenting families

Whether you are newly divorced or you’ve been divorced for some time, child care and contact during the festive season is often difficult for co-parents. It doesn’t matter if you practise Christianity, another faith, or none, Christmas is a special day in our calendar, especially for children. It is a day for families to come together, share food and cheer, and take a break from routine. Here in South Africa the festive season often means travel, as it is the main holiday period of the year for most people.

Don’t let child care & contact over the festive season turn into the nightmare before Christmas. Negotiate with your ex, & always put your child first

How do you navigate the challenges of shared care and contact at this time of year? You both want to spend Christmas with your child(ren), but unless you have an unusually amicable post-divorce relationship, this is unrealistic, particularly if either or both of you have new partners and possibly step-children.

First port of call – the parenting plan

Hopefully you have a parenting plan. Even in uncontested, conflict-free divorces, a parenting plan is a worthwhile tool. In it you lay out arrangements such as shared care (how much time the child spends at each parent’s home), school pick-ups, emergency procedures and…holidays. As school holidays are always a fraught time for co-parents, these should be carefully considered when drawing up the parenting plan. The festive season is the most emotionally charged holiday on the calendar, so it deserves special attention.

If you did not develop a parenting plan at the time of divorce, or if it was vague, you can revise the plan. Many parents include a review date in the parenting plan that ensures they will revisit the plan at intervals to keep it relevant to changing circumstances. Your divorce lawyer can help you amend the plan when necessary.

Peace on earth and goodwill to…children

Whatever is in the parenting plan, disputes may arise. Your parenting plan may stipulate that the children will spend Christmas with each parent on alternate years. This is likely to be a more practical solution if you live in different cities or provinces. Or you may split the holiday in two, so that the children spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with one parent and Christmas Day or Boxing Day with the other. 

But one year you have a family member visiting from overseas. You want to negotiate an exception to the agreed schedule and take your children away for the whole Christmas and New Year period. Or you want to visit family abroad. Talk to your ex before mentioning it to your children. It is unfair to raise children’s expectations or to put pressure on them to champion your cause. Raise the matter with your co-parent in good time. They may also have special plans. Be prepared to give something in return – perhaps offer the Easter break as a compromise. And be willing to give them the same concession, should they need it another time. If you honour reasonable requests from your ex, they are more likely to accede to yours. Ultimately, you may need to amend your agreement to include the weeks either side of Christmas, if you both want to take the children away for a summer holiday. 

The festive season should be a time the children enjoy, not a time for them to feel torn between parents. The most important factor in any negotiation is the best interests of the child or children. If taking your child away from their other parent at this emotional time of year is going to cause distress or upset, don’t do it. Your children may be accustomed to dividing their time between parents and may even enjoy it – they get two Christmases! But they may consider each celebration special in its own way and not want to miss out. 

But where will Santa find me?

For very young children, their only concern may be Santa’s ability to find their house, especially if they spend every other Christmas with each parent. If they appear unhappy about the Christmas plans, it’s worth probing to see what the issue is. It may just be this; and you can reassure them that Santa will find them. 

Presents can be problematic too. Hostile parents often use Christmas as a time to “get one up” on the other parent, outdoing them with bigger and better gifts. However tempting, resist doing this. Your child’s love is not for sale and it’s unfair to manipulate them in this way. If you are able to have a civil conversation with your ex-spouse, agree a gift-giving strategy and a reasonable budget. If your child believes in Santa, work out which presents will be from Santa and share that responsibility. 

Don’t forget the grandparents

Often the biggest victims of divorce are not the children but the grandparents. Most parents (unless they suffer from narcissistic personality disorder or other self-obsession) take care to put their children first in the divorce proceeding, and the law ensures this via the Children’s Act. But grandparents and the extended family are often neglected. A child’s relationship with grandparents is very special and should not be overlooked. Even if you and your ex can barely speak to each other, try to allow room in the holiday schedule for your child to spend time with grandparents (and other members of the extended family) – on both sides. When you are already sharing your child and missing out on some of the festive celebrations, it’s understandable that you don’t want to give up any more time. But it takes a village to raise a child – and villages include elders. 

Let Cape Town family lawyer help

Cape Town divorce attorney SD Law is a firm of family lawyers with deep experience of helping couples negotiate the challenges of co-parenting post-divorce. We’ve helped many parents develop workable parenting plans and are known for our high EQ. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in confidence.

Further reading:

Posted in Child Guardianship, Children, Children's Act, Co-Parenting, Custody, Parent Plan, Parenting, Parenting Coordination | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your marriage is over. What you should do in the first 72 hours

However much you are hurting, you must take some practical steps in the first 72 hours when your marriage is over

When a marriage ends, changing your email account is the last thing on your mind. It shouldn’t be. Six things you need to do in the first 72 hours.

We’ve written a lot about divorce with dignity, staying friends with your ex, co-parenting, etc. We are the first to advocate an amicable divorce. It saves everyone – especially children – a lot of pain and heartache. It can save money too. A divorce that goes all the way to the divorce court is an expensive one. But sometimes this ideal is impossible. One party or the other is unreasonable (see Divorcing a Narcissist). Or there is abusive behaviour involved. What happens in the first 72 hours following the end can make a big difference to the final outcome…and possibly to your safety.

The tips in this article apply equally to men and women. In our experience, pain and suffering are gender-neutral, and both sexes have a capacity for vitriol and point-scoring. Hurt can turn even the gentlest of people into revenge-seeking monsters. When your world is falling apart, you have a duty to protect yourself from further turmoil to the best of your ability. If you have children, that obligation is even more onerous. While there are dark days ahead, there are some things you can do to limit the damage caused by the breakdown of your marriage.

A note for women

The advice contained herein applies to men and women and much of it refers to protecting assets. But if you are a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship, some of these tips pertain especially to you, to protect yourself. The nature of gender-based violence is such that men are unlikely to encounter the same risks.

Change the locks

When a marriage breaks down, usually one or other spouse leaves the marital home. Some couples manage to cohabit until they reach an agreement regarding the disposal of the house, but that only happens in an amicable divorce, which is not the subject of this article. Normally one partner either leaves or kicks the other one out, and if there are children, it is usually the mother who stays in the family home.

If you have any reason to worry for your safety, it’s a wise precaution to change the locks. This eliminates the risk of your partner returning unexpectedly and harming you…or abducting the children. If there are personal belongings to be collected, arrange a time during the day – preferably when the children are not there (to avoid them witnessing any conflict) – and ask a friend to join you – or better still, to stand in for you. Even if abuse is not a factor, you don’t want your spouse returning to the marital home and refusing to leave, forcing you to move out or live in an intolerable situation. Changing the locks will protect your autonomy over the residence.

Protection order

If your partner has threatened you or been violent to you in the past, you can apply to the police for a protection order. The protection order prevents the other person from:

  • Committing any specified act of domestic violence/sexual harassment
  • Entering your residence
  • Entering your workplace
  • Having contact with your children, if it is in the best interest of the child

The Domestic Violence Act, 1998 allows you to approach your local Magistrate Court for a protection order if you are a victim of any act of domestic violence. Before you can obtain a protection order, you must apply for an interim protection order. The interim order will state the date when the final order will be considered. The final order is permanent and can only be changed by applying to the courts.

Apply for the interim protection order immediately if you feel at all threatened. If you think of the day your partner leaves as Day Zero, do this on Day One.

Email and web access

This may be the last thing on your mind, but it should be one of the first. Your email account will very likely contain correspondence between you and your lawyer in the days to come. You may discuss your circumstances and your plans with family or friends. It’s very important your now ex-spouse not have access to your email. Even if you weren’t a couple who shared login details, your partner may have discovered your password. Sadly, this often happens when trust in a relationship breaks down. The safest way to ensure your email security is to set up a new address, not merely a new password…but definitely reset the password for the new address. Many people use the same password over and over, which defeats the purpose of setting up the new account. Once your ex finds it, if you haven’t changed the password, they’re in! Set up automatic forwarding from your current email to the new email address. This provides a second copy in case some mails are being erased without your knowledge. It also saves you having to notify everyone of your new address. You’ve got enough to do.

Now the very tedious bit…change all your web passwords, especially those for sites that may have credit card details saved. You don’t want your partner going on a spending spree with your credit card (a common feature of revenge). More sinisterly, you don’t want your partner impersonating you on social media and other sensitive websites. Do this immediately. And don’t change your password to a common password for all sites. It may be easier to remember, but if your ex is hell-bent on hacking into your accounts, a universal password makes the job easier.

Bank accounts

This can be tricky. If you have a joint account, the terms and conditions probably specify that both signatures are required to make any changes to the account. Therefore, removing your ex from the account unilaterally may not be possible, though we know of exceptional circumstances when a bank has allowed it. It’s important to open an account in your name only, but knowing what amount you can reasonably withdraw from the joint account can be difficult. Fifty percent is a logical  recommendation, but it will depend on your marital regime, the financial obligations of each partner and other factors. If you are the sole or main breadwinner and your income is paid directly to the joint account, there is a risk your ex could deplete the account. This could leave you severely compromised, and is an even bigger issue if you are responsible for any children of the union.

It is strongly advisable, even before initiating divorce proceedings, to seek expert legal advice from family lawyers if you have any concerns about managing your finances in those confusing, post-marriage, pre-divorce days. You may be eligible for an interim maintenance order, known as Rule 43. You also need to ensure you stay within the law and avoid unreasonable, vindictive actions that may provide your ex with ammunition to use against you in the divorce court. Family attorneys SD Law & Associates can help you sort out your finances without jeopardising your future case.

This must be done as quickly as possible. We know of one woman whose joint bank account was emptied by her husband within 24 hours. She had two children to feed. There is no time to waste.

Evidence

The last and arguably hardest task to undertake is the compilation of evidence. Remember we are not talking about an amicable divorce here. If the divorce is contested, you will need to provide evidence of assets, behaviour, historical events, etc. The further removed you become from the marriage, chronologically and emotionally, the harder it will be to remember details. Get a journal and start recording your memories of incidents now. Where possible, include dates and times and any witnesses. You may need them later. This is particularly critical where abuse or unreasonable behaviour has taken place. The abuser will try to make out that you were at fault. You need to have clear record of events.

Itemise your assets. Consider non-bank assets such as your pension, life insurance, investments, jewellery, property, etc. Be specific and include values. Allow for all joint assets, but itemise joint and personal possessions separately. If you can, try to make an estimate of your partner’s assets. You want to have a clear financial picture so you are prepared when the time comes to negotiate the financial settlement. It also helps your family lawyers immensely if you can provide them with a valuation of your marriage, even a crude one.

But when is it the end?

These tips all make sense, but are rarely followed. Why? Because in the first 72 hours following a break-up, most people don’t fully comprehend the implications. Some couples split up and get back together multiple times, before finally calling it a day. We know one woman who kicked her husband out, changed all the locks, issued the occupant of the cottage on the property with new keys…but within two weeks the husband was back and they picked up where they left off. They are still together.

You may think the split is temporary; you may be hoping it is. You may spend every minute of those first 72 hours trying to be reunited. Or you may be too overwhelmed by grief to function. Our advice is: hope for the best, prepare for the worst. If your marriage has indeed broken down irretrievably, and relations between you are strained, these actions will mitigate a lot of potential trauma down the line. And none of them is irreversible or devoid of purpose. It is no bad thing to change your online passwords occasionally. Listing your assets is good financial management. Opening your own bank account, if you don’t have one, assures you of financial autonomy, regardless of marital status. The more extreme actions that involve changing locks and seeking a protection order will only be necessary in certain circumstances, and in those cases the end is usually obvious (and a relief).

Let family attorneys help

SD Law is a firm of divorce attorneys who understand that divorce is traumatic. We handle divorce proceedings sensitively and look after more than just your financial outcomes. If you are considering divorce or someone you know is in the initial stages of a marital break-up, we can help with the “first response” practical matters. We will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion.

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Government Employees Pension Fund changes divorce “debt” rules

Government pension fund members will no longer accrue pension debt after a divorce settlement payout

Government pension fund divorce rules have changed

We’ve written about divorce and pension sharing recently. It can be the most contentious aspect of a divorce, particularly where one partner is a high earner and the pension fund represents a significant asset. It can be particularly emotive because, unlike a residence, which is a shared asset to which both spouses have contributed, a pension is the fruit of one’s own labours – an occupational pension fund is effectively deferred income. However, where the marriage is in community of property, the pension is an asset to be shared on divorce. The process can be complex. It is not a simple as valuing a house and selling it to split the proceeds or one spouse buying out the other’s share. The Government Employees Pension Fund has recently simplified its rules around divorce and pensions, as this article from the Sowetan Live explains:

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The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) will no longer subject its members to a so-called “debt” approach when implementing a divorce settlement court order.

Instead, on divorce, a member’s contributing years of service will be reduced by the number of years equal to the portion of benefit due to a spouse in terms of the divorce order.

The new rules came into effect on August 1 2019, after the gazetting of the Government Employees Pension Law Amendment Bill on May 23 2019.

The amendment removes the pension debt that accrued to GEPF members when, as stipulated by their divorce settlements, the fund paid out part of their pension to their former spouses.

This created the possibility that such members could owe money to the GEPF when they retired.

Policy adjustment

Now, rather than creating a debt, the GEPF will adjust a member’s years of pensionable service after it has paid the amount required by the divorce settlement.

This means the benefit to be paid to that member upon retirement will be decreased to take into account the part of the member’s pension interest given to the spouse during the divorce. The member will therefore receive his or her full benefit after the reduced pensionable service has been calculated.

As an example, a member who has 20 years of service and whose spouse is paid 50% of the pension fund interest would have his or her years of service reduced to 10 years. To address the gap, that member could then opt to pay in the difference or raise his or her monthly contributions.

Members who have more than 10 years of pensionable service prior to the divorce claim will still be entitled to a lump sum and a monthly pension when exiting the fund – though at a reduced value.

Previous divorce settlements

Members who already had their divorce settlements processed in terms of the previous “debt” approach can switch to the new service-reduction model.

These members have until May 22 2020 to indicate their choice. If they fail to indicate their choice, they will automatically be converted to the new approach.

The GEPF will send information about these options to all affected members to explain how the changes will affect their pensionable service periods and benefits.

This article was paid for by the Government Employees Pension Fund and is reprinted from Sowetan Live

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If you’re considering divorce and are worried about your pension, we can help

Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in confidence. SD Law and Associates are experienced family law attorneys who will look after your interests and ensure a fair settlement that respects all parties.

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Protect your intellectual property with a prenup

It’s complicated: Why more and more tech start-up founders are demanding prenups

Prenups are not just for the wealthy - protect your intellectual property

Young couples contemplating marriage often think of antenuptial contracts, or “prenups“, as something either for their wealthy counterparts or for second marriages, when each partner is bringing a history of asset accumulation to the marriage. In the first flush of love, couples often think, either romantically or naively, that they’ll last forever and agree on everything. But as this article from fin24.com shows, you may have more to protect than your pension fund or bachelor flat. Budding entrepreneurs need to be very careful to protect assets that may not exist yet, or investors may be put off. Prenups protect intellectual property too. California is the home of Silicon Valley but there are plenty of young entrepreneurs right here in South Africa. If you’re one of them, read on…

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