It is always advisable to consult an attorney before making life changing decisions such as the financial and social consequences of your divorce. Attorneys can be expensive however they are crucial in the negotiation and settlement process to make sure you do not give up your rights.
However if you cannot afford the services of an attorney there are various options:
1. Legal Aid South Africa
Legal Aid South Africa’s role is to provide legal aid to those who cannot afford their own legal representation. This includes poor people and vulnerable groups such as women, children and the rural poor. Legal Aid SA applies a ‘means test’ to see whether you qualify in terms of what you earn. For example, employed individuals must earn less than R5 500 per month after tax has been taken off to qualify for legal aid.
2. Pro bono (free) legal services by attorneys
It is obligatory for attorneys in South Africa provide to provide 24 hours per year of pro bono legal assistance to impoverished members of the public. Again you will be required to pass a ‘means test’. You also need to have a legal problem with merit.
The Law Society in your area will refer you to an attorney who will assist you free of charge. The pro bono attorney will only charge you for actual expenses but the legal work and legal services provided will be free of charge.
Services rendered in terms of the Pro Bono Scheme include family law and matrimonial matters, including divorce matters, maintenance matters, primary care and residence and access.
Where do I find a pro bono attorney?
Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Limpopo http://www.northernlaw.co.za/pro_bono/pro_bono_scheme.aspx
Western, Eastern and Northern Cape http://www.capelawsoc.law.za/
Free State http://www.fs-law.co.za/
3. First Interview Scheme: First free interview with an attorney
The various law societies provide a free first interview scheme to make attorneys’ services more readily available to members of the public.
An attorney will carry out an initial consultation with any member of the public at no charge for the first half an hour. Only the first half interview is free of charge.
Any legal steps which may be taken, or any further consultations arising from the interview, are payable at the normal tariff, which must be agreed upon between the attorney and the client. The client will then become a paying client of the attorney.
Where do I find an attorney I can consult on a first free interview basis?
Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Limpopo, call (012) 338 5800 or e-mail email@example.com
Western, Eastern and Northern Cape, call (021) 443 6700 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
KwaZulu-Natal, call (033) 345 1304 or e-mail: email@example.com
Free State, call (051) 447 3237 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org