Marriage And Divorce In South Africa

“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.” This is a famous quote by the renowned theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two main pillars of modern physics. He, however, was unable to maintain any of his marriages, having been married twice.

We use this quote to start our article because it may just be the best explanation of marriage and divorce in South Africa as the latest statistics about the supposed lifelong union released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) for 2015 has, unfortunately, not been encouraging.

But first, what is marriage and divorce, and what are the requirements for a marriage to be at least recognized by the law?

A marriage, in general terms, is a union between two people, usually a man and a woman. In South Africa, it exists legally in different forms. It started off as a union between persons of the opposite sex. From 1998, the law began to recognize polygynous marriages, conducted under African customary law whereby a South African man may have more than one wife. In 2006, the Southernmost African nation became the fifth country in the world to allow same-sex marriages.

For a marriage to be legally recognized, participants must be married by a marriage officer authorized in terms of Act No. 25 of 1961 to perform marriages. Marriages can be solemnized at offices of the Department of Home Affairs and at churches (by authorized marriage officers).

Divorce, on the other hand, is the termination of a marriage. For a divorce to be legally binding, it requires the sanction of a court in a legal process.



With that knowledge, the following are the “fresh facts” about marriage and divorce in South Africa.

1. More Marriages Are Ending Up In Divorce

“Happy ever after” isn’t the way things are with South African marriages. More couples are getting divorced and moving on with their lives. If you are looking for why they are getting divorced, this piece – 10 Most Common Reasons People Get Divorced – might be of help.

My interest is only in letting you know that there is a 2.3 percent increase in processed divorce papers in South Africa.

Here’s how Stats SA related it:

“In 2015, 25,260 completed divorce forms were processed indicating an increase of 2.3% from the 24,689 processed in 2014.

2. More Wives Are Interested In Ending Their Marriages

You’re in for a shock if you’re holding on to the sentiment which says something like “more marriages are breaking up in South Africa because husbands are cheating on their wives, abandoning them for their mistress.”

I can’t say the sentiment is true the other way. It probably isn’t. Here’s what is known – there were more female than male plaintiffs in the processed divorce papers.

3. Many Marriages Didn’t Make It To 10th Anniversary

Yes, there were more female than male plaintiffs, the median ages at divorce in 2015 were 44 years for men and 40 years for women. And, many marriages are yet to celebrate their 10th anniversary when they crashed.

Stats SA said:

“About 45.4% of the 2015 divorces came from marriages that did not spend their tenth wedding anniversary. In 2015, there were 14,045 (55.6%) divorces with children aged less than 18 years affected.”

See Also – How To Get Over A BreakUp: 8 Simple Rules

4. The Registration Of Civil Marriages Dropped

Generally, a total of 138,627 civil marriages, 3,467 customary marriages and 1,185 civil unions were registered in 2015.

When compared with the 2014 data, it was observed that registration of civil marriages dropped by 8.1%. However, that of customary marriages and civil unions respectively increased by 13.2 and 3.6 percent.

5. The Age Outlook For The Marriages

As learned, while the median age of first-time civil marriage brides remained unchanged at 30 years, the median age for bridegrooms increased by a year from 33 years in 2014 to 34 years in 2015.

For customary marriages, the median age for bridegrooms remained the same at 34 years. Nevertheless, there was a decrease of one year from 29 years in 2014 to 28 years in 2015 for brides.

For civil unions, the median age for Spouse-1 remained at 36 years whereas that of Spouse-2 increased by a year from 33 years in 2014 to 34 years in 2015, Stats SA related.

Check Out – How To Let Someone Know You Love Them

Let’s conclude with a message for prospective wives/husbands.

“Marriage is never a fifty-fifty thing. It’s always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty. Someone falls in love first. Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride.” (Jodi Picoult, Mercy).

For those suffering difficult marriage,”divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love…” (Jennifer Weiner, Fly Away Home).