Divorce proceedings whether contested or uncontested are initiated by way of a Summons (to which the Plaintiff’s declaration is attached) which should be served personally on the Defendant. In the case where the Defendant resides outside the country, a separate application will have to made to court for service outside Zimbabwe (application for edictal citation). Where the whereabouts of the Defendant are unknown and the Defendant cannot be served personally an application has to be made to court for leave to serve in another form for example through publication in a daily and widely circulating publication.
The Defendant may enter an appearance to defend and plead to the declaration in which case it becomes a contested divorce. The normal procedures will then follow including the parties having to attend in person before a judge in chambers for a pre-trial conference and giving evidence in court at the trial. Note that at any point a contested divorce can become uncontested if the parties agree to all the issues.
If both parties agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and there are no other ancillary issues in dispute such as custody of minors or the distribution of property, the matter will proceed as an uncontested divorce. In this case once the Summons is served, the parties will sign the Consent Paper, the Affidavit of Evidence (for the Plaintiff) and Affidavit of Waiver (for the Defendant). There will be no need for either of the parties to appear in court (if legally represented). Where the documents referred to herein are signed outside the country they should be signed before a Notary Public.
Evidently, an contested divorce will take long to finalise. This means it will also be costly to the litigants. A trial is mentally taxing and emotionally draining and where it can be avoided it is always best to choose the route of an uncontested divorce. This does not mean one has to abandon their rights for the sake of an uncontested divorce. It is always advisable to consult a lawyer so that one can make an objective decision on whether or not to contest. This may also involve delicate negotiations between the parties and where the settlement is fair and in the best interests of the minor children (if any) there is no need to have a costly and lengthy trial.
An uncontested divorce is less time consuming and less costly. This does not mean the divorce will be granted overnight. This is particularly so where the parties are outside the country and have to sign the necessary documents before a notary public.
The contents of this article are for general information purposes only do not constitute our legal or professional advice. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage of whatsoever nature which may arise from reliance on any of the information published herein.
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