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Exorbitant Legal Fees Leading to a Drop in Divorce Cases in Zimbabwe

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The statistics obtained from the Bulawayo High Court yesterday show that out of about 2 000 summons filed, divorce applications ruled the roost.

Despite this, it's interesting to note that there has been a decline in the divorce cases presented to the court.

The High Court in Bulawayo received 673 divorce applications between January and December last year, marking a sharp decrease compared to 820 in the previous year.

Lawyers who handle divorce cases attributed the decline in divorce cases to exorbitant legal fees coupled with the economic hardships.

“Looking at the new tariffs that have been introduced by the Law Society of Zimbabwe where a plaintiff has to part with $18 000 for an uncontested divorce, it automatically becomes a contributory factor when we look at the decline in terms of the number of divorce cases,” said Mr Bruce Masamvu of Mutatu, Masamvu and Da Silva Gustavo Law Chambers.

According to the latest Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) tariffs, fees for an uncontested divorce cases shot up by more than 100 per cent from $7 200 to $18 000 for the plaintiff. A defendant in an uncontested divorce case is obliged to part with $12 000. Mr Masamvu said most people were now opting to go for counselling instead of divorcing.

“Another factor is that divorce also comes with more responsibilities such as maintenances issues and in some cases, one spouse is forced to move out of the matrimonial house.

Many couples end up resorting to marriage counsellors to save their marriages given the economic hardships people are facing,” said Mr Masamvu.

Bulawayo family law expert, Ms Marygold Nomthandazo Sibanda of Vundhla-Phulu and Partners, concurred. “Basically, the decline in the number of divorce cases last year can be largely due to a sharp increase in legal fees.

In fact, people are being deterred by the ever-increasing legal fees, which continue to go up due to the economic instability,” she said.

However, the number of couples who had their marriages solemnised by magistrates at the Bulawayo’s Tredgold Building increased to 1 267 in 2019 compared to the previous year when 1 192 couples exchanged marriages vows.

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