WINDHOEK – The Office of the Judiciary yesterday announced that regional courts will be given the jurisdiction to deal with divorce matters, making the usually tedious process faster and less costly.
Currently, divorce cases are heard in the High Court. In the same vein, the Office of the Judiciary is also working towards establishing a commercial court by April next year.
These announcements were made by deputy permanent secretary in the Office of the Judiciary Tousy Namiseb during a media briefing on various issues, including an outlook for the new year, the outline of courts, bail and gender-based violence.
Namiseb stated that there have been constant challenges of divorce being inaccessible and the impact of it on society is that people are forced to remain married when all its terms and purposes have broken down.
“The issue is access to courts – it’s not a cheap process to access the High Court and when litigation is done in the lower court at regional level, cost will come down,” he explained.
“Divorces are currently dealt with only in Windhoek and Oshakati (High Courts) and if brought down to regional courts it will spread across the whole country,” he stated. Namiseb said as Office of the Judiciary, they have geared themselves towards readiness or receiving divorces in regional courts.
Future legislation will increase civil case jurisdiction of magistrates so that most of the cases blocking up the process of the High Court are brought down to the magistrates’ courts.
Asked when divorces will be heard in the lower courts, he responded that the Bill is soon to tabled in parliament by the Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala .
“So far the tabling has not taken place. We can not give a specific date when it will start because it depends on the enactment of the statutes.”
Furthermore, he added that the other reforms that will come with divorce is to move away from the current fault-based system where when one party comes to say their spouse deserted them maliciously or had extra-marital affairs.
The courts will now look at the breakdown of the marriage, he said. “If one party comes and shows to the court this marriage has broken down irretrievably –meaning it cannot be restored – then the court can grant divorce.”