Establishment of a specialised Family Court in Johannesburg

Thursday, June 23, 2022, 9:04
Author name
Marko van der Merwe
Bevel to represent a family court

From 18 July 2022 (the first day of the term 2022) a dedicated specialised Family Court in Johannesburg will sit each week during term.  It was proposed to streamline and speed up Family Law cases.  This comes as a High Court Announcement last week on 6 June 2022. 

Each week two judges shall preside in the Family Court.  They will hear cases related to family matters, which will help a lot of people who are waiting for their cases to be heard.


The Family Court shall hear the following cases, opposed and unopposed

  • All rule 43 applications, regardless of estimated duration;
  • Interdicts;
  • The access, care of, and maintenance of children or spouses;
  • Urgent applications (If brought to the court after hours or during recess, the case shall enrolled in the Urgent Motion Court);
  • Enforcement of the practice manual and Directives bearing on Family Law cases, including the exchange of the Financial Disclosure Form (FDF); and
  • Other Family Law applications.

The Family Court shall not hear the following cases

  • Unopposed divorces, which shall continue to be heard on Fridays;
  • Opposed divorce trials which shall continue to be heard as part of the general civil trial roll;
  • Judicial approval of surrogacy agreements in open court, instead they shall be heard in confidence by referring the application to the DJP in accordance with current practice; and
  • Appeals about Family Law cases.


What happens to your unopposed motion matters already enrolled?

All Rule 43 and unopposed applications related to Family Law will automatically be placed on the Family Court Roll.  Therefore, practitioners need not take any additional steps.

What about opposed Family Law cases?

The opposing parties need to file a joint practice note not later than noon on Tuesday of week three.  If the parties cannot agree on the contents of the filing, each party needs to file their own practice note.  However, filing should not be delayed, as this will result in the matter being struck off the roll. 

What should the practice note include?

It should state clearly what relief is sought and any other material information that is relevant to the matter.  Remember to pay special attention to including the following:

  • The representatives and all their contact details;
  • A preferred date for the hearing, however, this does not guarantee that your case will be heard on that date;
  • The exact relief sought;
  • A quick description of the points in issue between the parties (do not elaborate); and
  • Remember to address the practice note to the senior Family Court Judge presiding that week.  They will give directions as to when each matter shall be heard and who will hear it.

What about urgent Family Law cases?

An urgent Family Law case is one where a case can be cogently made out that the relief is required before the prescribed procedure has run its course.  Urgent matters may be set down before noon on Thursday for hearing on the following Tuesday.  This is in line with standard urgent motion court practice.  All other standard factors that pertain to urgent matters shall still apply in the Family Court. 

All urgent Family Law cases should, after 16 July 2022, be enrolled in the Family Court.  If not, it will automatically be transferred to the Family Court Roll.  However, if the case is so urgent that it needs to be heard after hours or during recess, the matter may be brought to the Urgent Motion Court.  Such a case will typically be regarding interim relief.

Do you require case management by a Judge?

Case management can be requested by letter, copied to the adversary, addressed to the DJP.  This is subject to the availability of Judges to undertake such assignments and the case being appropriate for case management.  This means that the case must have a substantial degree of complexity of either law or fact. 


The Family Court will definitely speed up Family Law proceedings in South Africa.  However, the Judges’ Family Law Committee welcomes feedback from you, the practitioners.  Please direct any feedback to the DJP and they will consider it. 

If you have any trouble with written or verbal communication, consider the Gawie le Roux Institute of Law’s Communication skills course.



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